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G2G Collection’s Fantasy Football League Combines Charity with Competitive Fun

“It might be the most unique fantasy football league in the U.S.” – Rob Vaka, G2G Collection

Tonight’s Packers-Seahawks game marks the true beginning of another NFL season, as two recent Super Bowl champions square off for an early lead in the standings. The game on the field is only half the story, however, as tonight also marks the official start to the 2014 fantasy football season.

While most of the roughly 30 million people participating in fantasy football leagues this year are competing for bragging rights, a distinctive group of 60 football players, business leaders and philanthropists will be competing for their favorite charities. With donation packages totaling over $10,000 at stake, there’s never been a better time to get ready for some football.

Behind this fun way to promote philanthropy is G2G Collection, an emerging social enterprise that has generated nearly $1.4 million for charities in the last 18 months. G2G Collection is the only luxury destination club to authentically operate for social good, and has attracted the likes of NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White to become members.

This year, each of G2G Collection’s five leagues will feature at least three NFL players, some current, some retired. Michael Floyd, Fitzgerald’s teammate and fellow receiving threat, will join White and a spread of current and former players including Malcolm Jenkins, Marcell Dareus, Takeo Spikes, Michael Floyd, Ronnie Brown, Sean Weatherspoon, and Matt Bosher, among others, to face off against fellow G2G Collective members and charity partners. Former New York Stock Exchange CEO Duncan Niederauer, and a host of other interesting and philanthropic celebs like ESPN’s Merril Hoge and Jay Harris, and country music star Amy Grant, are in on the good-willed fun as well.

Make no mistake, though: This is a competition, and athletes love to win.

“You’ll see a little smack talk on Twitter, and I’ve received some texts saying ‘hand over the trophy’ or ‘I think I’m going to win this,’” G2G Collection Co-Founder and Chief Giving Officer Rob Vaka said.

All in good fun and good cause. To learn more about G2G Collection and how you can travel the world while contributing to top charities, visit www.g2gcollection.com.

THE EXTRA POINT: Are you involved in a fantasy football league? It’s not too late to turn it into a charitable cause. Post the link to this article on your league message board and ask if each participant would be willing to contribute to your own charity pot, with this year’s league champion getting to choose which charity to donate it to come January.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

G2G Collection’s Rob Vaka (center) with Gwen and Lee Jenkins during All Sports United’s 2014 Humanitarian Award Ceremony on June 23, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
(June 22, 2014 – Source: David Banks/Getty Images North America)

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Silicon Valley Athletes, Teams and Business Leaders Convene at Stanford

Sam Williams, Michelle Knox and Devard Darling

STANFORD, Calif. – Good things happen when people passionate about helping others come together. That philosophy went into action on Monday, when All Sports United held its Silicon Valley Sports Philanthropy Workshop at beautiful Stanford University.

The workshop, which was hosted by Stanford Graduate School of Business brought together athletes, sports industry insiders and Silicon Valley business leaders to discuss timely issues in sports philanthropy. Participants at the invite-only event were able to soak in strategic advice and stories of inspiration from three panel groups, as well as network with potential partners.

All Sports United promotes the philosophy of sharing resources, which is why we’ve highlighted lessons from the workshop which you might find helpful in fulfilling your philanthropic mission.

From “Using Social Platforms for Good”

  • When deciding what to share on social media, put your community’s goals ahead of your own.
  • Make sure your platform’s audience aligns with the campaign you’re running. Facebook represents the world demographics, while other platforms, such as gaming-focused, may house a more defined demographic.
  • Physical events, like golf tournaments, have relatively limited ROI. Using crowdfunding, an online event’s ROI can be in the tens of thousands.

Check out:

  • Ginx. The social media tool gives people the ability to view and vote on the most pertinent visual images around an event in real time.
  • Google Ad Grants. Nonprofits can receive $10,000 a month and free ads on Google.
  • Tiltify. Combining crowdfunding and gaming, Tiltify allows foundations to stream game-a-thons to raise money for their causes.

