75 Ways Team USA Athletes Give Back To The World

By Lisa Costantini, Team USA

National Philanthropy Day (Nov. 15) is a celebration of giving — a day where people can come together for a greater good and celebrate those who have made the world a better place. We gathered 75 of the many, many ways Team USA athletes are helping change the world with their giving hearts, and we wanted to honor their efforts off the field.

1. Three-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark started a foundation in her name in 2010 to help provide youth with the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their highest potential through snowboarding.

2. Olympic triathlete Gwen Jorgensen established a scholarship to help support junior triathletes pursue excellence.

3. One of the causes that 11-time Olympic medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte supports is the Mac Crutchfield Foundation, which was started on behalf of a 12-year-old boy who drowned during a rainstorm. The foundation puts on events that help raise money for swim scholarships.

4. Ice dancer Denis Petukhov and his wife and skating partner, Melissa Gregory, started Fever On Ice. The program teaches students skating instruction and academic tutoring as well as education on the science behind the sport.

5. “Never ever give up” was a motto retired Olympic swimmer Kaitlin Sandeno used to live by, even before she started working with the Jessie Rees Foundation, which promoted the same mentality. The inspiration behind the foundation was a 12-year-old girl named Jessica Rees who courageously fought two brain tumors until she died. Their mission is to help other children fighting cancer “never ever give up.”

6. Jarryd Wallace is a Paralympic runner who founded A Leg in Faith Foundation. With his charity he hopes to help other amputee runners achieve their goals by providing prostheses and personalized support to compete on the national and international levels.

7. Olympic silver medalist runner Leo Manzano teamed up with Marathon Kids, an organization focused on getting kids to eat nutritious foods while getting fit.

8. Two-time Olympic gymnast and winner of seven medals, Shannon Miller aims to fight childhood obesity through physical fitness and nutrition information which is available throughout her foundation’s website. She also heads up various walks, 5K runs and bike races every year.

9. Retired Olympic soccer player Mia Hamm started her own foundation after her brother passed away from complications from a blood disorder. Hamm wanted to raise awareness about bone marrow registry and cord blood.

10. It’s a tradition for fans to throw stuffed animals onto the ice after a figure skater has performed, and 2014 bronze medalist skater Jason Brown decided to do something about the collection he amassed. The Olympian came up with the idea to donate the new toys to a Ronald McDonald’s House, which provides comfort and care to sick children and their families.

11. Not everyone knows what it’s like to not have somewhere to live and be in need, but Paralympic judo athlete Dartanyon Crockett does. The blind bronze medalist decided to help those without warm clothes by leading a coat drive for the homeless in Colorado Springs where he lives at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

12. The Stacey Cook Scholarship was started by the Olympic ski racer to help a young athlete discover his or her potential and further their love for ski racing.

13. Nobody likes using plastic water bottles because they’re bad for the earth, but Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler decided to do something about it. With the help of her husband, the duo created the ALEX (Always Live Extraordinarily) Bottle, which aims to make sustainability simple by keeping plastic out of the landfills.

14. Allyson Felix, four-time Olympic track and field gold medalist works with the organization Right To Play, which helps engage kids in their education, teach them health lessons and show them how to build peaceful communities through play.

15. Kids Play International — which uses sport to promote gender equity on and off the field — was started by three-time Olympic freestyle aerial skier Tracy Evans.

16. As a cancer survivor, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Scott Hamilton started the Scott Hamilton CARES (Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship) Foundation, whose mission is to empower cancer survivors as well as their families and caregivers. They do this by providing user-friendly information, personalized support, and cutting edge research and state-of-the-art treatment options.

17. At the age of 16, Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison revealed her judo coach had sexually abused her for years. As a result, it led to her starting the Fearless Foundation, which aims to shine light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and to enrich the lives of survivors through education and sport.

18. Olympic bronze medalist bobsledder Aja Evans spent time in Haiti working with Mission of Hope, an organization that works to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the Haitian population.

