Ayanna Patterson EmPower Forward raises $15,000 for Autism Society of Indiana

August 3, 2023

UConn women's basketball standout and former Indiana Miss Basketball Ayanna Patterson is giving back to the community that raised her with her first EmPower Forward Basketball Skills Camp at McMillen Park Community Center

Some 100 boys and girls participated in grades 1-8 participated in the camp, which was designed to teach the game of basketball to young campers in a fun atmosphere. In the morning, campers went through a rotation of skills led by an all-star group of coaches connected to Ayanna's basketball upbringing. The afternoon featured basketball competitions. 

EmPower Forward is a partnership between Ayanna, Parkview Sports Medicine and the Autism Society of Indiana. Proceeds from the camp benefited ASI, a statewide organization that connects everyone in the autism community with the resources needed to live fully.

Ayanna and Parkview Sports Medicine presented ASI a $15,000 check.

As part of the festivities, Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker read a proclamation from Mayor Tom Henry declaring July 28 at Ayanna Patterson EmPower Forward Weekend in Fort Wayne.

Northeast Indiana Female Athletics Advocate of the Year: Cheri Gilbert

As part of her first EmPower Forward event, Ayanna Patterson presented former Heritage girls basketball coach and athletic director Cheri Gilbert with the Female Athletics Advocate of the Year Award. The award honors someone in the community who has helped advance women’s sports and uplifted female athletes.

Cheri Gilbert has been a fixture of athletics in Northeast Indiana for nearly a half-century, helping grow girls sports from the unsanctioned Girls Athletic Association as a student at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School…all the way to athletic director at Heritage Junior-Senior High School, overseeing what included seven IHSAA-sanctioned girls sports teams

Cheri served as girls basketball coach at Heritage for ten years, winning three semi-states, three regionals, five sectionals, five Allen County Athletic Conference titles, and the 1982 state championship. Heritage is the smallest school ever to win the one-class girls state tournament.

Cheri spent six years as Heritage athletic director, before retiring in 2017. She was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. And Heritage dedicated Cheri Gilbert Court in her honor earlier this year.


Northeast Indiana Female Athlete of the Year: Morgan Gaerte of Angola High School & Team Pineapple Volleyball Club


Morgan Gaerte started playing volleyball at the age of 8. As she enters her senior season at Angola High School, she has developed into one of the best players in the State of Indiana. In her first three seasons at Angola, Morgan earned All-Northeast Corner Conference, All-Northeast Indiana, All-District and All-State honors. She is also a three-time team MVP and two-time KPC Player of the Year.

Her Hornet teams have been very successful, as well: winning back-to-back NECC regular season championships, three straight NECC Tournaments and two sectional titles. In eight years with Team Pineapple Club, Morgan has been named to All-National teams by the Junior Volleyball Association and USA Volleyball; and she was invited to the prestigious Team USA National Development Team program.

Morgan is also an accomplished high-jumper, winning two conference titles, three sectional titles, and qualifying for the state meet the last two years.  Morgan has verbally committed to play women’s volleyball at the University of Notre Dame.

The five other finalists for Northeast Indiana Female Athlete of the Year were: Addison Knoblough of Homestead High School, Jersey Loyer of Concordia Lutheran High School, 
Jordyn Poole of Snider High School, Kennedy Fuelling of Norwell High School and Mya Ball of Angola High School. 

Ortho Express Walk-in Clinic

Learn more about same-day orthopedic and sports injury care at SportsONE / Parkview Fieldhouse. Learn More

PSM Performance Edge Program

Personalized training to help take your game to the next level. Learn more.
Get Started