From “How Athletes Can Collaborate with Their Colleges and Teams”

  • For younger generations, philanthropy needs to be a two-way street. To capture the youth demographic, look for ways to let them benefit from their participation.
  • It’s in a team’s best interest to support players’ philanthropic efforts.
  • Encourage a senior player to bring a junior player along to a charity event to expose the athlete to a broader set of issues.
  • It is important for teams to be thorough in picking the right player to support particular causes. Athletes will have more impact when they understand why they were chosen. After the event, show the athlete the results of the appearance to help them further understand the reasoning.
  • Even when colleges can’t raise money for their former student-athletes’ causes, they can still put the athletes in a position to push their initiatives. Colleges can derive long-term benefits for their philanthropic initiatives by engaging former students that are now professional athletes.

From “Inspirational Sports Philanthropy, Examples of Great Work”

  • “Your foundation has to be heart-felt and inspire you. When you have a foundation and throw money behind it just to have one, it shows. People won’t support it. It must truly mean something to you, so even when you’re done playing it’s going to carry over. I feel like this what I’m placed on Earth to do, to inspire others.” – Devard Darling, As One Foundation
  • “To give to a child and watch them grow, you maximize your dollars.” – Michelle Knox, Forever Young Foundation
  • “I will always remember when Ronnie Lott and other players visited my school in the fifth grade, before I even played football. Just by going and talking to kids you can have a lasting effect on them.” – Sam Williams, Tackling the Odds

All Sports United will continue to conduct private sports philanthropy workshops around the country in the future. If you are a team, university or foundation interested in hosting a workshop, please email management@allsportsunited.org.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Ultimate Fan Experiences Boost Charitable Donations

Athletes running nonprofit foundations now have access to a new way to generate income: Micro-donations. The online strategy, inspired by the recent surge in popularity in crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, allows athletes to offer exciting incentives to fans from every income level.

Image via celebritycharitablenetwork.com

One service emerging as a leader in micro-donation campaigns is Dolemanity. Created by NFL Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, Dolemanity lets fans enter to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences for as little as $10. Built-in social tools then allow entrants to share their activity with family and friends, creating a buzz around an athlete’s online giving campaign.

Todd Armstrong, a campaign strategist and manager at Dolemanity’s parent organization, Celebrity Charitable Network, works with athletes to create deep fan engagement and significant fundraising through Dolemanity campaigns. Like Doleman, his passion is helping others, and that starts with helping athletes and celebrities be as knowledgeable and efficient at fundraising as possible.

“Most athletes with nonprofits know they need to be in the online giving space and they know there is a lot of engagement going on, but because of their workload they don’t have the time to learn and understand it,” Armstrong said. “With Celebrity Charity Network and Dolemanity, you don’t have to figure it out, because we’ll do that for you.”

Capitalizing on the majority of an athlete’s fan base is the focal point of Dolemanity, which is why it’s so effective for charity fundraising.

“About 95% of an athlete’s fan base can’t participate in a foundation’s annual golf tournament because they either can’t afford it or they’re geographically unable to,” Armstrong said. “So there’s these big legions of fans going ‘I love watching these players, I wear their jerseys, but I can’t go to their foundation events.’ With Dolemanity, this willing, excited group of fans now has the means to support an athlete’s cause.”

For athletes, this means being able to market their foundations to all of their fans, no matter where they live, and the opportunity to make an even greater difference with their foundation than previously imaginable. As an extra incentive for athletes to try Dolemanity, there is zero up-front money required to start a campaign. All fees are performance-based, which gives foundations at every level the means to further their causes through unique online campaigns.

The only requirement to get started, according to Armstrong, is that an athlete is “passionate about their nonprofit.”

Look for All Sports United and Dolemanity to team up in the future to offer fans incredible experiences with their favorite philanthropic-minded athletes.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

All Sports United Humanitarian Award Finalist Bill Belichick to host “Hall of Fame Huddle”

THE BILL BELICHICK FOUNDATION HALL OF FAME HUDDLE

A Panel Discussion led by Coach Belichick & Special Guests

Walpole, MA – New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick will host the inaugural Bill Belichick Foundation Hall of Fame Huddle on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at the Boston Harbor Hotel from 5:30p.m. – 8:00p.m. The exclusive panel discussion featuring Coach Belichick, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown will support the newly-established foundation in its mission to provide coaching, mentorship, and financial support to individuals, athletic communities, and organizations.

