Vancouver Canucks

On March 15, the Vancouver Canucks hosted their annual Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon presented by Chevrolet. During the game that night, fans were encouraged to donate to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. According to the Canucks website (canucks.nhl.com), “the Hospice provides 24-hour, 7-days-a-week care by nurses and physicians in addition to family care, end-of-life, pain and symptom management, school music and play therapy, recreation opportunities and counseling services. Since 1993, the Vancouver Canucks and the Canucks for Kids Fund have supported Canuck Place with over $18 million in funding.” The totals are still coming in for this year’s fund and fans are still able to donate, so the final tally is not yet available. Last season, the Canucks donated $1.7 million dollars to Canuck Place.

There are so many reasons to love this partnership and the telethon. Through my experience in the NHL, I admired the Canucks for their charity work. The telethon is not only a great fundraising avenue, but a great marketing tool. It gives Canuck Place plenty of media exposure throughout the season and encourages dedicated fans to donate to a charity that is so close to the hearts of so many players. The support of the players is evident on the website for Canuck Place (www.canuckplace.org). Former Canuck, Trevor Linden is quoted on the home page of the site, “we were having so much fun playing hockey with the kids. The magic of the hospice is all about allowing kids to just be kids.” PSA’s featuring All Star goalie Roberto Luongo can also be found the site.

What’s also wonderful about a consistent partnership like this for a team is that it gives the players familiarity with a local charity. If a player is looking to volunteer some of his time, it gives him a place to go where he will be welcome and always invited. Since many players spend time playing for different teams, having partnerships like these with a local charity is beneficial. It’s great to give the players a familiar place to visit and volunteer. And, it gives players the desire to stay involved after retirement.

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Lofa Tatupu

Lofa Tatupu of the Seattle Seahawks helped raise over $700,000 at the Seattle Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala. Tatupu was one of a handful of celebrities at the event last week. During the event, Tatupu was reunited with a Jeffrey, a young man who Tatupu granted a wish for a few months ago who desperately needed a liver transplant. During the event, Tatupu bid on and won a week long vacation package to Cannon Beach, Oregon, which he in turn gave to Jeffrey and his family.

We love to see the ability for athletes to give back and make a difference in the lives of these kids through organizations like Make-A Wish.

This chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be visited at, http://www.northwestwishes.org.

Jason Snelling

Jason Snelling was diagnosed with epilepsy 10 years ago at the age of 15. Since then, the Atlanta Falcons running back has learned how to live with the condition as an NFL player. This weekend, Snelling will participate in the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington DC. He hopes to recruit Falcons fans to donate to the cause through his involvement.

Snelling is very aware of his potential to help with awareness of and success with epilepsy, “It’s something that’s personal and hits home with me. It’s something I’ve had to deal with and I think I can relate to a lot of people’s personal experiences. I’m just trying to help the best I can and speak out on it.”

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 10 percent of Americans will experience a seizure in their lifetime. Snelling followed with, “there’s definitely more people that have it that don’t want to bring it to light, because it is fearful. It is something where you have to be precautious. That’s a big part of why I’m getting involved in this foundation and the national walk that’s coming up. I want to help the people who have epilepsy who are afraid to reach out and get help.”

It’s refreshing to see athletes like Jason Snelling who see their potential to help raise funds for charitable organizations. Hopefully, he is able to encourage kids and other athletes who have been diagnosed with epilepsy to continue playing their favorite sports. His fame and participation will only benefit the condition and maybe will eventually lead to a cure.

The National Walk for Epilepsy can be found at http://www.walkforepilepsy.org.

Chicago Bears

This week, three defensive linemen from the Chicago Bears are traveling through Nigeria. Israel Idonije, Adewale Ogunleye and Tommie Harris will hand out college scholarships, conduct football camps and restock medical clinics while on a mission to the African country.

All three players are heavily involved in charitable efforts and most involve children. Idonije and Ogunleye both are of Nigerian descent, so the fit is perfect with this visit. “We do a lot of community work in [the United States], but that’s where our parents are from,” Ogunleye said. “We’ve talked about the sacrifices they made being in that part of the world. I feel like it’s my duty to give back.” Harris, however, is not of Nigerian descent, but is a big supporter of the cause and giving back to efforts throughout the world. Harris traveled to South Africa prior to visiting Nigeria to support an event benefiting a local orphanage. 

With as much charity work that’s done locally, it’s great to see these athletes give back to other parts of the world.

Bears Care, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears, can be found here: http://www.chicagobears.com/community/bearscare.asp

Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts recently launched the Help a Hoosier initiative. It’s an impressive cause to help your neighbor, friend, co-worker get through the tough economic times. The campaign focuses on strengthening the community and empowering residents of Indiana to engage in random acts of kindness. The first initiative the team is assisting with is a canned food drive for a local food bank.

What a great way for a professional sports team to engage fans and the community to help fellow fans and neighbors. I encourage you to watch this video and visit the website.

Video –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBOX7ILKUt0

Website – http://www.colts.com/help

Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux started his foudation, The Mario Lemieux Foundation in 1993 before his diagnosis with Hodkin’s disease. His Foundation focuses on helping hospitals in Pittsburgh, including the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Since ’93, Lemieux has made donations in the millions to organizations in the healthcare fields.

