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Sports can be a vehicle for good

I don’t know about you ladies and gents, but I am truly tired and fed up. There isn’t a day that goes that there isn’t some news about an athlete being arrested, or punching out a woman, taking steroids, charged with rape, or facing a DUI violation.

So, I decided to do a little investigating into what are our high-priced heroes doing about giving back to the community. Personally, I had the opportunity to be part of a few foundations and it may me feel great.

I worked with three great athletes, John Mackey, Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore. In each case, the emphasis was on underprivileged children, medical research and education. Countless millions of dollars were raised.

So, what about today? Many athletes reach into their pockets without fanfare in appreciation for their good fortune and give back. As a matter of fact, I was thrilled to learn that each year, millions of dollars go directly from athletes’ paychecks to support various causes throughout the world.

I found a great many doing good. For this column, however, I chose only ten whom I feel are doing an outstanding philanthropic job/

Soccer great David Beckham, for example, supports countless programs… He is a UNICEF Ambassador and besides contributing money, he and his wife Victoria actively work with the “Unite Against Aids” campaign.

The Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols and his wife Diedre have a family foundation, which promotes awareness while providing hope and tangible means through funds for children with Down Syndrome.

Eli Manning, New York Giants Quarterback, has given and continues to give millions of dollars to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital.

Then there’s Larry Fitzgerald and his “First Down Fund”. This great Arizona Cardinal Wide Receiver, in addition to contributing much needed funds, has often rolled up his sleeves and worked while he followed the money trail to such places as Ethiopia. He has planted trees and worked in irrigation trenches.

Cy Young Winner Clayton Kershaw puts no boundaries on how far he will go to help. Significant portions of his paycheck goes to causes in Africa.

Along with his wife Ellen, he is working tirelessly to change the lives of “at-risk children”. Among the many things they have done is to solely fund an Orphanage in Zambia. In the off-season, they are often found working at the facility in the equatorial heat to make things better.

Clayton has been the recipient of the Robert Clemente Award given annually to the individual in Baseball who contributes the most unselfishly.

Sometimes during the season you can see him helping to erect a home with “Habitat for Humanity”.

Tennis great Serena Williams is the celebrity role model for Avon and its multitude of Women’s causes. She is the recipient of the “Young Heroes” Award for her support and leadership of “Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Now in his final year, Yankee great Derek Jeter has continued to fund and actively run his “Turn 2” foundation. Since 1996, (17 years), “Turn2”has been motivating young people to move away from drugs and alcohol and “Turn 2” healthy lifestyles.

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon who is closing in on the 100 victory mark, runs the “J.G. Children’s Foundation” whose ultimate goal is to reach the day when no child has Cancer .

He has helped set up the Pediatric Cancer Research Wing at the Riley Hospital for Children.

LeBron James received a great deal of heat (no pun intended) and poor public relations when he did a 75-minute documentary on ESPN entitled “The Decision” highlighting his move from Cleveland to Miami. The documentary which no one knew raised 2.5 Million dollars which were earmarked for the Boys and girls Clubs.

Through his LeBron James Family Foundation, when it comes to helping children in a multitude of areas, support has been realized beyond any organization’s fondest dream.

Last, but not least, is Tiger Woods. He was headline fodder for the wrong reasons off the golf course. However, his “Tiger Woods Foundation” has contributed countless millions of dollars toward making college accessible for underserved young people.

I have also discovered many more athletes who do good while keeping in the shadows. I am sure you could add to this list. Hopefully, I have not slighted anybody,. But since this is my column, this is my list.

It’s a great feeling to give back, or as it says in the bible, “It is better to give than receive”.

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