Belichick, who is entering his 40th season as an NFL coach, will welcome nearly 300 guests to a panel discussion on coaching and leadership. The program will be emceed by former Patriot Scott Zolak with special guests including Patriots Hall of Famers Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown. Coach Belichick, the only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span, will moderate the discussion. Panelists will share stories from their work together on the gridiron and share video clips from some of their most memorable moments.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Bill Belichick Foundation, formally established last December in memory of the late Steve Belichick. The nonprofit will provide coaching, mentorship, and financial support to individuals, communities, and organizations. Focusing on the sports of football and lacrosse, its mission is to bring the values of the Belichick family – a love of sports, coaching and team building – to the athletic leaders of tomorrow.

Most recently, the Foundation launched a scholarship program granting five athletic organization scholarships and 10 individual scholarships to young athletes across the country.

“Mentoring, coaching and teamwork have been part of my family’s DNA for as long as I can remember,” Belichick said. “What my father began now lives through me, my sons and daughter and we are working together to provide opportunities for young athletes and local organizations who need resources to continue developing leadership skills both on the field and in daily life.”

Tickets to the Bill Belichick Foundation Hall of Fame Huddle can be purchased online at: www.billbelichickfoundation.org

About The Bill Belichick Foundation:

The Bill Belichick Foundation aims to provide coaching, mentorship and financial support to individuals, communities and organizations. Focusing on football and lacrosse, its mission is to bring the values of the Belichick family – a love of sports, coaching and team building – to the athletic leaders of tomorrow. Bill Belichick is in his 40th season as an NFL coach and is the only head coach in NFL history to win three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span. His 218 career victories rank fifth all-time and include 11 division titles, 18 playoff appearances and five AFC championships. Only one head coach in NFL history has won more than his three Super Bowl titles and only one coach in NFL history has guided his team to more than his 13 consecutive winning seasons.

Posted in News

Matt Light Named All Sports United’s 2014 Humanitarian Award Recipient

Matt Light (Getty Images)

All Sports United (@allsportsu) announced today that retired NFL lineman Matt Light has been honored as the winner of the 2014 Humanitarian Award today, a prize given annually to an outstanding professional athlete for excellence in philanthropy. Light’s nonprofit organization, The Light Foundation, will receive a $100,000 prize package to further its mission and public exposure.

“I’ve been doing this for over a decade, working alongside people who tirelessly give their time,” Light said. “For all the people that do that, this night is all about them. It’s such an honor and such a humbling moment. It’s just incredible.”

The Light Foundation will receive assets and services donated by Media Cause, Auction Cause, Social Ambassador, Pro Player Insiders, G2G Collection, and BiTHouse.

Light was selected out of a group of 40 nominations for the award. Twelve finalists, as determined by the results of a month-long online vote, converged in Chicago for a ceremony where a panel decided the winner. Other notable finalists included Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks), Bill Belichick (New England Patriots), Allison Baver (Olympic speed skater) and Isiah Thomas (National Basketball Association).

“We’re very proud of all of our finalists, “All Sports United Co-Founder Alan Pavlosky said. “They’ve all presented themselves extremely well and have put in hard work. Matt Light couldn’t make us more proud as our winner. He’s very humble, shies away from self-promotion and works very hard to help people. It’s his calling and our calling to recognize him.”

The Light Foundation (@LightFoundation) gives at-risk youth “a better chance at leading healthy lives by using the great outdoors to learn and grow.” Since its inception in 2001, Light, the foundation’s staff and numerous volunteers have worked together to guide youth through challenging periods in their lives. Based on a nearly 500-acre facility in Ohio, the Light Foundation welcomes any foundation working with youth to use it facility for free.

Light’s charitable acts capture the essence of All Sports United’s mission to have sports philanthropies share resources and collaborate for the greater good. To join Light’s cause visit www.mattlight72.com.

“The people here tonight,” Light said, “are those who want to share the knowledge that they’ve gained from giving back. For me to be able to hear from the other finalists about the work they do and how inspirational it is, it highlights the fact that in a world where competition is key, there are large communities that are out there that are dedicated to finding ways to make real impact. Through All Sports United, we can share that knowledge and create a much more engaging way to provide opportunities for athletes to make an impact.”

