From athlete to advocate, Ruthie Bolton has always worked for women and children

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Alice “Ruthie” Bolton grew up one of 20 children in the small town of Lucedale, Mississippi. Born in 1967 she experienced a great deal of adversity. But her father refused to let her or her siblings believe they couldn’t reach for the stars.

Ruthie didn’t think she would ever play basketball – benched for many years. She eventually played for Auburn University in Alabama. Little did she know it would lead to an unforgettable career.

Leaving Auburn University, Ruthie was able to gain a position for the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs, in 1997. She scored over 2000 points as the first franchise player for the team and the first Monarch to have her number retired. At first, Ruthie wasn’t invited to play for the U.S. National Team, but in 1996 and 2000, Ruthie led her team to win two gold medals at the Olympics, in Atlanta and Sydney.

“It’s something my dad would say quite often,” Ruthie said. “He said, ‘Daughter, if you take with you in life just a few principles – you won’t have to carry with you, a suitcase full of rules.’ And those are principles that I live by, that’s my faith, that’s my attitude – which is my mindset- and my work ethic -which is my character.”

That’s what Ruthie attributes her success to. Now, after retiring in 2004, she’s trying to be an example for young athletes while also providing resources to women survivors of domestic violence. She has her own sports academy, called AIM High. She’s also working on Ruthie’s Place- a thrift store, youth support center and domestic violence/ sexual assault support center, in Sacramento, CA.

“The gold medals, the award championship, the Hall of Fame trophies they don’t mean anything if I can’t use those things to now help edify young people,” she says. “To encourage young girls not to quit basketball, or to help some young boys not to drop out of school…I don’t want my daughter to go through – she might not survive like I survived, she might not be able to endure what I endured- I don’t want her to go through what I went through, so I have this even more sense of urgency to be a voice, to be vocal.”

At Lakota Nation Invitational this week, Ruthie Bolton was the star guest. She says she loves to be involved in youth athletic conferences and competitions where she hopes to inspire students.

It is Ruthie’s hope that she can continue to attend L.N.I. – as she has for two years now – and be involved in the Rapid City community, any way she can.

She’s been quoted saying, “If I am only remembered for being a basketball player, I believe I will have failed in my job on this planet.”

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