Founding Athletes:

In 2007, a group of elite athletes who shared an unparalleled commitment of time, energy, and resources to various charitable causes began a dialogue. They recognized many fellow athletes shared their desire to make a positive difference in the world, but didn’t know where to begin. As a result, they founded Athletes for Hope in an effort to eliminate barriers to giving back and bring all non-profit inspired athletes together for a common goal: to make a difference in the world.

Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning

Biography

At 6’10”, former NBA All-Star and Olympic athlete Alonzo “Zo” Mourning towers over most of his fellow humans. But Alonzo’s stature and accomplishments on the court haven’t stopped him from devoting his life to empowering others. Through Alonzo Mourning Charities, he has raised millions for programs that help children and their families, especially kids who have been abused, abandoned and neglected. For his work in teaching kids about leadership and perseverance, Alonzo has been recognized by the NBA and the National Urban League.

Alonzo was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1992 as the number two pick of the first round of the NBA Draft. In 1995 he moved to the Miami Heat, where he led his team to several Eastern Division titles and later represented the U.S. in the 2000 Olympic Games. In 2003 (during a short stint with the New Jersey Nets), Alonzo was about to retire because of a degenerative kidney disease when a long-lost cousin offered to donate one of his kidneys. He made a comeback after the transplant and went on to lead the Heat to its first NBA Championship in 2006. Alonzo retired from Miami in 2009 and became the team’s vice president of player programs.

In 2009, in recognition of the impact Alonzo and his wife have had on local youth, Miami-Dade County named a high school after them, and the same year, a new law was enacted that facilitates the organ transplant process. Alonzo’s foundation has helped raise money to establish the Overtown Youth Center, which offers after-school programs, health care and tutoring. The nonprofit also provides workshops and summer camps to help enrich and empower young women; youth basketball clinics; and youth summits. In all his efforts, Alonzo inspires kids to become positive, contributing citizens in their communities. He teaches them that they can do more than they might think possible. And every Thanksgiving, Alonzo personally delivers turkey dinners to hundreds of unsuspecting families, feeding stomachs as well as souls.
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Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi

Biography

Tennis great Andre Agassi reached the top of his sport as a professional athlete. But he is quick to say that his life’s work lies not in sport, but in education reform. He has committed himself to using every lesson learned on and off the court to make a difference in children’s lives. “At a low point in my career, I figured out what mattered most,” he says. “I was here to care for children and give a voice to those whose voices are rarely heard.” The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, in partnership with the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in 2001. The public charter school is seen as a model school; its first graduating class boasted a 100 percent college acceptance rate. And as Andre told graduates at their commencement in 2009, it’s never too late for humans to be inspired and to start a new chapter—which is what he has done time and time again to change the course of his life and the lives of others.

After turning pro at the age of 16 and reaching the semi-finals of the French Open and U.S. Open as a teenager, Andre rose to international fame. He earned 60 men’s singles titles, including eight Grand Slam singles championships, and he is the only male player ever to win all four Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold singles medal and the ATP Tour World Championships. He was also a member of three winning Davis Cup teams. Andre, one of the game’s most charismatic players, helped revive the sport in the 1990s and inspired a generation of tennis players. After earning the sport’s top world ranking, his position fell to 141, and using the drive and focus he exhibits in all his philanthropic efforts today, Andre fought his way back to No. 1. He retired in 2006.

Andre’s foundation aims to reform public education for underserved youth in America. Although he sacrificed his own education for success on the court, Andre has always seen education as the key to opportunity, success and freedom. He passionately believes in children and believes that we can do better in our efforts to educate them. “Each of us—parents, advocates, educators and legislators—has a responsibility to help children fulfill their potential and achieve their dreams,” he says. When Andre was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2011, he recounted a story of his one brief meeting with Nelson Mandela, arguably one of the most influential people in his life. He urged Andre, during his time on Earth, to be careful in his decisions, his words and his relationships—something Andre admits he hadn’t always done. “Mandela said to me, ‘There is difficulty in all human journeys, but there is nobility in just being a journeyer.’ From him I learned that every journey is epic; every journey is important; every journey beings today.”