For more event coverage, search #asumakingadifference on Twitter.

All Sports United aims to elevate the overall success of athletes dedicated to giving back. The organization uses a variety of social platforms, such as keynotes, workshops, and panel discussions, to educate, collaborate, and innovate, while facilitating high-level discussions. For more information on All Sports United and its Sports Philanthropy Initiative, visit www.allsportsunited.org.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Humanitarian Award Finalist: Matt Light

“When it comes to giving back, every guy has their role.”

Retired NFL lineman Matt Light knows about teamwork. As a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, he’s seen the results of what happens when eleven men work in sync towards a common goal. With his attention now turned to the nonprofit world as the founder of the Matt Light Foundation, he’s using teamwork in the community to change the lives of at-risk youth.

The Matt Light Foundation only employs three people year-round, but it still takes on projects simultaneously across the U.S. thanks to a heavy volunteer base. The public support is what Light is most proud of, and it allows his guidance to sink in with the kids he takes in annually.

“Taking in 16 freshmen and graduating 16 seniors each year, we have a four-year period where we get to know them better than we could through one-time interactions,” Light said in a recent interview. “I’ll go visit them in their cities, make weekly calls, and we have people that check in on them on a weekly basis to keep them on track.”

Light further encourages an attitude of teamwork by making his beautiful 500-acre Ohio facility open free of charge to any nonprofit organization that works with kids. His belief in sharing resources personifies All Sports United’s core message of collaboration, and it’s a primary reason why he’s a finalist for the 2014 Humanitarian Award. For Light, winning the $100,000 award package would help sustain his organization’s progress.

“When I was a player, I told the board ‘We’re going to grow the organization as fast as we can, and then sustain it after I retire.’ Our endowment is our number one priority right now. With so many nonprofits trying to vie for dollars, something like this with an organization receiving $100,000 is an incredible opportunity. Whether we get it or not, the recognition for the people on the team that have put in all the work is an honor to have.”

When the Matt Light Foundation became a nonprofit in 2002, Light looked to learn the business side of philanthropy first. He found out through the years that running a foundation is a full-time job, so when he was a veteran player he did everything he could to discourage players from starting a foundation early in their careers. He advised them instead to first get involved in a nonprofit and learn how it works, then think about what they want to do down the road.

Taking a learn-first approach has several advantages for athletes, but Light feels it benefits them the most by giving them the opportunity to learn what their role is in philanthropy. Conveniently, there are similarities that can be drawn between a player’s position in football and the type of person they might be in a business setting.

“Linemen are the workhorses of the organization that you count on to do the heavy lifting.” Light said. “A quarterback is the ultimate manager. The running backs are like IT process guys, able to multi-task and serve in a variety of roles. The receivers are your sales guys that are telling you ‘throw me the ball.’

“Everyone is different in what works best for them. I played with a lot of guys without a foundation, but they bought $20,000 auction items everywhere they went.”

Light enjoys the management aspect and the ability to “make things happen.” It’s the reason he decided to make a change from the traditional model of athlete-driven nonprofits – what he describes as a through-way – to his current model of complete control.

“Most player nonprofits gather money and then send it out. You host an event around a cause, invite athletes and celebrities, raise money through tickets and auction items, and then put the funds towards some other charity.”

Things weren’t working out for Light in that model, and he knew that if he controlled every aspect at his own facility instead, he could see through the entire process to make sure money raised is having the impact it should. He described this difference as key for his foundation, which is leadership-based and dependent on long-term interaction with youth.

Light was a leader on the line for the Patriots, so his approach comes as no surprise. His ability to keep things in perspective furthers him as a person and has indirectly improved the lives of youth for over a decade.

“Anyone who is looking to give to the nonprofit world is looking to make a difference. Athletes are no different; they’re fulfilling the need to make things better than they were yesterday. If you’re able to do something you enjoy for a living and have a long, successful career, you’re grateful to have that opportunity.”

