This past month international soccer icon and established humanitarian Pelé announced the launch of The Pelé Foundation, his new global charitable foundation focused on empowering children in impoverished areas around the world. In its first year, the Foundation aims to fulfill its mission by partnering with Pencils of Promise and charity: water.
The Pelé Foundation will fund the two organizations’ programs dedicated to providing aid for children in poverty and increasing access to an education. The Foundation will provide Pencils of Promise with monetary support intended to improve reading fluency and comprehension in Guatemala. charity: water will be working with the Foundation to provide children in developing countries with access to clean water, reducing the amount of time that the children spend walking and waiting to collect and bring water to their families each day.
Pelé is no stranger to sport philanthropy as he is known not only for his incredible abilities as a footballer but for breaking down social barriers through charity as well. His altruism focuses mostly on organizations that support children, such Unicef and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Even into retirement, Pelé uses his status as one of the best and most popular soccer players of all time to continually bring hope to kids in underprivileged regions of the world, areas he knows all too well as he grew up in similar conditions as a young boy. Pelé’s empathy for children in poverty drives his zealous involvement in youth empowerment and education.
Athletes for Hope celebrates ten years of athletes using their platforms for good.
Athletes for Hope is a non-profit founded in 2007, by some of the top athletes in the world, in the hopes of creating an organization that brings athletes together to make a positive impact in the community. According to their website, Athletes for Hope aims “to educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable issues, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same.” So many athletes want to give back, but they’re unsure of how to begin or what that process looks like. In comes Athletes for Hope to connect the dots between athletes and the causes they’re passionate about. A dozen leaders in the industry took it upon themselves to create an organization that harnessed the innate competitive spirit of athletes and channeled it into something positive.
Over the past decade, Athletes for Hope has created over 2,000 connections between athletes and charities and their membership has grown to over 3,000 athletes. According to their website, the fastest growing initiative is Athletes for Hope University (AFH-U), which provides workshops for college teams as well as engage student-athletes in discussions about how to serve in the communities they live in during their time on campus. This program has grown to 5 college campuses with the goal of reaching more this year. This provides students with the opportunity to experience impactful community service and obtain the benefits of student leadership and governance.
Athletes for Hope has helped hundreds of non-profits advocate for their initiatives. They’re able to connect their athletes with existing missions to amplify an organization’s message and create awareness around the world.
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LeBron James Family Foundation helps launch a new public school in Akron, Ohio.
LeBron James is a champion on the court. There’s no denying that as he’s won 2 NBA titles with the Miami Heat and 1 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Off the court, there may not be a more community minded athlete than James. The LeBron James Family Foundation has long been a standard of excellence – he pledged to fund the education for 40 students at the University of Akron and has been a pillar in the community.
Never one to settle, James and his foundation have identified their next major initiative: the I Promise School. James, his foundation, and the Akron Public Schools have created a new public school aimed at educating students who are at-risk in reading and need academic support in the most critical years.
According to USA Today, James said, “This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most – those who could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something. We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”
Initially, the school will house third and fourth grade students; by 2022, the school will be open to students in grades one through eight. James has stepped up to the plate in a major way. He has become a bridge for at-risk children to provide resources for their success. This school will help teach children at a formative age and provide the proper education for future success.
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Athletes from across leagues share their personal stories during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Last month people across the country recognized Sexual Assault Awareness month, and professional athletes, both male and female, lent their voices to the cause. To honor sexual assault survivors, Mic partnered with several athletes to create “Athletes United”, a series of short but powerful videos about their personal connections to sexual assault.
Titus O'Neil, WWE superstar, shared his family’s story, revealing that he is a product of his mother’s traumatic rape at age 11. Having witnessed the lasting emotional toll it took on his mom, O’Neil has decided to use his platform to remind people that ending sexual violence is a worthy charge, and he is committed to standing with victims and doing what he can to curb sexual assaults across the country.
Layshia Clarendon of the Atlanta Dream penned an essay declaring herself a survivor of sexual assault, imploring readers to recognize the harmful effects of rape culture and work to reframe the discussion. Her teammate, Elizabeth Williams, addressed how the culture surrounding sports can exacerbate the problem of sexual assault because athletes often hold special positions in their communities and, therefore, are not always held accountable for their transgressions.
Wade Davis, former NFL cornerback, encouraged all athletes to amplify this message and use their resources to speak out against sexual violence, both in the sports community and in their communities. And DeAndre Levy, former Detroit Lion, has been raising funds to test rape kits in Detroit, inspired by his wife, Desire Vincent, and her own experience with sexual assault.
“Athletes United” is compelling activism for many reasons. First, it shares several voices, from female survivors to male allies. Including both genders is crucial to the effectiveness of this message. Second, the pieces have been drawn from several different professional sports leagues, proving that sexual assault is a pressing issue for everyone, not just one of two sports. Finally, each athlete in the series addresses a different aspect of sexual assault; they touch on the shame victims may feel, the pitfalls of the justice system, the implications of sports culture and sexual violence, and the importance of athletes using their positions to contribute to the solution. The collection of perspectives gives viewers a more complete picture of the problem, and thus, a better understanding of what needs to be done, within the sports world and without.
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Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles visits D.C. politicians to talk criminal justice reform.
Malcolm Jenkins, a Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles, has joined a growing group of athletes advocating for social justice and racial equality. Jenkins started with a small but powerful gesture – raising his fist during the national anthem. Soon after, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers about ongoing criminal justice reform efforts. Jenkins has met with Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement. Just recently, he did a ride-along with a Philadelphia police officer to get a firsthand look at the reality of working in law enforcement.
Jenkins’ progression from silent protest to policy advocacy is an excellent example of how one individual can make waves of change. He is realizing his unique power and influence as a professional athlete to gain a seat at the table. We often talk about pro athletes having a platform and resources (i.e. money, partners, fans, and followers) which they can use to advance a cause. But we tend to overlook another piece of the puzzle: athletes have access. They have relatively easy access to powerful people and institutions that have major impact on policy reform. Simply having a seat at the table can be an invaluable resource, and pro athletes will almost always be granted a seat if they ask. Jenkins explained that his trip to D.C. made him realize how he was “able to get meetings that the people who are actually doing work on the ground probably can’t get.” The real life experience from his ride-along, coupled with the perspective he gained from D.C. lawmakers, has given Jenkins a more complete picture of police brutality in our country. He is to be commended for making an effort to hear both sides of the story and taking the time to learn the state of community-police relations in America, instead of taking a hardline stance before knowing all the facts.
Jenkins reflected on his ride-along, explaining that police brutality is “a symptom of the justice system they’re on the front lines of….They act in accordance with the policies and laws that govern them. So, when…we don’t see any kind of accountability or repercussions for people losing their lives…it’s because the policies that [police are] governed by allows it.” Going forward, Jenkins is intent on working towards treating the underlying causes of racial divides instead of the symptoms. His mission is to bring about real reform to police training and, ultimately, the criminal justice system.
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