NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- On Tuesday night, espnW and Toyota honored four women from three organizations as Toyota Everyday Heroes. Megan Hanrahan Livatino and Liz Brieva work to get more girls involved in high school sports in Evanston, Illinois at Girls Play Sports. Cecelie Owens teaches girls respect and teamwork through sports participation and mentoring at The GIRLS Sport Foundation in Buffalo, New York. Melissa Clarke-Wharff brings kids with disabilities together through adaptive sport at Courage League Sports in Des Moines, Iowa.
As part of the program, Toyota surprised the award winners with $10,000 grant. We caught up with the 2018 Everyday Heroes class to talk about the honor and what's next for them.
espnW: What does it mean to be named a Toyota Everyday Hero?
Megan Hanrahan Livatino: It's pretty incredible. This is a total grassroots organization started in our community because we saw a need for it. To be in a place like this is unbelievable. It's huge for a small organization to be on a platform with some of these bigger organizations and to be recognized. It's unbelievable. Pinch me.
Cecelie Owens: When I get up every morning, I know that I'm going to affect a young person, particularly a girl. So it means everything. It means we have to keep on pushing and striving for our dreams every day.
Melissa Clarke-Wharff: It's crazy. It's overwhelming. It's honoring. I'm just an Iowa girl trying to do something in our community. I couldn't believe it when I got the call.
espnW: How do you hope to impact the community?
CO: I'm hoping that we can attract more young ladies. The young ladies that I want to attract are the ones that don't know they have a chance to get out there and meet new friends, the ones who are just sitting around at home and not doing anything.
MHL: One of the things that we found was that girls, unlike boys, are more likely to opt out of sports once they are cut [from a team], but there are 17 different sports at our high school for girls. There are a lot of girls out there who would like to play sports, but they haven't found the one that they love yet. Three years in a row we've had more female athletes at our high school than boys.
MCW: We have all these programs, and we're proving that everybody has a place to play. We want to expand this and license it to show others that this can happen in their communities and give them the framework.
espnW: How will the $10,000 grant from Toyota aid your work?
CO: I've been working on a plan to start a summer sports camp right in the heart of the city of Buffalo. This is going to help us get that started. The funding is very important. This is needed to offer these girls more than basketball, especially a mentoring component.
MHL: Getting this award makes us realize that there's a lot of work still to be done. We know that there's a lot more kids to reach, and this money is going to help us do that and give them the opportunity to participate in a lot of sports.
MCW: This award will allow us to launch our licensing program and bring adaptive play across the country. And help fulfill our vision of everybody deserving to play.