Matt Light is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000.  All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik.  Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU.  Your tax-deductible donation will support all of these fine causes.  Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Humanitarian Award Finalist: Malcolm Jenkins

Malcolm Jenkins is a rising NFL star. At 26, the All-Pro defensive back has already reached his sport’s pinnacle as a member of the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Twice named a defensive captain, his leadership qualities are well documented and led the Philadelphia Eagles to making him their primary free-agent target this offseason. Trading in his black and gold for green and black, he now looks to help bring the Eagles an elusive championship title.

Jenkins is a dedicated leader and learner, but his impact on the field is also rivaled by his charitable giving off it. Recognizing his position as an athlete to create social good, he founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in 2010 to improve the lives of youth.

“We have a unique opportunity as athletes to impact people, especially youth who look up to us,” Jenkins said in a recent interview.

Through initiatives like free youth football camps, scholarship grants, and surprise holiday dinner donations, Jenkins has become a community pillar in New Orleans. But his giving doesn’t stop there. From his hometown of Piscataway, New Jersey, to his days as an Ohio State Buckeye in Columbus, to his latest stop in the City of Brotherly Love, building character and success in youth has becoming part of his identity.

“I’m surprised how far I’ve come as an individual. When I came out of high school I couldn’t have written this out. I see the impact that people like my parents, my high school football coaches, and all the people who brought me up had on me on a daily basis, and I know I can impact others.”

He did exactly that during the first year of his youth football camp, challenging a troubled, talented teenage boy to a one-on-one competition. If the teen – while being covered by Jenkins – could catch two out of three passes thrown his way, Jenkins would give him the cleats off his feet. If not, the teen would have to do the same.

He caught two.

“The impact that had on him was night and day. His high school coaches told me he became a leader and his confidence went up. He came to camp the next year and he was that leader, he was getting guys lined up and teaching them.”

This year around 400 kids will participate in Jenkins’ New Jersey camp, meaning there’ll be ample opportunity to create more life-changing moments. And thanks to a new foundation partnership, this year’s camp participants will receive vouchers for free NFL-grade concussion tests. It’s just one of the many ways that Jenkins is pairing with existing platforms to make the largest impact possible. It’s a smart approach, and one that perfectly aligns with All Sports United’s ideal of sports philanthropies working together. As a result, Jenkins is a finalist for All Sport United’s 2014 Humanitarian Award.

“I know first-hand how athletes working together for a common cause is the best and the right thing to do. There’s strength in numbers and working together can take your efforts even further in a more significant way and impact more people.

“I remember when two of my former Saints colleagues came up with the idea to partner with the United Way to start a program (Hope for the Holidays) to build homes for families in New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina. United Way helped to identify partners to match funds players contributed and donate supplies. The first year, two homes were built. I joined the effort and donated funds the following year, along with three more players and that year we built four homes. The year after that, we built eight and up-to-date over 15 homes have been built. It’s a good feeling to help to provide a place for the displaced families to call home again.”

There is no doubt that athletes can come together to great things. Still, the time-demanding nature of being a professional athlete is a deterrent for those interested in undertaking philanthropic activities. To balance being the best he can be on and off the field, Jenkins says it takes a team and it takes planning. He points to his mom, the president of his foundation, for putting his ideas into action, and takes the same approach to charity as he does to football.

“Have the same effort you’d put into your preparation for your game and put it into the preparation for your philanthropy.”

As Jenkins looks to improve existing programs he already has in place, he looks forward to making new partnerships that will extend their reach into new cities. In July, his foundation will begin a new partnership with Feed the Children, and it’s sure to be as successful as his other causes.

With a long list of accomplishments behind him and still a bright future to come, look for Jenkins to continue leading on the field and in the community for years to come.

Malcolm Jenkins is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000.  All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik.  Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU.  Your tax-deductable donation will support all of these fine causes.  Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Humanitarian Award Finalist: Kevin Daley

Kevin Daley’s passion for basketball guided him through a famed 10-year career with the Harlem Globetrotters. As a daring dunker and incredible athlete, he pushed himself to overcome new challenges on a regular basis. Bringing smiles to crowds across the world can be a tough task, but his positive outlook, strong work ethic and creativity kept him on top of his game.

Although his playing days are behind him, Daley is still committed to bringing joy to others. Recognizing his influence as an athlete and applying it to philanthropy, he created The Kevin Daley Youth Foundation to increase awareness of bullying and help give confidence back to victimized children. Through motivational speeches, school interactions and one-on-one sessions, Daley is attacking the issue of bullying with the authority of a high-flying jam.

