Alisha Childress

Alisha Childress: Representing a Cause Close to Home

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Bruce Miles
Oct 19, 2023

For Alisha Childress, giving back to the community truly is a family affair. It’s also one she stakes her name on. 

For this Athletes Unlimited volleyball season, Childress is playing for the Childress Family Foundation.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “This is the first time that I specifically played for this foundation. It feels really cool. I think most of the athletes would attest to the more involved they are with the foundation, the more it comes alive. You realize the direct impact versus larger organizations that may feel so big that it’s not like you can interact. There’s nothing more personal than knowing where the money is going and exactly who it’s going to and knowing it’s making a really big difference. It feels so much more connected for me now.

“I think there’s no wrong choice when you’re giving back to any foundation, but I think this one definitely hits home because it’s so hands on and we get to be there. And the fact that this is something that we’re doing as a family, this isn’t just a one-time thing. This is part of our DNA as a family. If we have a position where we can help and lift up others, we always will.”

The Childress Family Foundation got its start with Childress’ husband, Josh Childress, a former pro basketball player who logged time in the NBA with Atlanta, Brooklyn, New Orleans and Phoenix as well as in overseas leagues.

Josh sought to give back to his high school, Mayfair High School in Lakewood, California, with scholarships to student-athletes. 

Since then, things have only grown.  

“The Foundation actually changed a little bit over time,” Alisha said. “It was originally the Josh Childress Foundation. He started that when he was playing in the league and just really felt strongly about giving back to the community he was raised in, so the L.A., Compton, Mayfair area in California. Over the course of his playing career, he had several events, such as Flicks and Kicks, where he would get a group together to get a pair of shoes and watch a movie together to have that community feel in giving back. 

“That has now evolved to more of a student-athlete scholarship fund. He shifted that and wanted to be in a place where kids were taking school seriously but also being able to perform at a high level on the athletic stage. They get to know the student-athletes a little bit better about their families, where they want to go with their lives past high school.”

Things began to expand after the first scholarships were awarded, a couple of years ago. 

“We went to the inaugural handing out of the scholarships at a celebration dinner,” Childress said. “We brought the kids and we’re at the event, and you could just feel how transformative something like that was for those kids. Josh took it really seriously and was really passionate in the way that he was speaking about it. I just said to him that it felt so cool to be there as a family. I said, ‘How hard would it be if we could shift this to the Childress Family Foundation because not only do I want to help contribute and want it to be our family, but, I want to do something similar at my high school and where I grew up?’” 

Alisha, a graduate of Leland High School in Michigan, was in for a pleasant surprise at the next awards program. 

“The second year, we’re sitting at the banquet, and we’re there as a family again, and the energy is great in the room,” she said. “He hadn’t told me yet that it was now the Childress Family Foundation. He shifted the name and did it as a kind of surprise. Just feeling like this was our family, even starting with our kids, who probably don’t understand yet but eventually will understand how important it is to help the people in your community. If you’re in a position to help and give back, you do. That’s kind of how it evolved.

“So my goal this season, my earnings get to go toward the scholarship at my high school where I grew up in Michigan.”

In addition to having starred on the volleyball court as a professional and in college at Penn State, Childress is the mother of three children. A family foundation resonates even more for her. 

“Absolutely,” she said. “As a mom, I’m constantly thinking about what I say and what I do. It really matters, and sometimes what I do matters more than what I say. The idea that it is just part of who we are, that we are going to try to help anyone we can whenever we can, this feels like an example of that. This is what we do as a family. We try to raise money and we try to give back to communities. That’s who we are. I want them (her children) to never think twice about that.”

Having one’s name on a foundation is certainly a unique situation. When Childress brought the idea of playing for it to Athletes Unlimited’s Player Executive Committee, she said it was met enthusiastically. 

“I was hesitant to do it, I think, initially to play for his (Josh’s) foundation specifically because it felt like, ‘Is it weird that I just play for him?’” she said. “I brought it to the PEC and said, ‘Would it be OK?’ And they say, ‘Yeah. Do you what need to do to get this locked in and we’ll help you with it.’ Really positive feedback when I said I wanted to make that move.

“They helped me get all my ducks in a row to make sure it was ready for the season. They want that sort of passion, and they want people to feel really connected. That’s such a mission of the league in general. Whenever an athlete comes and says, ‘I really, really want to do this and I really care and this is really important to me,’ they’re like, ‘Yes, we just have to find a way.’ I think that feels so amazing to be heard in that way as an athlete and then be able to go do the things you’re passionate about.”

In the coming years, it’s possible other players may choose to play for the Childress Family Foundation. In other words, a foundation has been set for even great things to come. And for Childress, it has all happened organically. 

“Huge alignment,” she said. “It speaks volumes for any league to say, ‘We’re passionate and we want people who are passionate about other things to bring those passions here, and we’re going to support you in any direction that goes.’ That’s huge. To feel like your heart is aligned with your sport and the joy that you get to play and your heart is aligned in a way that you can give back in a really meaningful way, it’s so much alignment going on all at once. There’s nothing to do but be happy and get such great joy from that.”

Bruce Miles has covered sports in the Chicago are for more than 40 years, including baseball, hockey, football, college and high school sports, and Athletes Unlimited softball. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceMiles2112

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