Spotlight on Ryan Wright
I would like to introduce my fellow HIH readers to my friend Ryan Wright.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan a couple years ago when www.astleygilbert.com sponsored his Avant Garde charity event with print and signage materials. In getting to know Ryan through this process, I resonated with his desire to give back to his community and we in turn developed a friendship. I wanted all of the HIH Community to learn more about the inspirational movement Ryan is creating by collecting basketball shoes and then donating them to kids and adults who cannot afford them. In doing so he is promoting the wonderful sport of basketball that has brought so much love, passion and home town pride to Toronto this year. He is also promoting wellness in getting Torontonians moving.
Thank you @rwright1 for this interview and all that you do. A pro athlete who shares kindness can create an incredible legacy. You inspire us all.
When did you create Avant-Garde Charity and what do you want to achieve with this movement?
Avant-Garde was created in the summer of 2018.
During that summer, my parents were in the middle of moving out of the home I grew up in. I was helping them clear all of our stuff out to prepare for their move. During that process I discovered that I had a huge amount of basketball shoes, both used and brand new that had been sitting in their home for years. I couldn't throw these out, so I decided that I would dedicate myself from that point on to find charitable causes in which i would be able to donate my shoes. I told some of my friends who are also pro athletes what I, was planning to do and they thought it was an awesome idea. They also expressed that they have a large amount of shoes that they wanted to donate and didn't want to throw out.
This was how the actual shoe drive started. At first it was just word of mouth between a few of my fellow athletes and I. However, as word spread, I was getting more and more donations from both youth and pro players.
In response to the overwhelming support, I decided to create an event where I can celebrate the efforts of the shoe drive, and showcase the athletes involved. The theme of the event would be an art gallery experience, in which their stories of growing up playing basketball were presented in a unique way.
I wanted to show people that these shoes were part of a larger journey of basketball culture in the city. The journey continues through the new generation of youth who are receiving the donations.
I pitched the idea to Redbull Canada , who ended up giving me their full support by offering to host the event at their corporate headquarters in Toronto. During the planning process, we managed to procure many other sponsors such as Astley-Gilbert, Flow Water, Steam Whistle Brewery, Lifford Wine, Nandos, and 1800 Tequila.
We decided on calling the event "Avant-Garde". This term is used to describe a movement that is cutting edge, innovative and revolutionary. I believe what my creative term and I were planning was something very unique that has never been done before.
The event was a success, as we managed to collect over 200 pairs of shoes and donate then to community organizations such as Ava's Place in North York and Good Shepherd Ministry in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto.
Describe to us your journey in becoming a pro ball player?
I started playing basketball at the age of 12. At the time i was just playing for local club teams throughout the GTA. I picked up the game very quickly. As a youth, my height and athleticism were very extraordinary for my age, which ended up drawing attention from coaches all across the country.
I played high school ball at Loyola Catholic Secondary in Mississauga, ON. By grade 10, I started being recruited by many of the top D1 Universities in the States. I ended up committing to UCLA on a full basketball scholarship.
While at UCLA, I competed in two Final Fours , including a national championship appearance. After my sophomore season I transferred to University of Oklahoma, where I completed my degree. While playing at Oklahoma, I competed in the Elite Eight at the NCAA tournament.
After graduating from Oklahoma, I entered the NBA draft and had a number of NBA workouts with teams such as OKC, Houston and a mini camp invite from the Toronto Raptors.
Later that summer, I signed my first professional contract to play in Turkey, and have been playing overseas ever since in countries all over Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Why did you feel the need to give back to your community?
I have always found great joy in giving back to the community. Aside from Avant-Garde, I have also organized basketball camps aimed at youth in at-risk communities and have done mentoring programs in those communities as well.
I believe that as pro athletes, we have such a huge platform that we can use to bring awareness to various causes. I choose to use my platform to help others and ensure that future generations have the opportunities to succeed.
What message do you want to send to young athletes?
I hope that young athletes who have followed my journey can learn about resiliency.
Throughout my career I've seen many ups and downs. I've failed, lost big games, gotten cut from teams, and fought through injuries. Despite these things, I am still going strong in my 10th year as a pro athlete. I want the youth to learn that in life you will see both adversity and failure. The most important thing is how we respond to these obstacles.
I hope that young athletes can be inspired by my story and know that you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it.
How can we support Avant-Garde?
I want Avant-Garde to be an ongoing initiative. I still actively collect shoe donations year round and am actively looking for more charitable organizations to reach out to.
For inquiries on how to submit shoe donations, or to submit information of any charitable organizations; please reach out to me via our official email: email@example.com
What are the most important lessons you have learnt as a pro athlete?
Athletics in general has taught me many values that I have been able to apply to my life. Things such as overcoming adversity, learning from failure, working as a team, time management, and communication are all things that have been assets to my life.
I believe that the values I have learned as an athlete will allow me to excel in many endeavours off the court.
If you had to meet one pro athlete who would it be?
I would definitely want to meet LeBron James. He is the athlete that I admire most for his play and his ventures off the court. I would definitely like to pick his brain and learn how I can keep expanding on my platform and branding as an athlete.
What does Healthy is Hot mean to you?
Living a healthy active lifestyle is very beneficial to my physical and mental well-being. Whenever I had a good workout, play sports or take walks I feel an immediate sense of productivity and confidence.
The boost of confidence is what makes being healthy, hot for me. I encourage everyone to find ways in which they can live a more healthy active lifestyle. Things I suggest are joining a class, a league, taking walks, biking, and improving on your diet. Just doing even one of these things can be very beneficial in improving health and happiness.