When you think of professional athletes giving back to the community, who jumps to mind? LeBron James? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Colin Kaepernick? Kevin Durant? Malcolm Jenkins? Chances are your list will start off with a lot of well known MALE athletes. But there are hundreds of elite female athletes that are just as competitive, hard working and dedicated to their sport, as well as their communities.
In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month here in the US, we want to highlight some of our favorite female athletes and their charity work. These women not only give it their all in their sport, but also give back to their communities extensively.
We wrote a piece on her last year, but Serena Williams is one of the most famous female athletes in the world and does great work in the community. Williams serves as a Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF and supports their Schools for Asia campaign. She has built schools in several African countries and fights for gender equality within those schools.
Williams supports first generation college students through Beyond the Boroughs National Scholarship Fund, she sits on the board of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiativeand she’s an ambassador for Allstate’s foundation, Purple Purse. She created the Yetude Price Resource Center in Compton with her sister Venus after losing their younger sister in a shooting. Williams is a fantastic example of an athlete giving back.
Billie Jean King
We mentioned her above, but Billie Jean King has made a lot of progress towards equality for women in sports and outside of sports. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama for her work promoting equality for women and LGBTQ individuals.
She started the BJK Leadership Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to addressing the critical issues required to achieve diverse, inclusive leadership in the workforce. The program fights to ensure that those in positions of power in the workplace represent the global world and promote and celebrate inclusive talent.
King co-founded the Women’s Sports Foundation to advance the lives of women and girls through greater access to sports and physical activity and protect Title IX. Billie Jean King has helped women across all industries strive for equality and inclusion.
Mia Hamm co-founded Athletes for Hope in 2007 with athletes like Muhammad Ali, Cal Ripken Jr., Andre Agassi, Tony Hawk, Jeff Gordon and Alonzo Mourning. Athletes for Hope is a non-profit organization that brings athletes together to educate, inspire and empower them to make a difference in the world through sports philanthropy.
Hamm started the Mia Hamm Foundation in 1999, which raises funds and awareness for families in need of marrow or cord blood transplants. The organization also develops and promotes programs for young women in sports.
Ronda Rousey’s father and grandfather both took their own lives so she’s been an avid supporter of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services over the years. She was the recipient of the organization’s Erasing the Stigma Leadership Award in 2014. Rousey worked alongside Melissa Rivers to raise money and support for the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center that opened last month in Los Angeles.
Rousey also worked with the Free Rice Campaign and started the Gompers Judo program in 2009. The goal of Gompers Judo program is to enrich the participating students’ lives through sport and provide them an outlet where they can be part of a team.
Misty Copeland was the first female African American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. She started dancing at the Dan Pedro Boys & Girls Club when she was 13, and remains an active supporter of the BGCA to this day. Copeland is committed to opening doors for more girls to discover ballet regardless of age or background. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi started the Always Dream Foundation in 1996. The organization funds after school programs for young children to improve reading and literacy skills. They also provide support to underprivileged children and summer camps for children with disabilities.
In 2012, the Always Dream Foundation launched their Always Reading initiative- a program to connect children with ebooks and 21st century technology in the classroom and home environments. They’ve served over 10,000 students to date.
The recently retired Olympic skier has her own foundation, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, that provides scholarships and programming for education, sports and enrichment programs to give future generations the tools they need to reach their goals. Their goal is to allow young people to discover their grit within and achieve their dreams. They support girls through scholarships, education and athletics. The organization aims to fund more girls camps and inspire confidence through speakers series.
These are just a few of the amazing female athletes doing work in the community. There are so many more that we could mention- from Maria Sharapova to Simone Biles, Candace Parker to Aly Raisman, and Abby Wambach to Allyson Felix.
This month and every month we’ll be highlighting female athletes giving back in their communities and empowering young people to do the same. Congrats to all the women out there making an impact in the community- we hope they receive the recognition and awareness they deserve!