How do you imagine bringing in your 22nd birthday? If you’re anything like McKinley Nelson you’ll be doing something that involves giving back to the community. Nelson is a True Star kid turned founder of an amazing non-profit organization called Project sWish Chicago.
On Tuesday, February 5th, Project sWish partnered with Chicago’s very own Liannae Harper of the Chicago Sky and Jahlil Okafor of the New Orleans Pelicans for Englewood Invasion. The event gave kids an opportunity to not only meet the professional basketball players but to also ask them questions and get advice during a panel discussion on how they can make it to the pro level. To top off the end of the week, that Friday Nelson participated in Nike and House of Hoops’ Black History Month celebration Until We Win. As a member of Nike’s Future Varsity Program Nelson is a featured young leader who’s both inspiring change and making a difference in his community with sports.
Project sWish started in 2018 as just a random idea that popped into Nelson’s head and is a way for him to combine two things he loves—basketball and helping the next generation. Their first event was a back-to-school charity basketball event and school supply giveaway. Project sWish was able to fill over 1,300 backpacks with supplies and give almost every kid in attendance necessities to start the new school year off right.
Since becoming a member or Nike’s Future Varsity Program Nelson and Project sWish have gotten great exposure. “I’ve gotten hands extended to me that I didn’t even know existed after being recognized on that platform,” said Nelson. “To say it was an honor is an understatement. …It means everything to me.”
Nelson has defeated many stereotypes set against a young Black man from the inner city just by turning 22 and going off to college. This Xavier University student has plans to graduate in December with a degree in Sports Management. He feels that through True Star he was able to learn how to use his voice to influence people. He now wants to use his voice to motivate other people to just keep pushing. “That’s what I was talking about on the panel,” he said following his event. “Just keep pushing. Some days are going to be bad, [but] just continue to push and things will work in your favor.”
If you want to help Nelson and Project sWish bring smiles to the next generation of Chicago follow them on Instagram @projectswishchicago.
By Jordan Danae, Northern Illinois Alumna
Instagram & Twitter: jordaniaa_