By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
All of us at Compete Sports Diversity are excited for the upcoming #FlaggingDownACure Women’s Flag Football Tournament April 30th through May 2nd to raise money on behalf of the Lynn Lewis Foundation to support life saving breast cancer research. We caught up with tournament director and foundation leader, Mashonda Gilmore to learn more about the tournament, the foundation and more!
Dirk Smith: Tell us more about #FlaggingDownACure and the Lynn Lewis Foundation, what is the mission of the event/organization?
Mashonda Gilmore: The Lynn Lewis Foundation (LLF) is a 501c3, a charitable organization created to support women, men, and children whose lives have been and continue to have effects by breast cancer. The non-profit group was founded in 2007 and was originally created to increase breast cancer awareness within the women’s football community across the nation. The LLF has grown, and, at this time, the Foundation recognizes individuals from all walks of life who suffer from breast cancer, and other cancer diagnoses, in which family and/or friends of the affected.
Our mission is to become the foundation to support the ripple effect of breast cancer diagnoses not only for the survivor, but for the extended family to provide avenues of promoting breast cancer awareness while educating women and men nationwide on the fight against breast cancer. Our goal is to be a rechargeable source of strength in allowing relief of an exhaustive experience as a caregiver. Our programs are designed to give back to our community.
Our vision is to be a rechargeable source of strength for our community members by providing relief from the exhaustive experience of caring for a loved one who is battling cancer.
- Flagging Down A Cure
This invitational is the event of the year for women’s flag football. Elite athletes from all over the country love supporting this tournament. At this event you will find several formats for women to play flag without conflict. The expansion of this historical and monumental occurrence honoring the late Lynn Lewis touches people across the globe, and increasingly growing each year bringing approximately over 2,000 players and supporters.
Dirk Smith: How long have you been involved with the Lynn Lewis Foundation and what motivated you to get involved?
Mashonda Gilmore: I have been involved with the LLF since its inception, since 2007. My entire motivation to start this foundation was because of Lynn Lewis who was a pioneer and pillar of football community, she absolutely loved football. The idea to grow the sport of flag football started way before the LLLF though. Lynn Lewis inspired me to put on events outside of my city! Her desire for me to host tournaments for women’s flag football and to create an even bigger platform for women’s flag football was something she says that kept her fighting as she was diagnosed with 4 stage cancer at the time LLF began. Lynn was survivor up until the 10th year of our existence. Women from all around the country come to help bring awareness to breast cancer and to promote the sport of flag for women.
Dirk Smith: Flagging Down A Cure is an excellent way to help get more women involved in flag football while raising money toward a good cause. How did the tournament/ fundraiser come about?
Mashonda Gilmore: The Foundation and the idea to raise money to help towards a worthy cause is a way to give back to our communities. Our goal is to raise money to be able to assist not only the survivors but the caregivers as well. We have a lot of ladies affected as a result of breast cancer some of other cancer types. We want to be the organization that people can count on. We are just now starting to push our program, because we have always brought awareness to the disease and the sport, now we would like to really support our community by being a resource for them just in case there is a need.
Dirk Smith: Tell us more about your own involvement and history with flag football! Do you play yourself?
Mashonda Gilmore: I first played in 1997 with my own team Lyte N Tyte Women’s Flag Football Team. We won multiple championships , local, Regional, National , even International Championships. I personally was injured early on in my career and began organizing the team, then I began sitting on the board of the flag football league, next thing I know I was running my own league with my brother Zeric Foster who is the Co-Founder of Atlanta Women’s Flag Football United and the Lynn Lewis Foundation. I have been pushed flag football for girls and women for over 25 years. Providing leagues, tournaments, combines and camps for girls and women.
Dirk Smith: How has women’s flag football grown over the last few years, have you seen more athletes and teams join the tournament?
Mashonda Gilmore: I remember when I went to Nationals the biggest tournament of the year and there were only 3 women’s teams now there are women’s teams on the east and west coast which is amazing. I will continue to push for the girls and ladies to make sure they are on the platform they have earned and deserve.
Dirk Smith: How can individual athletes and teams get involved with Flagging Down a Cure?
Mashonda Gilmore: If an athlete, supporter, donor or sponsor would like to get involved with LLF “Flagging Down A Cure Breast Cancer Event” they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Facebook. Our website address is www.lynnlewisfoundation.net.
Dirk Smith: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Mashonda Gilmore: The Lynn Lewis Foundation is a small nonprofit with a big heart with a mission to touch and help as many people as we can in a way no one can in the way we are effectively doing it. The Lynn Lewis Foundation is one of the biggest and longest running ALL girls and women’s flag football organization. Ladies live to play football and if we can provide this stage we will continue to grow the sport.
Here are some of the programs we want to effectively implement efficiently in the next few years with more support.
- Survivor’s Family Support (SFS) Program Co-Survivors (Spouse. Family 8 Children) Program providing social resources and counseling to assist with coping skills and an initiative to infuse positive energy into survivor’s day to day routine.
- Full Circle Youth 8 Senior Mentoring Program Intergenerational Program creates new positive relationships with youth and children with seniors. This program identifies an increase of senior’s sense of purpose. which leads into greater self-esteem and a greater life. Children and youth also benefit from increased self-esteem. knowledge and skills. By spending time in a positive relationship with a senior citizen. the younger generation gains a better understanding of the process of aging.
- Sports Outreach Program is designed to influence youth through sports and becoming more active participants its primary focus is to serve the local community by equipping. empowering. and encouraging young people to make positive choices in their lives through athletic participation. Activities include the following: sports clinics. camps, tournaments. recognition ceremonies. and school outreach. Over the years, the Lynn Lewis Foundation (LLF) has conducted a number of sports outreach events in conjunction with the Atlanta Women’s Flag Football League, Atlanta Phoenix Football, Atlanta Storm, Washington Prodigy, Baltimore Nighthawks and DC Divas Professional. This year (2021) we celebrate the Foundation’s 14 year anniversary. We anticipate revamping our sports program by way of further strengthening and developing our present relationship. The LLF sports program has a history of providing tremendous benefits to the community and reaching hundreds of kids over the years and collaborate with more partners to encourage and strengthen our communities.
Dirk Smith: Wonderful insight! Thank you so much for your time and sharing everything with us! To learn more about #FlaggingDownACure and the Lynn Lewis Foundation at www.lynnlewisfoundation.net.
Photo Credit: Stefano Schwetz via the Lynn Lewis Foundation