San Francisco knows how to throw a party – first there was Super Bowl 50, which was the most giving Super Bowl ever. Then there was the Rugby World Cup Sevens, where over 100,000 fans walked through the gates of AT&T Park, making it the highest attended rugby event in the United States. The event set records of all sorts, and while the United States didn’t have the best results, it did inspire the next generation of fans. According to USA Rugby, “Aspiring players were able to tangibly see the spectacle of the sport as USA Rugby and Impact Beyond look to carry on that legacy. In tandem with Play Rugby USA< Rugby NorCal, USA Rugby Academy and Playworks Northern California, Impact Beyond engaged nearly 22,000 youth and raised almost $200,000 that will directly support greater Bay Area community programs and youth rugby development.”
Impact Beyond strives to accomplish 4 goals:
Through the wild success of this event, USA Rugby plans to replicate the legacy program in other US cities. This shouldn’t be surprising, as legacy foundations of major events are a growing trend around the world. It helps distinguish large-scale events and helps localize the community efforts to reach those at a grassroots level.
Football is back. Over the weekend, the NFL had its first preseason game of the year – the Hall of Fame game. With this game, came the 2018 inductee class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Leading up to the event, it was chronicled that Brian Dawkins struggled with mental health issues. Struggle is an understatement – he not only had suicidal thoughts, but he planned his suicide so that his wife would receive the insurance money.
Many people understand that football provides so much structure to life. Every minute is planned from meetings, to rehab, to meals, strategy, etc. When players retire, they struggle to cope with the freedom that comes with retirement – many would believe that this is when Dawkins struggled with depression because he was unable to find his identity. These people would be wrong. During the early days of his playing career, during his rookie and sophomore season, Dawkins was in a dark place. He contemplated suicide and his wife was the only thing that helped him through it. She reached out to Emmitt Thomas, one of Dawkins’ coaches, and the two were able to help get Dawkins on the right track again.
Dawkins took time during his Hall of Fame speech to recount his battle with depression and mental health illness. He said, “So for those who are going through it right now, there’s hope. You do have hope. There is something on the other side of this. Don’t get caught up where you are. Don’t stay where you are. Keep moving. Keep pushing through.” This was one of the most powerful moments of the night because he acknowledged his battle with depression, and is living proof that it can be beaten. Mental health should be seen as a continuum – it is not a yes or no answer. Rather, we all have issues and some days are better than others. By bringing attention to this issue, Dawkins assuredly saved lives through his speech. He reached people through his speech who are suffering, and he gave them hope. This is what the power of sports can do for strangers – it can unite, heal and help overcome any issue that life throws our direction.
In late July, Special Olympics celebrated its 50th anniversary with events and concerts throughout the city of Chicago. 50 years after its birth, more than five million athletes from 172 countries are a part of the Special Olympics family. In honor of the Games’ 50th anniversary, a special unified program was held, where athletes with and without intellectual disabilities were able to participate in events together.
The Special Olympics Unified Cup took place from July 17-20. Other events included a Global Day of Inclusion, benefit concert and a torch run that raised over $4.5 million for Special Olympics. Runners came from all over Chicago, the state and the world. Participants ran to a new monument, the Eternal Flame of Hope, which symbolizes inclusion. The entire event welcomed thousands of athletes and supporters to Chicago, all for one amazing cause and an incredible theme: inclusion.
On July 19, 2018, in advance of the ESPYS, more than two dozen athletes and leaders in sport and youth development spoke at the Laureus Summit. It aimed to shine a light on sports positive impact on youth and communities across the globe. To make matters even more celebratory, it fell on the 100th birthday of Laureus’ founding patron, Nelson Mandela. With speeches from Chris Paul, to Edwin Moses, to Laureus USA CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the event brought the star power. Mosley said, “From community playing fields to professional stadiums, sport is a global language that has the power to unite us all. It is especially impactful in the lives of youth, who can learn life-long values and lessons through their participation.” Paul added on by saying, “I’ve learned through sport and action that it’s one of the only things where you don’t see race, you don’t see gender, everyone just comes together.”
According to the organization itself, Laureus USA also announced the results of its annual State of Sport for Good Report, which revealed that sport can play a significant role in reducing discrimination among children and youth in the United States. The report, which combined the results of 140 sport for development organizations collectively serving more than 850,000 youth, found that these programs are effectively improving their communities and helping to reduce discrimination among the youth that they serve.
In addition, Laureus USA announced the launch of Sport for Good LA for 2019. Sport for Good LA, which provides grants to non-profit organizations that use sport to improve the lives of youth, will mark the fifth Sport for Good City as part of the #20×20 campaign, with a goal of bringing Sport for Good Cities program to 20 cities by the year 2020.
A 3-time NBA Champion, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, and 4-time NBA MVP, LeBron James is no slacker. In fact, he’s been in the spotlight for over fifteen years as “the next big thing” and then an NBA superstar. The comparisons to Michael Jordan have been in full swing for over a decade, yet James has continued to impress both with his ability on and off the court. This past week however, he made the largest impact yet, with the opening of the I Promise School. It opened the first week of August in Akron, Ohio, as a joint effort between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools. Its objective is to educate at-risk youth in Akron and identify those who have fallen behind in school and help accelerate their learning.
The school will have a longer school day and school year, and those students that complete the school’s program will get tuition provided by James at the University of Akron, beginning in 2021. Services are available for students, to help them cope with stress as it relates to parents who are struggling to make ends meet. In addition, there are activities to prevent the kids from having too much idle time and potentially getting into trouble.
The school also provides services to families, including job placement assistance for parents and an on-site food bank that will allow parents to pick out foods they can prepare at home. Finally, James credits his bicycle as a huge factor in his childhood that gave him an escape from dangerous parts of his neighborhood and the freedom to explore – every student will receive a bicycle when they arrive.
James recently went on CNN and explained that sports is a unifier… it’s what allowed all athletes to get to their place in life. He believes that his peers owe it to future generations to pay it forward and provide resources to those at-risk. James has always been a philanthropist, especially to his hometown of Akron. It will be interesting to see how the school operates, as potentially 50-75% of it will be publicly funded, as it is a part of the public-school system. Interestingly enough, most schools that are started by celebrities are charter schools or private ones. One thing is for sure – James will always have the students’ best interests at heart.