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Biography

For Jackie Joyner-Kersee, named for Jackie Kennedy and raised on the mean streets of East St. Louis, IL, sport has always been a refuge. The woman who once said that being an athlete is “a kind of grace” was able to overcome poverty, tragedy and discrimination to become a track and field world record-holder and one of the greatest athletes of all time. Jackie--with poise, passion and a desire to help families in the community she calls home--created the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, which is now under a partnership with the East St. Louis School District. The center houses a gym, classrooms, computer and science labs and a health center—resources that were nonexistent in the community before it opened in 2000. The facility has had its ups and downs but has undoubtedly played a critical role in helping revitalize the community.

During her career, Jackie came to dominate the heptathlon, a demanding seven-event competition (100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meter, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meter) that measures speed, strength and stamina. She enjoyed one of history’s greatest Olympic careers as a heptathlete and long jumper, in which she won six medals, including three golds. Jackie ended her Olympic career in Atlanta in 1996 with a bronze-winning long jump, and she remains the world record-holder for points scored in the heptathlon.

Jackie earned an elite spot in women’s sports, being named the greatest sportswoman of the century by Sports Illustrated for Women and earning the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) highest honor—the Women and Sport Trophy. She was the first woman to serve as President of the St. Louis Sports Commission, she served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports, and her work led to an induction in the Boys & Girls Club of America Hall of Fame. But much of Jackie’s influence over the years has less to do with awards and more to do with her commitment and the example she has set for a new generation of young women in sport. One of these women was born in 1984, the same year that Jackie barely missed gold at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Today Lauren is a slam poet and wrote a poem about her muse, “On Woman and Wind.” She recited it during a girls’ summit at which Jackie was recognized. In the poem, Lauren recounts watching Jackie on TV, at age 4, in the 1988 Olympic Games, and following in the athlete’s graceful footsteps in track and field, running toward dreams. “You have become the first lady of your namesake,” she says. “The first lady to teach me, to run, to leap, to fly with my feet fully on the ground.”
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Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon

Biography

When four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon gets behind something, he gives 100 percent—whether he’s racing around a track or rushing to grant wishes to critically ill children. Jeff discovered his life’s work after his crew chief’s son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1992, and he took on the cause with no less love and passion than he would have shown if it had been his own child. Inspired to make a difference in the lives of children, he established the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, which has granted millions to children’s charities.

Jeff’s vision is that there will be a day when no child will face the uncertainty of cancer. To that end, the foundation partners with organizations that are committed to children’s health. In 2006, Jeff opened the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital at Carolina’s Medical Center-Northeast. The state-of-the-art facility serves children in the community by providing primary and specialty care, regardless of families’ ability to pay. The foundation recently launched its first global initiative in Rwanda, helping deliver cancer relief to children through a partnership with Partners in Health and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Jeff, who reached 50 wins faster than any other driver and was the first to reach $100 million in career earnings in the Cup series, is tied for the most wins in the modern era of NASCAR and is the only Athletes for Hope founder still competing. Jeff argues that racing, seen by many as an individual sport, relies on a team as much as any sport. He is undeniably one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, but will try to make an even more significant impact through his philanthropic work. Although he says he will never fully disengage from the sport of racing, he looks forward to stepping out from behind the wheel and being able to commit further to children’s health. "When I have more time, I would love to do more, and I think that I can make a bigger impact,” he says. “Right now I feel like we're just scratching the surface with a lot of the things as it relates to children."

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Mia Hamm
Mia Hamm

Biography

Mia Hamm is arguably one of the world’s greatest athletes, having scored more international career goals than any other soccer player, male or female. But since her brother Garrett died in 1997 from complications related to a rare blood disorder, she has found another way to play offense. Out of her cleats since 2004, Mia now devotes her time to the Mia Hamm Foundation, a nonprofit that she created in 1999. The organization raises funds and awareness for families needing marrow or cord blood transplants, and develops and promotes programs for young women in sports. The foundation hosts all-star exhibition soccer matches, and during halftime, marrow recipients are brought together with their donors for the first time. These emotional encounters, Mia says, are her most cherished moments away from the field.

At age 15, Mia became the youngest woman ever to play with the U.S. National Team. She led the U.S. to the World Championship at FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999 and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in 1996, 2000 and 2004, earning two gold medals and one silver. In 2001, Mia became a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association and then led the Washington Freedom to the Founder’s Cup.

