I became aware of the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1983 when I was invited by Anheuser Busch to attend a gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
At the time, Budweiser was the sponsor of the SCCA Trans Am Series, as well as the cars driven by Willy T. Ribbs and David Hobbs. They were also a supporter of the Women’s Sports Foundation and, being the only woman racing in the Trans Am Series at the time, I guess they thought it would be a good thing to invite a woman racer.
I was blown away by meeting so many amazing female champion athletes that I remember watching on television, including Peggy Flemming and Donna de Varona, as well as others who were just as amazing, but not necessarily as famous. It opened my eyes wide to the challenges and opportunities for women in sports, and gave me a sense of comradery with a group of athletes. I left with a sense of just how much work it would take to move the needle for women in racing.
As I continued to stay in touch with the Foundation, I gladly accepted an invitation to become a member of their Athlete’s Advisory Board. I continued to stay involved and became a member of the Board of Trustees and, in 1990, I was elected President.
It’s been one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life and I’ve learned so much. It’s given me so much pride and satisfaction because I found a way to give back that truly benefits others. One of the highlights was meeting and getting to know Billie Jean King – truly one of my heroes! I remember watching her beat Bobby Riggs in 1973, as so many people do. And besides racing, tennis was the sport I most loved to do.
My work with the Women’s Sports Foundation laid the groundwork for me to use as a model to start the Lyn St. James Foundation (Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation) in an effort to provide training and advance opportunities for women in racing.
In 2013, it became apparent that my foundation was not growing and no longer sustainable in its present format. So, I decided to reconnect with the Women’s Sports Foundation and merge the Project Podium Grant with the Jump Start Fund that I helped create with a donation from Ford Motor Company in 19XX. It’s like everything has come full circle. I continue to stay involved and urge you to check out the fabulous work they do and donate whatever resources you can.
The Women’s Sports Foundation Annual Salute is an fundraiser (our biggest and most successful) held every October in New York City. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially someone who has daughters, to attend! I’ve only missed one since 1983!