SI Names Brooklyn Sisters SportsKids of the Year

From a homeless shelter to the cover of a national magazine.

All hail the Sheppard sisters!


As revealed today on The View by Whoopi Goldberg and, simultaneously, via the Times Square Jumbotron, Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard have won Sports Illustrated Kids’ 10th annual SportsKid of the Year honors. From the announcement:

The Sheppard sisters (aged 9, 10 and 11) began living in a homeless shelter with their mother after having been evicted from their apartment in September 2015. They began their track and field careers when a babysitter signed them up for a meet in January 2015 as a fun, free activity.

After the meet, they were invited to join the Jeuness Track Club and subsequently qualified for the 2016 AAU Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas. Tai ran the 400-, 800- and 80-meter hurdles; Rainn ran the 3,000; and Brooke participated in the 800, 1,500 and high jump. Each girl placed within the top 15 in each event, and Rainn won the 3,000-meter run for the 11-year-old girls’ division.

“This is such an amazing story. You can’t hear it and not be moved by the dedication that Tai, Rainn and Brooke have shown,” said Mark Bechtel, managing editor of Sports Illustrated Kids. “We hear a lot about the obstacles that athletes have to overcome to succeed. But very few have coped with what these sisters—and their mom—have faced. They’ve done it with grace and poise. Their efforts have been phenomenal—and inspiring. For these reasons, and for their accomplishments on the track, the Sheppard sisters are the SportsKids of the Year.”

The Sheppard sisters are the second set of siblings to win the SI honor, following brothers Conner and Cayden Long in 2012. The December issue of SI Kids will arrive on newsstands Monday. The sisters and their mother will be honored at a special ceremony at Barclays Center Dec. 12.

The cover story is online now. Recently, SI Kids also mused what it might have looked like if their award had existed prior to 2007 and been given out to the likes of Eli Manning, Michelle Wie and LeBron James.

AP’s Ezra Kaplan had a good story earlier this year about the Sheppard sisters. His article was headlined “3 Sisters Go From Homeless Shelter to Junior Track Stardom.”

Update (Nov. 29):
Kaplan has followed up with an item reminding that the Sheppard sisters, and their mom, are still homeless:

Even as the girls are being honored as Sports Illustrated Kids’ SportsKids of the Year, [mom Tonia] Handy is still looking for something better than the minimum-wage job answering phones at a taxi company and that elusive place of their own.

“I just want a nice mattress,” Handy told the AP this week. “Can I just have a nice mattress to lay my head and just relax and take a breather before I get up and start this new life?”