The level of Mia’s game so impressed Nike Chairman Phil Knight that he named the largest building on Nike’s corporate campus after her and talks about her in the same class as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Mia was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, her first year of eligibility. She now represents Futbol Club Barcelona, promoting the club’s members and philosophy worldwide. These days, Mia’s heroes are young people coping with serious illnesses, and the families that love and support them along a difficult journey. They inspire her passion and remind her—as one teenager wrote after meeting Mia--that it’s just as important to make every second count in life as it is on the soccer field.
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Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali

Biography

Muhammad brought an unorthodox fighting style, unprecedented speed, and extraordinary grace to his sport, while his charm and wit forever changed the public’s expectations of a champion. But while his success as a boxer is widely respected, Muhammad’s greatest triumphs have taken place outside the ring--as a leader and champion of life. Through his humanitarian efforts, he has perhaps contributed more than any other athlete to make this world a better place.

Muhammad burst onto the scene as a gold-medal winner at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, and his accomplishments in the ring since then are legendary. There were two fights with Sonny Liston, during which he proclaimed himself “The Greatest” and proved he was; three epic battles with rival Joe Frazier; and one stunning victory over George Forman in the Rumble in the Jungle, which earned him the world heavyweight title for the second time. He had 56 career wins and only five losses, defeating every top heavyweight in the golden age of boxing. Muhammad was named Fighter of the Year by Ring Magazine more times than any other boxer. He is an inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Century.

From Jakarta to the Ivory Coast, Muhammad has championed causes of the developing world and hand-delivered food and medical supplies, touching and feeding millions. He has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea and has lobbied domestically for new children protection laws. He secured the release of 15 U.S. hostages during the first Gulf War and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. Every year he participates in a fundraiser for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center in Phoenix. Even as he struggles with Parkinson’s, Muhammad still commands a presence and remains a magical and influential figure, known and loved around the world. He has been named the United Nations Messenger of Peace, was called “Mr. International Friendship” by former President Jimmy Carter and received the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award. In 2005 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That same year, Muhammad and his wife Lonnie opened the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. It inspires youth and adults to be as great as they can be in their lives--in areas of personal growth, integrity and respect for others. President Obama, in writing about Muhammad, says we admire the man who has never stopped using his celebrity for good—the man who is a “force for reconciliation and peace around the world.” The quality of Muhammad’s that the President admires the most: “His unique ability to summon extraordinary strength and courage in the face of adversity, to navigate the storm and never lose his way.”

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Warrick Dunn
Warrick Dunn

Biography

Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn no longer tallies rushing yards. Instead, he’s adding up the number of single parents he’s assisted around the Southeast. Inspired by his mother, Warrick created the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation in 2002 to assist economically disadvantaged single moms and dads in becoming home-owners through supplemental mortgages. The organization, which complements the successful efforts of Habitat for Humanity, works with individuals who have already demonstrated a commitment to achieve financial independence and stability. Warrick’s mother, Betty Smothers, was a Baton Rouge police officer and single parent who dreamed of owning her own home. She was murdered when Warrick, the oldest of six children was 18.

Warrick holds several Florida State University rushing records and was selected in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, 12th pick overall, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons, where his rushing yards ranked third in the franchise’s history. Warrick was named to three Pro Bowl teams during his 11-year career and received the NFL’s inaugural Home Depot Award, which recognizes players who are making a positive impact in their local communities through philanthropy. He became a minority owner of the Falcons in 2009.

During his rookie season in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dunn realized the impact he could make through a positive image and community involvement and he established the Homes for the Holidays program. Since 1997, Homes for the Holidays has rewarded single parents and children who have reached the American Dream of first-time homeownership in Atlanta, GA, Baton Rouge, LA, Tampa and Tallahassee, FA. Warrick remembers clearly, after his mother died, how he was surrounded by the love of family, friends and coaches--and that drives him to improve the communities he’s called home. He says he feels his mother’s presence every time he walks a family through their new house. “My mother would be proud to know that so many families have been assisted in realizing the American dream,” he says. “We’re giving these single parents an opportunity to be successful. They still have to do the work, but we're helping them to take the next step.”

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