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Black History Is Athletes for Hope’s History

Athletes for Hope began over 16 years ago, founded by a group of elite athletes who all share a common bond – a deep commitment to helping others. Over the course of their lives, each of our Founders has dedicated significant time, energy and resources to varying charitable causes.

Among our Founding AFH Athlete greats are four Black athletes who have taken both the sports world and the charitable world by storm; each defining unique causes in their communities to give back to. Together they are the intersection between Black history and AFH history. These are the stories of Founders Muhammad Ali, Warrick Dunn, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Alonzo Mourning.

Muhammad Ali

Professional Boxing

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

– Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali 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.

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 the world a better place. Recipient of the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, Muhammad leaves a legacy that inspired millions of people all over the world.

While he passed in 2016, his legacy lives on through the Muhammad Ali Center in his birthplace of Louisville, KY where children and adults are inspired to learn and form new commitments in personal growth, integrity and respect for others.

If you are in the Louisville area, make sure to stop by the Muhammad Ali Center as they showcase new exhibitions, screen films, and host live conversations with Black creators. For more information on the Center’s Black History Month programming, please click here.

Warrick Dunn

National Football League (NFL)

“I can look in their eyes and see it. That’s the best feeling I can have. I know I didn’t effect their lives just today, but it carries on for years and years to come.”

-Warrick Dunn

NFL Pro Bowler and former 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 Betty’s dream to own her own home and her untimely death when he was just 18 years old, Warrick founded Homes For The Holidays (HFTH) in 1997 during his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To this day, HFTH partners with local organizations to provide home furnishings and down-payment assistance to single-parent families and has since expanded into three additional programs: Count On Your Future, SCULPT, and Hearts for Community Service Scholarships. All four of these programs are part of Warrick Dunn Charities.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Track & Field

“Give back in some way. Always be thoughtful to others.”

-Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Raised in East St. Louis, IL, sport has always been a refuge for Jackie Joyner-Kersee. 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, 6-time Olympic medalist and one of the greatest athletes of all time.

With poise, passion and a desire to help families in the community she calls home, Jackie created the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, which is now under a partnership with the East St. Louis School District, and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation which works to ensure that every East St. Louis-area youth is given the opportunity to achieve greatness and succeed in academics, athletics and leadership.

Alzono Mourning

National Basketball Association (NBA)

“I feel that each and every one of us as individuals has a responsibility to one another. None of us would be here without the help of someone else – whether it be guardians, teachers, parents, relatives, etc. – someone contributed to your well-being as a person. We’re all connected in so many different ways.”

-Alonzo Mourning

At 6’10”, former NBA All-Star, NBA Champion and Olympic Gold medalist 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 the Mourning Family Foundation (MFF), founded in 1997, he and his wife Tracy have raised over $25 million for youth development programs like Honey Shine and the Overtown Youth Center.

In all his efforts, Alonzo inspires kids in the South Florida area to become positive, contributing citizens in their community. 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.

Our Founding AFH Athletes and their desire to make the world a better place is our driving force to educate, empower and inspire the next generation of athletes. We are proud to call Muhammad Ali, Warrick Dunn, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Alonzo Mourning our Founders and honored to share their legacies this Black History Month.