On the website for the Foundation (www.mariolemieux.org), Lemieux states that the ultimate goal is to find a cure for cancer. With his focus and dedication to cancer research, hopefully we are closer to reaching that goal everyday. 

This story was brought to my attention through the Penguins website and Lemieux’s work with the  Make-A-Wish Foundation. He granted the wish of a young hockey fan and cancer survivor earlier this week – http://penguins.nhl.tv/team/console.jsp?catid=19&id=37095. 

It’s refreshing to see athletes like Mario Lemieux so dedicated to a cause and willing to grant wishes of young fans.

Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins defended his title as owner of the NHL’s hardest slapshot during this year’s NHL All Star Game’s weekend festivities. During the television broadcast, Chara sported a yellow stocking cap supporting the international charity Right to Play. Chara got all participants in the competition, along with their teams and the NHL to donate $24,000 to the charity of the winner of the hardest slapshot.

This won’t be the largest fundraiser that we talk about on Charitable Athletes, but it’s impressive because of the scope and Chara’s passion to increase the fundraising for Right To Play. Chara worked closely with the Deputy Director of Right to Play, Mark Brender, to find the hat to wear during the competition. The hat was featured brightly during TV coverage on Versus. The impressive part about this is that Chara could have just donated his time or money to Right To Play, but he decided to get more players involved and requested to wear the hat that night.

Brender made a great comment that sums up a lot of what we are looking for on this blog in regards to Chara’s involvement in Right To Play, “It gives us so much credibility. A lot of times when pro athletes lend their name to a cause, it’s really just in-and-out. But when a guy like (Chara) gets involved he is so committed that he gives us credibility when we say that we have athlete ambassadors.” Athletes like Chara are the role models that many of us expect from professional athletes. We should be encouraging kids to look up to the Zdeno Chara’s and Lance Armstrong’s of the sporting world!

For more information on Right to Play, visit http://www.righttoplay.com.

Edmonton Oilers

Today, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation announced a special St. Patrick’s Day Puck Surprise Online Auction. Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Make A Wish Foundation of Northern Alberta, Rainbow Society of Alberta and the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation. The online auction consists of 65 unique items including game worn jerseys, equipment, sticks and other autographed items. Along with the online auction, fans at tonight’s Oilers game can purchase autographed pucks for $20 with hopes that one puck signed by each player will be signed in gold ink. If the luck of the Irish is on the side of that fan and the puck is signed in gold, he or she will walk away with a hockey stick autographed by the entire team.

These auctions (both online and during games) are a great way for teams to raise money for their Foundations and Foundation partners with little effort. Fans are always eager for autographs, so these simple fundraisers that cost very little to do are an excellent way to bring awareness to a cause and to give fans of all ages and incomes the opportunity to get involved. More and more teams are having similar auctions, and it’s a trend that helps a lot of people who rely directly on the foundations involved.

For more information, visit http://www.oilersfoundation.ca.

Lance Armstrong

 

The Lance Armstrong Foundation

Everyone has seen one or worn one, the yellow Livestrong wristbands. An amazingly simple and brilliant marketing and fundraising tool Lance Armstrong has created to benefit his Foundation, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (www.livestrong.org). To date, over $70 million has been raised through sales of these little wristbands. 

Lance Armstrong is not only a model athlete, but a model philanthropist for his creation and work with his own foundation. He has used his story and fame to create one of the most recognizable foundation’s in the country.  If you haven’t already been there I highly encourage you to visit the foundation’s website. It is not only a place to find out more about Lance’s story, but there are message boards, stories, clinical trials and blogs for cancer patients and survivors from around the world. For those battling with cancer, or know somebody who is, it can be a great resource to help understand what others are going through and what the foundation is doing to help.  It’s truly a great resource for those battling the disease. 

Since the explosion of the popularity of the wristbands, Lance Armstrong has also taken advantage of his corporate sponsorships to create even more awareness for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. This marketing strategy has given fans and followers the ability to financially support the foundation through other avenues. And, it creates great brand affinity for those sponsors supporting Lance and the Foundation. These sponsorships are great win-win partnerships for both the athlete and the sponsor. Just last week, Nike and Lance Armstrong announced a new traveling art exhibition called “Stages”.  The exhibition will travel to cities across the world with the sale of the artwork benefitting the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Afterall, if not for the success of the marketing plan and sponsorships, the Foundation wouldn’t have the success it has had in gaining awareness and dollars in its fight against cancer.

Lance Armstrong has created and continues to grow a wonderfully successful foundation through wristband sales, sponsorships and local events. Let’s hope that the foundation continues to grow and that Lance can continue to use his fame to raise funds to battle the disease that has touched all of us.

It would seem silly to not have the first real post of this blog to not focus on the Lance Armstrong Foundation despite the future goal to focus on athletes in the four major professional sports. There are many others that have the ability and fame to do what Lance has done. Future posts will focus on all of the good that these athletes do for charitable organizations. Let’s just hope we can find another story like the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

About Charitable Athletes

Charitable Athletes will focus on and highlight the philanthropic news of professional athletes. The intent is to communicate the many, many charitable stories throughout the four major sports leagues. Too often we hear the negative stories which matriculate through the media and it’s time to get the word out on some of the positive. The final goal is for this blog to become a resource for sports fans across the nation and the world to learn about and understand the charitable side of athletes.