Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the changes he helped usher in for the civil rights of Americans and people worldwide. Many people across the world choose to honor his legacy and continue in his light by engaging in community and general acts of service. Here are a few GladiatHers® who are constantly using their resources and positions to serve and improve their communities.
Through her organization, the Serena Williams Fund (SWF), Serena Williams touches people around the world. For instance, in 2014, the SWF partnered with Beyond the Boroughs National Scholarship Fund to administer Serena’s scholarship fund for deserving students whose families are unable to fund their college educations. That same year SWF also partnered with the Caliber Foundation in an effort to end illegal gun violence in America. The SWF gave a large donation to the Foundation which offers support to victims, families and communities that have been devastated by illegal gun violence. Amazingly, the SWF also partners with UNICEF, Build Africa Schools and the Equal Justice Initiative all with the aim of helping individuals or communities effected by senseless violence and ensuring equal access to education. Serena has ensured that her impact extends far beyond the tennis court.
Through her Always Dream Foundation (“Always Dream”) Kristin Yamaguchi’s legacy has become greater than her Olympic, World and US medals. Always Dream’s mission is to inspire underserved children to reach for their dreams through innovative reading programs and to advance the cause of early childhood literacy. In furtherance of its mission Always Dream has partnered with Raising a Reader and launched a reading program in Title One schools throughout California, Arizona and Hawaii. Always Dream also provides a language arts program “Footsteps to Brilliance” to kindergarten and first graders.
Through the Mia Hamm Foundation one of soccer’s greatest athletes, Mia Hamm, works in medicine and sports. With a stated mission of 1) raising funds and awareness for families in need of a marrow or cord blood transport and 2) developing more opportunities for young women in sports, Mia ensures her brother Garrett is never forgotten and that young girls have the same opportunity she had to excel in sports. The Foundation has been working on its initiatives since 1999. One of its most popular events is the annual All-Celebrity Soccer Challenge that unites notable professional athletes and celebrities in a 7-on-7 game to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation’s work.
Jackie Joyner Kersee
We got to chat to track and field legend Jackie Joyner Kersee last year so we know aaall about the great work she’s doing (and has been doing since 1993) in East St. Louis for underserved children through the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation. The JJK Foundation’s mission is to instill youth in the Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. The Foundation’s programs include after-school, dance, summer camp and wrestling programs, all geared at creating well-rounded athletes.
No matter what she has going on on the court Maria Sharapova is always working to improve the lives of others off the court. Through the Maria Sharapova Foundation the tennis star shows her commitment to helping children around the world achieve their dreams. For instance, since becoming a Goodwill Ambassador with the United Nations Development Programme in 2007, Sharapova has donated over $250,000 to the Programme that provides sports and physical activities for youth in the area affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Through the Foundation’s work with the Programme she has also provided scholarships for students in Belarus.
In addition to the women listed above, GladiatHers® like Mo’ne Davis, Heather O’Reilly, Yuna Kim, Ronda Rousey, Shannon Miller and countless others work on a daily basis use their public positions and resources to change the world outside of their sports. In true GladiatHer® form, their dedication to others will ensure that their legacies will stretch far beyond sports.