Our Daily Dread: Athletes with hope … God bless ‘em

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Without making this sound like an infomercial, breaking up your SportsCenter story on the latest athlete gone bad, here’s the contents of an email we received recently that would have been easy to cynically delete and pass off as a bunch of do-gooders starving for some publicity. For some reason, we want to believe it has a purpose, meaning and focus on getting things done right. Read it yourself:

“Athletes behaving badly.” It’s become an all-too common phrase among sports pundits. But what about the professional athletes who are giving back to their communities? Whether or not their efforts on the field or court have made them household names, each day they’re making a positive impact on the world by not only dedicating time and energy to their athletic training, but also to the people around them.

Since Athletes for Hope (website linked here) was founded, its mission has been to educate every athlete, not just the mega-stars, about philanthropic opportunities. AFH strives to connect athletes with charities that best fit their passions and objectives, and believes in recognizing the efforts of these athletes. The AFH roster continues to grow at a rapid rate, which is proof that there are many professional athletes who want to spread a sense of optimism, rather than negativity, and work together towards a greater good.

Here’s a recent example:

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On Jan 17, Mia Hamm and husband Nomar Garciaparra hosted the second annual Celebrity Soccer Challenge at the Home Depot Center in Carson. The game brought together actors, musicians, athletes, media personalities and sports leader to raise funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation. Two teams – FC Mia and Nomar United squared off in front of and enthusiastic crowd. At halftime, patients suffering from leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases were introduced for the first time to their bone marrow donors. All fans were encouraged to register for the National Marrow Donor Program Registry.

On February 5, Steve Blake, AFH member and point guard for the Portland Trailblazers, participated in a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Association (CCA), an organization that works towards enhancing the quality of life for children with serious illnesses. While traveling on the road with the Trailblazers, Steve called in to the 28-hour radio-thon with the hope of inspiring listeners to either make donations, or get involved with children at the CCA. Steve donated game tickets, a signed jersey, and shoes helping the on-air auction raise almost $263,000 and counting. Steve is also in talks to become a “Chemo Pal Celebrity Ambassador,” in which he would host a special event for the CCA children.

==Looking Ahead: AFH is hosting a star-studded panel at this year’s 2009 Sportaccord convention in Denver, Colorado on March 25. AFH Founders Andre Agassi and Andrea Jaeger will be featured panelists on the topic of “Sport & Philanthropy – The Value of Giving Back.” Sportaccord is an annual convention that offers the sports community an opportunity to come together and exchange knowledge and develop ideas.

Also taking place in March, AFH will present before the Association of Tennis Players (ATP) Tour University at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. AFH’s CEO, Ivan Blumberg, will use the meeting as an opportunity to discuss the importance and benefits of athletes becoming involved in philanthropy efforts. AFH previously presented at the University and as a result, 19 players joined the AFH roster.

==About AFH: Athletes for Hope is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization created by a few very successful athletes of exemplary character who have a deep commitment to charitable and community causes. Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Warrick Dunn, Jeff Gordon, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, Andrea Jaeger, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mario Lemieux, Alonzo Mourning and Cal Ripken, Jr. founded Athletes for Hope to Pass their Passion for philanthropy to others.

You’ve got the weblink. You know who’s involved. Download the organization’s “gameplan.” And now you’ve got a list of “good” athletes. Until they go bad? They’re only human. And they aren’t as self-promoting as this may seem. This comes from a public relations company that’s paid to inform the media, and public, about their network of resources. Maybe some of the real “bad” athletes may want to check this out. You know who you are. Post your comments here or send them to thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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