19. In addition to supporting multiple charities, the greatest basketball player of all time, Olympian Michael Jordan, recently agreed to donate $8.9 million he was awarded to charity after a grocery store chain used his name in an ad without his permission.

20. The list of charities he supports is in the dozens, but the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is special to the gold medalist boxer who was diagnosed with the disease in 1984. At this year’s Celebrity Fight Night, which benefits the center, more than $7 million was raised.

21. The Always Dream Foundation was started by figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi in an effort to inspire underprivileged children to reach for their dreams through innovative reading programs and by advancing the cause of early childhood literacy.

22. Hunter Kemper, a four-time Olympic triathlete, teamed up with The Pinky Swear Foundation, which helps children with cancer and their families by providing basic needs.

23. Sochi silver medalist freeskier Devin Logan works with Hope Sports, a nonprofit whose purpose it is to unite athletes to bring hope to the world by building houses for the poor.

24. When K.C. Oakley’s best friend — who had never smoked — was diagnosed and died from lung cancer, the moguls skier set up the website JillsLegacy.org. She wanted to honor her 22-year-old friend by raising awareness about the fact that even young, non-smoking athletes can get lung cancer, the world’s No. 1 cancer killer.

25. Professional basketball player and three-time Olympian, Carmelo Anthony started a foundation in his name as a way to give back to the community through a variety of outreach programs and donations.

26. Last year, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Tyler Clary offered to swim at the Team KC SwimSTRONG to help raise awareness about the organization that works to improve the quality of life of pediatric cancer patients and their families.

27. The Michael Phelps Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthy and active lives, especially for children. It was started by the most decorated Olympian of all time, who has 22 medals from three Olympic Games.

28. Founder and president of The Athlete Watch, LLC, bobsledder Johnny Quinn started this web-based platform for student-athletes to market their skills to colleges and universities around the nation.

29. The snowboarder known for his curly red locks, two-time Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White, chopped them off and donated them to Locks of Love. He is also a big supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

30. Three-time Olympian Lolo Jones — who competed in both bobsled and track and field — started a foundation in her name to empower and inspire individuals who face the most socio-economical hardships to realize their full potential through engaging community programs and initiatives.

31. Lindsey Jacobellis, Olympic silver medalist snowboarder, is an ambassador for animal non-profit ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which is dedicated to preventing cruelty towards animals.

32. In an effort to help inspire kids of all abilities, Toys"R"Us released a shopping guide for “Differently-Abled Kids,” and Olympic gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas was honored to pose for the cover, alongside Special Olympics Youth Athletes Isabella Caesar and Samuel Lopez. The guide is an easy-to-use resource for those who know, love and shop for children with special needs.

33. Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy came home from the Sochi Olympics with more than a silver medal. The self-proclaimed animal lover returned to the States with two new dogs. Along with his best friend, the pair worked to rescue several dogs that were without homes in the host country.

34. Olympic figure skating legend Michelle Kwan agreed to be a Goodwill Ambassador of the U.S. Department of State, a role she was comfortable in seeing as how she had studied political science and international affairs at the University of Denver. 

35. In partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the after school program in Akron, Ohio, basketball titan LeBron James started a foundation in his name meant to enrich the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives.

36. Without water, four-time Olympic medalist swimmer Missy Franklin couldn’t do the sport she loves. So it’s easy to see why she supports One Drop USA, a charity that works towards ensuring clean, accessible water to various parts of the world.

37. Eight-time Olympic medalist in short track speedskating, Apolo Ohno has worked with various charity organizations, including SeeYourImpact.org. It’s a nonprofit organization that lets people donate directly to someone in need. Once you have donated, you receive emails to see exactly how your gift made a difference in that person’s life.

38. An Athlete Ambassador for the organization Right To Play, three-time Olympic speedskating medalist Joey Cheek donated his $40,000 prize money from the 2006 Winter Games to the charity.

39. Olympic gold medalist soccer player Alex Morgan wanted to support breast cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure seeing as how it is the most diagnosed cancer for women — and it was equally important as her boyfriend’s mother is a breast cancer survivor.

