Athletes for Hope: Sports Philanthropy
In 2007, Agassi and other all-star athletes got together to lay out the plans for a philanthropic organization. When soccer superstar Mia Hamm began pouring over the financial aspects, she recalls that Agassi told her, "don't get caught up in the numbers." They were there to change people's lives. Athletes for Hope was founded to promote excellence through charitable work, making endeavors such as Hamm's work on behalf of bone marrow research more effective. The organization educates and connects athletes who are already interested in philanthropy and empowers them to make even greater strides together.
Annika Sorenstam, arguably the greatest female golfer of all time, joined the group and brought her energetic advocacy for health and nutrition. She runs the ANNIKA Foundation, which sponsors golf tournaments for youth and offers educational scholarships. Sorenstam is a firm believer that we must increase physical education in schools, create more after-school programs and make cafeteria food more nutritional. "Whatever you put in, you become," she said.
The audience got a chance to participate in several survey questions throughout the panel. Eighty-four percent of the attendees disagreed with the statement "my money is more valuable than my time." The panel concurred, but as skateboarding legend Tony Hawk pointed out, the question of money vs. time sometimes depends on what kind of charitable work is in question. When it comes to cancer research, he said, "It's not like they′re looking for extra hands in the lab."
The audience was divided on the question of whether we should lower our expectations about what we can accomplish charitably in light of the economic crisis. Hawk explained that, under the current circumstances, more people are in need, which means we have to think outside the box to find innovative ways to fundraise.
The Tony Hawk Foundation does just that, having raised funds to build 450 skateparks throughout the country, mostly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The skatepark in Compton was the result of a partnership with the mayor's anti-gang initiative and the city.
Robert Shafir of Credit Suisse shared the athletes' belief in the power of philanthropy, calling it a "great culture builder" for any organization. Social responsibility is becoming increasingly popular, and large companies are motivated to engage in charitable work by their shareholders, clients and employees.
Moderator Chris Waddell added a note of inspiration to the evening. He hopes to become the first paraplegic to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in the world. Doing this without the use of his legs may seem impossible, but not for this resilient champion.