After the confetti has fallen and the trophies handed out there is a feel good high that lasts longer than the adrenalin rush during the game. That high comes from the many charitable groups that sports organizations have aligned with to raise the profile and funding for each cause.
Almost every sport and league has a charitable giving component to its organization that helps generate funds and gives back to the community. Last year the PGA TOUR and its more than 100 tournaments announced they had surpassed $2 billion in all-time charitable giving. NFL Charities provides grants amounting to $10 million each year that are donated to organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the American Heart Association. NBA Cares, the league’s global community outreach initiative that addresses important social issues such as education, youth and family development, and health and wellness has raised more than $242 million for charity since they launched in 2005. The global and national list of sports sponsored charities goes on and on; however, when you dial down to the local level all of us have the opportunity to participate and experience the power of sports to raise awareness and funds in support of our communities.
Many sports are team based however even individuals that compete on the highest level, including golfers, are the first to tell you they could not do it without the team of people that assists them. Sports have a huge foundation in the communities they represent and the numerous charities and organizations that receive support from sporting events are overwhelming. Through the local sports network these charities are able to generate funds and shed light as to the nature of a particular disease, personal hardships, and lack of education or resources. Often people site their passion for sports, team members and community as an integral part of who they are and that this support system is what helped them overcome the many adversities that life presents to all of us.
The March of Dimes 31st Annual Sports Luncheon honoring those having excelled in all aspects of the sports industry included Howard Katz of the NFL (Sports Leadership), Kevin Plank of Under Armour (Corporate Leadership), Michelle Wie, LPGA Champion (Sportswoman of the Year Award), and Mark Messier, Captain of the New York Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup Championship Team (Sports Achievement Award). This event brings together all of the leagues and industry leaders in celebration of these individuals and to give back in a meaningful way to the March of Dimes which is the leading non-profit organization for pregnancy and infant health. This year’s two hour luncheon succeeded in raising $965,000. Once again amplifying the power of sports to give back to the community.
The Legends for Charity dinner has been held for the past 11 years during Super Bowl week to honor a deserving individual in the broadcast industry by presenting them with the Pat Summerall award. This year the award honored Joe Buck of Fox Sports. While the event gathers great media legends it serves as an incredible way to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and its vital mission of finding cures and saving children with childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The Thursday before Super Bowl we gathered to honor an individual in the sports world. However shortly after a few stories from the families and children that have benefited from the work of St. Jude you realize they are honoring us with their presence. The mere fact that they are alive and in the room are testaments to the work St. Jude achieves as each child has cancer and has received treatment from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Like 12 year old Ally who suffered from medulloblastoma and underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy or 14 year old Diego who suffered from osteosarcoma and after chemotherapy and surgery he is now cancer free. While the stories of what these families go through are heartbreaking, the ability of a community to rally around and support them is no less compelling than the teamwork necessary to win a Super Bowl.
A major fund raising component of these charity events are the silent and live auctions where items are donated thus enabling the charity to generate pure profit. As the night came to a conclusion I found myself circling the silent auction table. I was the winning bid on a Tom Brady’s signed Super Bowl XXXVIII helmet. As excited as I was, a mere three days prior to Super Bowl XLIX where Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would face off against the Seattle Seahawks, the helmet might as well be signed by Diego because every time I look at it I am reminded of him and his family who I met and spoke with at the event. I walked away with so much more than a helmet, I feel gratitude to St. Jude’s for all they do and extremely proud to be part of the sports community. Perhaps the real investment return from sports is its unique ability to act as a catalyst to bring together a community to address its most compelling challenges. The ability of sports and its communities to support so many people as they endure adversity is to both remind us of life’s fragility and to give all of us a chance to feel the adrenaline of being part of a winning team.