Brittney Griner has a request for her supporters this holiday season.
The WNBA star, who was released from Russian custody on Dec. 8, penned a handwritten letter to her Instagram followers on Wednesday morning, asking those who helped advocate for her safe return to do the same for Paul Whelan and other families of wrongfully detained loved ones.
“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months,” Griner wrote. “You took time to show me you cared, and I want to personally take the time to write to you and say that your effort mattered.”
Griner said the letters she received from fans and friends, through the #WeAreBG campaign, helped her “to not lose hope during a time” filled with “regret.”
She described her feeling “vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined,” in the letter.
The Phoenix Mercury center thanked those who wrote to her “from the bottom of my heart” and said that it was because of those communications of support that she “never lost hope” over the course of her detainment.
The letters were “bigger than uplifting” for the WNBA star, though. Griner explained that the thousands of messages she received showed her “the power of collective hands” and now, she hopes to help Whelan, the former U.S. marine who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years on espionage charges, and other detained Americans, come home.
“Together, we can do hard things,” Griner wrote. “I’m living proof of that.”
“My family is whole and now, thanks to you, we are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together,” she wrote. “However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained.”
Griner explained, “Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the #WeAreBG campaign to bring me home, and it’s our turn to support them. I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”
Griner ended her letter by thanking fans once more, adding, “I hope your holiday season is full of joy and love.”
She included Whelan’s mailing address at the bottom of her note. He is currently receiving mail through the American Citizen Services Unit Consular, per the address.
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Griner’s intention to help Whelan and other Americans was first confirmed by her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, in an ESPN interview after her release. Colas said both Griner and her wife, Cherelle, plan to “raise attention” for other families with loved ones detained abroad.
When Cherelle spoke from the White House following the announcement of Brittney’s return, she said, “Today my family is whole, but as you are all aware, there are so many families who are not whole.”
She added that she will continue advocating for “getting every American home, including Paul, whose family is in our hearts today.”