40. Adeline Gray — who is hoping to become the first American woman to win a gold medal medal in wrestling at the Rio 2016 Olympics — is a multiple world champion who shares both wrestling and life lessons through Beat the Streets Clinics. Their goal is to provide opportunities for boys and girls in wrestling while helping them build lifelong skills. 

41. Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White are more than just partners when it comes to their sport. The two have partnered together to not only win three Olympic medals, but also to help a fellow Olympian’s charity, Classroom Champions. They are paired up with a student in need through video lessons and live video chats. They have also supported March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and The Humane Society.

42. The Lindsey Vonn Foundation was started by two-time Olympic medalist ski racer herself. The non-profit is an all-girl program that works to strengthen the community by giving individual attention to the empowerment of girls. Money raised goes towards programs to help girls achieve their goals by growing and learning.

43. In addition to playing a significant role in a multitude of charities, Paralympic snowboarder Nicole Roundy is an advocate for The Challenged Athletes Foundation, whose mission is to provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities.

44. The founder behind Classroom Champions, Olympic gold medalist bobsledder, Steve Mesler, made it his mission to help kids recognize their potential, set goals and dream big thanks to his organization.

45. Three-time Olympic freestyle skier Emily Cook sits on the board of The Speedy Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to understanding mental illness through education, research and advocacy, founded in honor of Olympic medalist aerialist Jeret "Speedy" Peterson. She is also involved in the organization Right To Play.

46. Olympic trampolinist Steven Gluckstein leads a busy schedule as an athlete and student, but still finds the time to pay it forward by coaching younger athletes — with the dream of opening trampoline schools all over the country once his competition days are over.

47. After losing her leg during military duty in Iraq, Melissa Stockwell became a standout Paralympic athlete in swimming and triathlon. Having served many years on the board for the Wounded Warriors Projects, she is now an elite-level triathlon coach and co-founder of Dare2Tri, a Chicago-based triathlon club focused on athletes with disability.

48. Kerri Walsh-Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, founded the Chase the Stars Foundation in 2004 to support programs and events that directly improve the well-being, health and quality of underprivileged children’s lives by helping them pursue their dreams.

49. By raising funds through her website, Hannah’s Gold, Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Hannah Teter helps a community in Africa with a clean water project. She personally donates her contest winnings and gives the proceeds made from selling maple syrup from her hometown in Vermont and organic sweatbands.

50. In an effort to raise money for the sport organization Right To Play, four-time Olympic medalist alpine skier Julia Mancuso summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Afterwards she visited nearby Right To Play camps to sign autographs and speak with the local children.

51. Olympic gold medalist long jumper Brittney Reese created a sports scholarship in her name, which will be awarded to one male and one female student who has been accepted into a two-year or four-year college.

52. Two-time Olympic gold medalist track and field athlete LaShawn Merritt gives back to his hometown community of Portsmouth, Virginia, through outreach programs for the homeless at the Oasis Social Ministry.

53. Aly Raisman, double Olympic gold medalist gymnast, hosted a lung cancer gala — Winning Together, Meeting the Challenges of Lung Cancer Gala — in honor of her grandmother, Nancy who passed away from the disease. The gala raised funds for lung cancer research in the hopes of finding a cure.

54. Getting on a bike and pedaling was a way for Olympic silver medalist Dotsie Bausch to heal from an eating disorder after many years working as a model. Now the professional cyclist teams up with organizations working to support women suffering with eating disorders.

55. The most decorated U.S. Olympic ski racer of all time, Bode Miller, started the nonprofit Turtle Ridge Foundation. Every year he hosts a tennis tournament with the proceeds going to help his foundation, which aims to support adaptive and youth sports programs.

56. After losing a coach to stomach cancer, silver medalist archer Brady Ellison wanted to find a way to give something back. He started a campaign, Brady’s Shoot for the Cure, where all the benefits went to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

57. Twelve-time Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres is a veteran celebrity swimmer for Swim Across America, a charitable organization that raises funds for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events.

