When an athlete is good enough to make it to the professional sports arena, many are thrust into a new world. We see kids who grew up in modest homes without much suddenly tossed into a world where contracts can offer several million dollars a year! Some handle that well, while others don’t. Many athletes start charitable foundations to give back to the community.
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I explored several and selected seven of our favorites. My criteria was simple: We looked at organizations that have cash flow, a clear mission statement, and an ongoing record of success. Working with kids or people with disabilities got extra kudos, too.
1. The Miguel Cabrera Foundation Fulfills Dreams For Kids
Formed in 2007, The Miguel Cabrera Foundation focuses on helping young athletes and providing support to communities. By working with children, they help them fulfill their dreams with sports, education, and providing community health care services. The foundation has a guiding principle, “Work hard, Dream Big and Help Others.”
Miguel “Miggy” Cabrera came to the United States from Venezuela. After five years with the Florida Marlins, he found a home with the Detroit Tigers, where he played for 16 years. After announcing his retirement from professional baseball, he spent his last season receiving gifts from the players and management of other teams. Many of those gifts took the form of monetary donations for The Miguel Cabrera Foundation. Miggy plans to use his foundation to make sure that kids have good fields and equipment for sports, educational opportunities to excel academically, and health care services.
2. The LeBron James Family Foundation Uses Athletics To Build Strong Families
LeBron James is a name that almost everyone knows, even if they have never watched a professional basketball game. The LeBron James Family Foundation dedicates itself to building stronger families and redefining community. Working in LeBron’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, the foundation focuses on education to create generational change for kids and families.
LJFF is currently working with over 1,500 students and their families. The families receive resources for education/family programming that aids in success, both educationally and in life practices. Partnering with Akron Public Schools, the I PROMISE programs are a huge success. I PROMISE School uses a new model for successful public education in urban settings. Additional family support is available through the I PROMISE Institute. I PROMISE Village works with people needing transitional housing options, while I PROMISE Housing works to move families into more stable, permanent homes. The entire foundation is in layers, to make sure that people have the support they need, and that adaptations are ready when needs change. LJFF takes its role seriously when it proclaims, “We Are Family.”
3. Live Like Lou Organization Strives To Get The Most Out Of Life
Lou Gehrig didn’t start this foundation, as he passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) on June 2, 1941. He was only 37 years old. ALS is also called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” because his battle became the battle of a nation. Before Lou got his diagnosis, he was known as the “Iron Horse” due to his consistent results and continuous drive on the baseball diamond. He was a standout ball player until he was knocked down in his prime by ALS.
The Live Like Lou Organization honors Lou’s legacy by providing support for families dealing with ALS, funding research to find cures and treatments for the disease, and educating the world on the devastating effects of ALS. The foundation strives to “Live Like Lou.” After his fatal diagnosis, Lou continued to live a gracious life, exhibiting courage and determination in the face of his pending death.
4. The Wayne Gretzky Foundation Works With Youth Hockey Teams
Wayne Gretzky was probably (and still is) one of the greatest hockey players to hit the ice. His career spanned 20 years and saw him running the puck for four different National Hockey League teams. Nicknamed “The Great One,” Wayne was not just a great player, but a great guy.
The Wayne Gretzky Foundation helps kids. Wayne believes that we can instill important life lessons through playing sports. His foundation offers less fortunate kids the chance to play hockey through sponsorships, equipment donations, and more. The foundation covers the cost of ice time and sometimes offers tickets to pro games. Hockey can provide valuable life skills, physical conditioning, emotional support, and social growth. To date, the foundation has raised and donated more than one million dollars in support of youth hockey programs.
5. Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci Have An Active Volunteer Lifestyle
Many people remember these two gymnasts from their individual and team Olympic performances. What many don’t realize is that the two fell in love, married, and continue to support a wide range of charity and volunteer organizations. Both as a team and separately, here are some organizations that benefit from these two outstanding athletes.
Special Olympics: Both have served on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics. They offer support for the mission of this organization by helping with training for people with intellectual disabilities and challenges.
Laureus Academy: The Laureus Academy includes 46 living sports legends (Nadia is a founding member). The mission of the organization is to promote social change and celebrate excellence in sports.
The Nadia Comaneci Foundation: This foundation provides support, promotion, and recognition to encourage exceptional performance in any activity (education, sports, or improving family life). This non-profit is based in Bucharest, Romania.
Muscular Dystrophy Association: Both athletes volunteer for MDA. The organization provides research funding and patient services. The Muscular Dystrophy Association delivers hope for families dealing with neuromuscular disease.
6. Know Your Rights Camp With Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t let losing his professional football career keep him down. Since 2016, Colin has provided funding for and founded Know Your Rights Camp, Kaepernick Publishing, and Ra Vision Media.
Using education, self-empowerment, and leadership training, his Know Your Rights Camp helps black and brown communities. The basis of the camp instills ten points: that people have the right to be healthy, free, safe, brilliant, courageous, loved, trusted, educated, stay alive, and know their rights. In addition to working directly with over 1,400 individuals, the KYRC raised and contributed over $1.75 million to assist people with COVID-19 relief. Colin contributed $100,000 to help people in need due to the pandemic! In a partnership with fellow civil rights activists, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream revealed a new flavor, “Change the Whirled,” to honor Colin’s work with KYRC.
The Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative even began providing legal resources to protesters and activists. Through a partnership with the National Lawyers Guild, they dedicated $500,000 to a collaborative grant. The group has also partnered with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation. With matching $500,000 grants, they have been able to dedicate $1,000,000 to fight wealth-based detention.
Through his ongoing activism, educational endeavors, and financial assistance, Colin is making a difference by consistently fighting for oppressed citizens to succeed.
7. Tiger Woods Hit A Hole In One With His TGR Foundation
Tiger Woods won our hearts as a young boy, showing off his golf skills at two years old on “The Mike Douglas Show.” Once he grew up, he dominated the championship courses on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) circuit. As with many professional athletes, Tiger had a desire to give back to his community. Since its founding in 1996, TGR Foundation offers kids tools and support to follow their dreams, discover their passions, and the knowledge to gain the necessary real-world skills to attain those dreams.
The base philosophy of TGR is that “everyone can be a champion.” Potential and opportunity have no limits. TGR serves youth in under-resourced communities, providing them the opportunities they need to succeed. Some of their outreach includes college-access assistance and career training resources. They also focus on STEM-based hands-on coursework. By providing kids an opportunity to excel, they will excel.
There are so many organizations from professional athletes that it was difficult to make our selections. You will notice that a lot of our selections offer youth services. Our children are our future. When we make a better life for them through education and athletics, we are offering them a better future. We encourage you to research and support organizations in your local area that provide services and assistance in areas that are important to you.
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