Connecting with the community

As head coach of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream women's basketball team, wins and losses matter a lot to Nicki Collen.

“Now, I only do things that I am really passionate about and cancer research is one of them.”

Nicki Collen, Atlanta Dream head coach

But when her sister died five years ago from cancer, her perspective changed. "It made me think about where I was in my life and it has really driven a lot of the decisions I have made," she says. "Now, I only do things that I am really passionate about and cancer research is one of them."

That was the motivating factor behind Collen's decision to become this year's grand marshal of the Winship Win the Fight 5K which has raised more than $800,000 to date for cancer research that stays right here in Georgia. Collen explains: "In coaching, people don't care about how much you know until they know about how much you care. A big part of caring about people is caring about the community and being connected."

Collen is in her second season leading the Atlanta Dream. In 2018, she was named the WNBA Coach of the Year and her team set a franchise record with 23 wins and a trip to the WNBA Playoffs.

Collen calls women's basketball a grassroots effort much like raising money for cancer research. She appreciates that the Winship 5K promotes good health and healthy habits, both keys to helping prevent cancer in the first place. "There are things you can't control in your life and one of them is losing someone you are really close to. It made me examine things that I can control, like my health, cooking healthy food for my family, and being active."

She says: "Cancer research may not affect every single person in their lifetime, but ultimately, it's going to affect their kids and their kid's kids. Doing something for the greater good is the most important thing for me. I am just excited to see where cancer research goes."

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