WEST ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – The Westwood Girls Basketball team just capped off their season on Wednesday under first-year Head Coach Annie Skewis. The Patriots put in hard work on the court this season but for Coach Skewis, the hard work doesn’t stop after the whistle.
Founded two years ago, Mia’s Wings is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides parents and family members support who are going through a loss during pregnancy as well as educating local hospitals in care for perinatal and infant loss.
“We made it in memory of our daughter,” Annie Skewis, Head Coach of Westwood Girls Basketball & CEO of Mia’s Wings said. “In 2010 we had a daughter that passed away and ever since then, we’ve been trying to give back to the community and give them the help that people deserve to have with that type of loss.”
A Nurse Practitioner with her Doctorate of Nursing, Skewis is passionate about her work on and off the court.
“Once I was ready and felt like I could help people and help them in a good way, I started helping and now it’s kind of a family endeavor,” Skewis said. “My husband helps run it, my sister-in-law is a President of it. She had her own loss but obviously experienced loss as an aunt too. Some of my really good friends actually from high school who we play basketball together helped me run the run it as well. So it’s really really cool to be able to do it. “
With Mia’s Wings, Skewis offers various forms of support to families and people involved through things like physical gifts, emotional support, guidance, and more.
“A lot of people have now come back and told us how it has helped them and I think that’s the biggest thing is you just really want them to not feel alone,” Skewis said. “They really like looking at those teddy bears and especially the ‘forget me nots’. I do have people that will tell me that they put them all at their camp or around a special tree that they planted for their baby so it’s a really cool and rewarding experience just to see how you can help other people, especially when you’ve been through it yourself and you know how important it is just to know someone cares,”
And recently, Skewis’ players returned the favor.
“It was around her daughter’s birthday and she doesn’t like to talk about it but you can just tell like she has a hard time with it,” Natalie Prophet, Senior with Westwood Basketball said. “So I just wanted to Megan [Marta] and I was like ‘Megan, I think we should do something for her.”
“We really want to do something special for her since it was around her birthday and we thought about it and we got some shirts and we decided to wear them during warmups,” Megan Marta, Sophomore with Westwood Basketball said.
“They did surprise me, they contacted my family members and went and got some of our shirts from our Annual Walk Run that we do in memory of Mia and in memory of all of our babies and wore them for shooting shirts,” Skewis said. “It was a really really cool thing to see that they were empathetic enough and knew that that would make my day to see them do something like that because sometimes teenagers are teenagers you don’t think they would think that way but it was awesome.”
“She was excited,” Marta said. “It was so great to see her like reaction how she was just she was really happy. I think I saw a few tears coming from her eyes just and that we were able to do it for her.”
“I was kind of tearful actually,” Skewis said “I looked at my husband on the stands and was like ‘Did you know?’ and he didn’t know either. So he was pretty cheerful and shocked too but eventually, it just made me smile to know that someone was remembering my daughter. She would have been 11 so it was just awesome for her 11th birthday that a bunch of high school girls decided to honor her and wear it at a basketball game that we got to win in honor of her and it was amazing.”
Westwood finished the year with a winning season, but it’s these meaningful moments they’ll remember for years to come.
“It’s not always just about X’s and O’s,” Skewis said. “Here in the gym, I want to teach them how to be empathetic people, how to deal with types of losses, trauma, to feel disappointment. Basketball isn’t just about a play on the floor it gets us ready for life in a way and I want to make sure that I’m doing that. One way to do that is to explain to them why Mia’s Wings was made, how her life affected mine and how it’s okay that sometimes things don’t work how we want them to work, but we can make things better even in spite of something bad happening.”
If you would like to donate to Mia’s Wings, you can do so via their Venmo account @Mias-Wings
If you would like to donate monetary items you can contact Mia’s Wings at email@example.com or contact them via their Facebook Page.