“I’ve traveled all over the world,” Daley said in a recent interview, “and everywhere I went the kids were all the same. They were having struggles in certain areas, and one of the areas was bullying. I met so many kids with this problem and I felt I should be doing something about it.”

His feelings were solidified during a Globetrotter autograph session when he was approached by a mother and her son. The mother whispered in Daley’s ear that her son had recently attempted suicide, which especially struck Daley on a personal note: His mother committed suicide when he was just three years old.

Daley stayed in contact with the family, and eventually they spent a weekend together going to a theme park and bonding through basketball. It was a life-changing experience for the boy.

“He was just happy and we had a great time. Throughout the years we’ve kept in contact, and when I saw him a few months ago he was a different kid. He’s happy, he keeps his head up and he’s confident. His mom told me that it’s all because of me that he’s like that now. That’s big.”

Daley’s desire to help kids can be heard in his voice when tells his stories of helping others. He knows that the passion he had for playing basketball has turned into the fuel driving him in his philanthropic work, and he embraces it. Charity is a love, just like basketball, and he gives it everything he has to offer.

Bullying is a pressing issue in schools around America, but according to Daley it hasn’t received the attention it’s due. Daley plans to change that by growing his foundation and creating new programs across the map. By adding a few like-minded philanthropists to the foundation, getting school faculty everywhere educated about how to deal with bullying is an obtainable goal.

Daley’s vision, along with his demonstrated impact and his belief in the power of teamwork, has made him a finalist for All Sport United’s Humanitarian Award.

“As athletes it’s our responsibility to get involved in something positive for the community. When we signed up to play ball that might not have been what came to our minds, but we all see that we have a voice and have a passion. What’s important is you don’t just bring that passion on the court, you bring it off it too.”

Kevin Daley is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000.  All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik.  Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU.  Your tax-deductable donation will support all of these fine causes.  Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Humanitarian Award Finalist: Allison Baver

Athletes are inspirational figures in society. Their determination to achieve greatness transcends gender, age and race; their public stories of failure and triumph unfold before the captivated eyes of millions. But where do athletes find inspiration? For Allison Baver, her drive to achieve excellence in sports philanthropy is faith-driven. But the Olympic speed skating medalist has received some timely extra pushes along the way.

In 2006, when Baver’s grandmother was dying of lung cancer, Baver visited an area of North Pennsylvania where kids hang out on street corners and after-school sports are non-existent. It was there that Baver witnessed something that set her philanthropic wheels into motion.

“I wanted to donate to lung cancer for my grandmother, but I knew that with my limited resources I would barely make a dent on my own. So there I was in North Pennsylvania, looking for a way to help, and I see a guy rollerskating backwards down the street with a boombox on his shoulder. It just clicked.”

Drawing from her childhood memory of skating on Fisher Price wheels, she became inspired to skate with kids. The basis for Off the Ice Foundation was established. Baver set a goal to start the foundation before the 2010 Olympics and win a gold medal, but initial funding derailed her from her path.

“I had reached out to an organization about community funding and they were very discouraging. They were like ‘Do you know how hard it is? You’re not a global icon like Yao Ming.’ They weren’t looking at it from a glass-half-full perspective. I was bummed and started crying.”

When Baver broke her leg in 2009, it further derailed her from her goal. With most of her time and energy focused on recovery, doubts crept in. Not wanting to jinx anything, she seldom talked about the foundation, only vaguely mentioning it to a few reporters shortly before the 2010 Olympics. That was all it took.

“I was having a really bad day on the ice, and afterwards I walked right to the locker room with my skates on – that’s something I never do. I was just sitting there upset after practice, when I opened this fan letter from a little girl in fifth grade in Chicago. She wanted to start a foundation like me to help other little girls, and I was like ‘O.K., it’s 11 a.m., how much time do I have before rehab?’ I called Giving Back Funds and said ‘I need to make this happen,’ and we did.”

