Through financial contributions and donating time to charitable causes, professional athletes have become active in community service.
Professional athletes do become involved in the community through programs that their team implements. Some athletes visit children's hospitals, while others work in soup kitchens during the holidays. Some athletes become involved in school programs as guest speakers.
Sometimes, an athlete becomes a national spokesperson for an organization. In 1997, President Clinton called upon tennis star Martina Hingis, NBA standout Jerry Stackhouse, and NFL player Michael Vick to be the voice of America's Promise. America's Promise was a challenge to the nation to make youth a national priority. Through having athletes as spokespersons, organizations hope that youth will listen to the messages that athletes are conveying and be inspired to take positive action.
Many athletes have taken community service to the next level. Many have implemented their own charities and foundations. Through their own foundations, sports celebrities have funneled more than $57 million a year to charitable programs (USA Today, July 20, 2001). Some of these charitable programs include, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House, and the March of Dimes.
Athletes are motivated to implement their own foundations for different reasons. Some athletes have family members who have a disease, or have died from a disease, others were influenced by their parents, and some athletes as children benefited from non-profit organizations. These athletes in particular understand the benefits that can come from supporting a non-profit foundation.
© 2002 Nancy Benton Parish