58. In addition to starting and helping fund a judo program in 2009 at a middle school where her sister attended, bronze medal judoka Ronda Rousey hosts a Free Rice Campaign before every weigh-in. The program is run by the United Nations World Food Programme and is a free-to-play online game. For every question the player answers correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme.

59. Having no legs just means no limits for Rudy Garcia-Tolson. At least that’s the thinking of the three-time Paralympic swimmer. And the basis behind the motivational talks he gives all around the world, sharing his message “A brave heart is a powerful weapon.”

60. Two-time gold medalist soccer player Abby Wambach had a personal connection behind teaming up with the Epilepsy Foundation — her brother Peter has epilepsy. The Olympian has helped host events and raise funds for the foundation.

61. When she was 16, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Dana Vollmer underwent surgery to fix a heart condition. Because of that she started working with the American Heart Association to help others who might be in her shoes.

62. Along with her husband, Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy founded Adaptive Action Sports, which creates action sport camps, events and programs for those living with permanent physical disabilities.

63. Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner is a spokesperson for the Cool Kids Campaign, which is devoted to improving the quality of life for kids with cancer by focusing on the academic, social and emotional needs brought on by a cancer diagnosis.

64. Dawn Harper-Nelson, a two-time Olympic track and field medalist, is a big supporter of her dad’s hope for helping Iowa City, Iowa. The FasTrac program is dedicated to helping low-income students in the area to achieve their goals by motivating them to focus on education and getting them college bound.

65. Not only does the first American woman with gold medals in both the summer and winter Games juggle two sports — alpine skiing and wheelchair basketball — but Paralympian Alana Nichols also juggles multiple non-profits. The six-time medalist is an athlete ambassador for both U.S. Paralympics and Colorado Adaptive Sports in addition to helping a slew of other charities.

66. It is only fitting that Olympic snowboarder Arielle Gold works with Animal Rescue of the Rockies, whose dream it is to find loving homes for animals. Gold has always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian one day.

67. It’s easy to see why Olympic cyclist Taylor Phinney supports the Davis Phinney Foundation. Started by his dad, and fellow Olympic cyclist, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40, the organization aims to help people living with the disease live a better life.

68. Three-time Olympic basketball player Tamika Catchings founded the non-profit organization Catch the Stars Foundation. Their mission is to empower youth to achieve their dreams by providing goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring.

69. After seeing extreme poverty while racing in Mexico City, professional track cyclist Guy East questioned his choice of careers and decided to quit racing so he could sell all of his possessions and travel the world serving the poor. After two years he returned to his sport and his passion of helping people and created the nonprofit organization Hope Sports. He has since gotten dozen of Olympians - from Rebecca Soni, Laura Wilkinson, Kim Vandenberg, Allison Baver and others - on board to help with his passion project.

70. Figure Skating in Harlem is on a mission to transform young lives and help underserved girls grow in confidence, leadership and academic achievement. Their honorary board of directors includes skating greats Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Sarah Hughes, Debi Thomas, Dick Button and Tai Babilonia.

71. Wendy Hilliard, the first African American to represent the United States on the rhythmic gymnastics national team, started her own foundation as a way to provide free and low cost gymnastics for youth.

72. Paralympic gold medalist snowboarder Evan Strong has taught injured veterans how to snowboard, in addition to being an advocate for Adaptive Action Sports. He also works with non-profits to help raise money for other challenged athletes.

73. Paralympic track and field athlete April Holmes started a foundation in her name in the hopes of enhancing the life experiences of those physically and learning disabled individuals by encouraging them to reach their goals and rise above any obstacles.

74. Four-time Olympic medalist in water polo, Brenda Villa gives back not only to her community in California (in 2010 she became the head coach for a high school girls’ water polo team in Palo Alto), but she also serves on the Women’s Sports Foundation Athlete Advisory Panel.

75. Sue Bird became very attached to The Spinal Cord Injury Project after a close friend of the Olympic basketball player was paralyzed in a car accident in high school. Their mission is to conduct cutting-edge research and build collaborations to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.

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