Baver went on to win a bronze medal, and Off the Ice has since become a growing movement to “Achieve Great Things.” Going beyond one-time donations, Off the Ice works with schools to establish motivational programs that keep kids continuously involved in skating. It’s all in Baver’s vision to have her foundation self-sustaining, a philosophy that she says will allow her to expand her donation reach to hundreds of other schools. With a new partnership with Rollerblade already secured and monthly skate-night fundraisers in the works, her next goal is within reach.

“Sports philanthropy has become a part of my day. I believe that success is a habit that you create; each day I set a goal of taking a phone call or doing something that’s giving back in some way. And I don’t do it for myself, it’s all for a bigger purpose. Something hits you one day that being an athlete isn’t about winning medals: It’s about being a hero and giving back. That’s what sports are about.”

That daily commitment has made Baver a finalist for All Sports United’s Humanitarian Award, a process she called rewarding and one that will have a lasting impact on future generations.

“There was a time I signed autographs for every kid at a school. The very last girl in line came up to me, and after I signed something for her I looked at her and smiled, and she looked me dead in the eyes and said ‘you’re my hero.’ I said I think my job here is done for the day! To think just by signing an autograph that would have an impact on a little girl.”

As for athletes interested in becoming philanthropists themselves, Baver encourages them to think broad, work across sports, and come together annually to do something big. In other words, follow All Sports United’s mission to create a unified athlete community.

“Think really big and give with all your heart. We all have the same purpose in the end: changing lives and inspiring others.”

Allison Baver is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000.  All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik.  Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU.  Your tax-deductible donation will support all of these fine causes.  Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News

Humanitarian Award Finalist: Steven Payne

“This organization gives the greatest gift, the gift of life.” – Steven Payne

Hockey is a sport played at a near-chaotic pace, but Steven Payne had the special ability to slow it down. Known for his clutch scoring, he retired from the NHL as a two-time All-Star and the Minnesota North Stars all-time leader in playoff points. It’s appropriate that he’s now slowing things down for others, showing them how tranquility can improve their well-being.

Payne supports Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, an organization that helps wounded military members with their recovery by introducing them to the tranquil sport of fly fishing. As the founder and director of Battle at Boxwood, an event which raises over $125,000 annually, Payne is caring for soldiers who risk everything to protect us.

“The event and its visibility have progressively gotten larger,” Payne said in a recent interview. “Thanks to my sports background I’ve had the ability to get it aired on national TV each year, and hopefully it’ll grow the awareness. No matter if people want to volunteer hours or donate, it’s all welcome.”

Nobody has welcomed the program more than the soldiers who have been positively impacted by the program.

“I had the privilege to meet one soldier in particular who was wounded in Afghanistan and has been very involved with my cause,” said Payne. “He came to Project Healing Waters looking for something to save his life, and now he’s an active member sharing his story and recruiting others so they can also heal.

“He was willing to give up his life for his country, but was ready to give up on himself until this organization helped give him the gift of life again. This organization has saved dozens and dozens of lives like his.”

A long-time sports philanthropy activist, Payne has a history of giving. In his playing days he made a point to volunteer for numerous charitable organizations, while also raising over $1 million in assistance to Variety Club’s Children’s Heart Hospital. Concurrent with Project Healing Waters, he sits on the advisory board of Defending the Blue Line, an organization that enables kids of active military members to play hockey.

He thanks his parents for instilling in him the importance of always giving to others, and credits this need to give back as his drive to achieve excellence in sports philanthropy.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a career in professional sports that has let me live well, so whenever I get the chance to give back I do.”

When it comes to the importance of athletes participating in philanthropy, Payne is quick to share All Sports United’s philosophy of sharing resources.

“Competition is a good thing in sports, but when it comes to sports philanthropy, we want that competition removed. I think anytime you can collaborate instead of compete for the same resources, it’s a good thing. It’s good to encourage open dialogue, and that’s why All Sports United is so great. I’m actively sharing it with others.

“I tell athletes interested in starting foundations that they don’t understand what they have in front of them when they start, and how valuable a community like All Sports United is where you can share and help each other. Having a place where you can come together is a great resource that will keep you from getting discouraged with all the red tape.”

Steven Payne is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000. All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik. Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU. Your tax-deductible donation will support all of these fine causes. Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.

- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini

Posted in News