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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Foti gives back to Milwaukee through non-profit

Photo by Keifer Russell
Junior right side Ella Foti (7) created Milotso to help student-athletes engage with their communities

Ella Foti knew from a young age she was more than an athlete.

Dealing with multiple injuries throughout her career, Ella had a moment of realization that she couldn’t limit herself to just the work she does on the court.

“I was always growing up like ‘Oh, the tall girl,'” Ella said. “And then when you don’t have that, when that shifts away from you, it’s like, ‘Well, who am I?’ So, at 14, I had an identity crisis. I wanted to be known as a kind person, someone who’s willing to be selfless for others and will just work hard.”

This mindset fueled the Marquette junior right side’s drive to create Milotso, a nonprofit organization with the mission of helping student-athletes engage with their communities through sports and volunteering.

The non-profit organization goes to different schools in Milwaukee and plays many sports and board games with the city’s youth. But it goes deeper than that, also providing mental health support for the kids they work with.

“We want to build those connections,” senior middle blocker and Milotso mentor Carsen Murray said. “Then also talk about very important topics and educate them at a younger age, so that they can become more aware as these issues are becoming more prominent.”

Milotso is a Foti family project. Ella alongside her dad, Tom, and older sister, Sam, helped establish the organization.

The name “Milotso” comes from Ella’s great grandfather’s hometown of Milazzo in Sicily, from which he immigrated to the United States.

“When we’re going through making this organization, we’re like, ‘What should we name it?'” Ella said. “We want something that will stick, and that people will remember, but there’s so many things out there that we’re like, what’s unique too? So, one way that we made it for us is that we changed the spelling of it.”

The “MIL” is for Milwaukee, where the organization was founded. “LOT” is because they want to have a lot of impact and “SO,” so kids can fulfill their potential.

The nonprofit has been in the works for two years but became fully functioning with a website and social media presence last December.

In the early stages of development, the entire founding team got together for a week-long meeting where they discussed how Milotso would work, what peoples’ titles and roles were going to be, how they were going to ensure it was a sustainable model and to discuss potential expansion to other colleges.

After all that, it came time for Milotso to make itself known to the Milwaukee community, and it did so by partnering with Running Rebels, a local intervention-prevention program. They set up volleyball nets and played with kids the first time they met, but since then, have played other games and even brought in a mental health professional to educate on the importance of mental health.

Ella said a key pillar of Milotso is maintaining those connections with the kids they help.

“One of the big things that we try to do is have relationships that are reoccurring, and they’re not one-offs,” Ella said. “Because at the end of the day, someone may come volunteer at your school, but why would you ever remember that? I’d be helping the (teachers), but it isn’t really helping you as a kid.”

Since its start in June of last year, the organization has picked up steam in both the Marquette and Milwaukee community.

At Marquette, it’s not just the volleyball players. Multiple student-athletes have joined in to give back.

Milotso operates in a way that allows Marquette student-athletes to volunteer during their sport’s offseason.

Right now, volleyball is in the midst of its conference schedule, so it is the offseason for the volleyball mentors. But this past spring, Ella would volunteer with the same group of children every-other week. Last week, two Marquette men’s lacrosse players — in their offseason — went to Milwaukee College Prep, a K3-8 charter school, to play different games with the kids.

In Milwaukee, United Way of Dane County, MENTOR Greater Milwaukee and Mental Health America are some of the businesses, school programs and mental health groups that have partnered with Milotso.

The organization has a strong foundation within Milwaukee, but the goal is for the nonprofit to stretch beyond the confines of Cream City. Both of Ella’s parents attended college at North Dakota State, so Fargo, North Dakota is a spot they’ve looked at.

“The dream is to build the foundation here and then be able to scale it because the same need is in many different markets in the country,” Tom Foti said. “We would love to go national. We even have an idea that if we get the model correct here for Marquette, could we go across the Big East?”

So far as a Golden Eagle, Ella has racked up 367 kills, 59 assists, 315 digs and 68 blocks. She has helped Marquette win the Big East regular season title two times in a row and earn its second-ever Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

But, she also knows that her time as an athlete is fleeting, and her legacy needs to be more than a dual-position starter at a Division I volleyball program.

“We only play sports for a very short amount of our life,” Ella said. “Hopefully they can maybe remember me for some volleyball, but hopefully just a nice person at the end of the day.”

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributors
Jack Albright
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.
Keifer Russell
Keifer Russell, Staff Photographer
Keifer Russell is a junior from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin studying digital media and public relations and is a Staff Photographer of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire he enjoys rock climbing, photography (figures), as well as finding and listening to new music. He is very excited to further refine his photographic content over the next year

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