Athletes work hard to earn that coveted spot on a major league team and a contract worth millions of dollars. Some athletes spend that money wastefully while others see it as an opportunity to give back to communities in need. Many athletes use their status as a platform and have started charities.
I was flipping channels when it landed on “60 Minutes.” I was about to change the channel when a story about Albert Pujols appeared. Pujols is the first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and is widely regarded as one of the best players in baseball. He started the Pujols Family Foundation in 2005. According to the foundation’s website, two of the foundation’s goals are to help people with Down Syndrome and help families living in impoverished conditions in the Dominican Republic. They have organized medical missions that send doctors in to treat the sick and provided new mattresses for homes where many people have to share old, tattered mattresses that are water-soaked. Pujols continues to give time and energy to the causes that matter the most to him.
Andy Roddick began the Andy Roddick Foundation in 2001. According to the foundation’s website, their goal is “Serving Children Today for Tomorrow.” The foundation has raised over $10 million to improve the quality of life and enhance educational opportunities for all children based on certain principles like family and morality. In 2001, the foundation began the Back to Basics Angel Uniform Program. Through this program, over 10,000 new school uniforms have been distributed to needy children.
Perhaps one of the most well-known athlete charities is the Lance Armstrong Foundation, more commonly known as Livestrong. In 1996, cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain. He had aggressive treatment and eventually overcame the cancer. He founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation the next year. The foundation offers support for people going through cancer and raises funds to help advance cancer research. In 2004, the foundation began a campaign selling yellow Livestrong wristbands. By 2005, the foundation had sold more than 55 million of them. Since 1997, the foundation has raised more than $400 million that has gone to programs that help patients in their fight against cancer.
Several members of the Texas Rangers baseball team help with local charities as well as their own.
Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson co-founded C.J. Wilson’s Children’s Charities five years ago with Robert Champagne. Wilson met Champagne’s son Micah, who suffers from hemophilia and aspergers. The purpose of the charity, according to their website, is to raise funds, awareness and youth participation in community service and charitable giving. Wilson hosts events that benefit local children’s charities in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area. On April 21, 2011, Wilson held his third annual “Strike Out” bowling tournament in Arlington. All the proceeds of this event went to the Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. He has also held Guitar Hero charity events in the past where fans can play Guitar Hero against Rangers players like Wilson and all the funds raised went to children’s charities like the Texas Hemophilia Camp.
Michael Young works with Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer. According to their website, they are a Dallas-based non-profit founded in 1980 dedicated to raising awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research on a national basis. Young and his wife Cristina help provide scholarships on a national basis to pediatric cancer survivors who are now attending college.
Josh Hamilton founded Triple Play Ministries, a sports ministry that focuses on overcoming obstacles, reaching out to the community and participating in mission projects around the world. Baseball camps are held at the Ballpark in Arlington where Hamilton teaches batting, fielding and base running tips while incorporating lessons on how to make good choices in life. One of the organization’s mission projects in the past was to raise money for Arise Africa in Uganda, a project that focused on completing an orphanage that was being built to house 50 homeless children.
Just like Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in “Spiderman,” with great power comes great responsibility. These athletes are taking that responsibility seriously and are proving to be great examples of how to change the world one ball, racquet, mile or hit at a time.