Thanks to their tremendous popularity and influence among their fans, major leaguers have a proud tradition of giving back to their community, and encouraging others to do so. Many of the members of The 500 Home Run Club® started their own non-profit foundations to provide support for charitable causes.
Manny Ramirez's official foundation is amid the process of being established. Nevertheless, he has already begun to participate in charity events and has made donations in Florida, and once his foundation is up and running he has pledged to start helping organizations in New York City, as well as in Boston.
Manny's main concern is children, and he knows there's a lot he can do to help. For this reason, he has been contributing to the CHARLEE PROGRAM, which focuses on meeting the needs of abused children.
After the Bo-Sox fan who caught his 500th home run ball (Damon Woo) presented it to Manny Ramirez following the game, Ramirez said he would auction it to benefit the Boston's Franciscan Hospital for Children. "What I want to do with the ball is take some pictures with my kid," Ramirez said. "I don't want to keep the ball. I want to see how much money someone can put into the hospital that I'm donating $1,000 for each home run."
Ramirez’s first donation to the hospital came when he donated his custom-built 1967 Lincoln Continental convertible to the hospital, just days after winning the 2007 World Series title. He also teamed with the Red Sox in 2001 to donate $1 million to area programs for Latino youth.
“Big Hurt” Is Anything But Hurtful to Kids/Fans
The “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas was given his imposing nickname by Chicago White Sox TV commentator Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, not because he hurt anyone, but rather for the hurtin’ he can put on a baseball. On the contrary, Thomas is by all estimations a ‘gentle giant’ who established the Frank Thomas Charitable Foundation in 1993 to improve the lives of Chicago-area residents by raising money through activities including a golf tournament, dinner gala, memorabilia auction, autograph event and Big Hurt merchandise sales.
He also created the "Big Hurt's Buddies" program to supply hundreds of free tickets to fans. But the charity that is perhaps closest to his heart is the Leukemia Society America. Thomas donates $50,000 annually to LSA in memory of a younger sister who passed away from the disease when he was 10.
Thome Takes Swing at Prostate Cancer
Chicago White Sox designated hitter Big Jim Thome is the spokesperson for the "One-A-Day Men's Presents the MLB Strike Out Prostate Cancer Challenge, “ created in 2007 as part of an exclusive partnership between Major League Baseball and the vitamin company. As part of the program, One-A-Day and MLB have committed to donate $10 for every strikeout throughout the 2008 Major League Baseball season to the Prostate Cancer Foundation - the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research.
To date the program has raised $106,120 and an additional $1 million will be donated if any one pitcher achieves 21 strikeouts in a nine-inning game to set a new MLB record. The goals of the program are to raise funds to support research to find a cure for prostate cancer and to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining prostate health through proper nutrition and early detection of problems.
"Prostate cancer affects far too many men each year including members of my own family," said Thome, who pointed out that Prostate cancer is a disease one in every six men will be diagnosed with during his lifetime. "So, getting involved in this program with One-A-Day was a no brainer. I want to do all I can to spread the word.
Straight A's for A-Rod Family Foundation
Once Alex Rodriguez achieved success in Major League Baseball, he decided he needed to repay his fans, so he created the A-Rod Family Foundation, (http://arod.mlb.com/players/rodriguez_alex/foundation/index.jsp) which is dedicated to positively impacting families in distress by supporting programs focused on improving quality of life, education and mental health.
Among the fundraising/awareness events that his foundation has hosted are:
• A-Rod Evening with the All Stars, the first benefit which has raised well over a half million dollars for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami.
• The Alex Rodriguez Learning Center -- an educational facility for the advancement of literacy, computer study and math -- was constructed at the Hank Kline Unit. The center has multiple computer labs, homework and study rooms, an art room and a large library. Alex personally pledged half a million dollars to the project.
• During the 2002 baseball season, Alex partnered with Microsoft and HP to form the AROD RBI Program. For each home run Alex hit in the regular season, HP donated one computer and Microsoft donated one complete suite of Microsoft software and an operating system to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the host team's city. 57 systems were donated that year, and clubs in over fifteen cities benefited from this particular program.
• In January 2003, Alex donated $3.9 million dollars to the University of Miami. The money will be directed to the construction costs stemming from the remodeling of the baseball stadium. In addition to covering the construction costs, this endowment includes the scholarship money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami.
• In 2004, he founded AROD's Christmas Party and played Santa Claus to the Boys and Girls Clubs, hosting 150 children from the Hank Kline Unit. The children were treated to pizza and snacks, and both Alex and Santa Claus handed out gifts to all the children. Each child received over $200 in gifts, as well as a baseball signed by Alex. They were also treated to a reading of The Polar Express, and ended the day with a Christmas dance.
• In 2005, Alex hosted the Dewar's 12 Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament to benefit the construction of the Learning Center. The inaugural event was successful, drawing huge names from the entertainment and music worlds, and raising enough money to finish the first part of the Center's capital campaign.
• Also in 2005, Rodriguez donated $200,000 to the Children's Aid Society, a NYC-based children's advocacy/charity group. His donation supported the placement of therapists into schools located in Washington Heights -- the neighborhood in which Alex was born.
In 2005, Alex donated $50,000 to the Dominican Republic branch of UNICEF. This donation fully funded five-day care centers outside of Santo Domingo. These centers were able to purchase enough school supplies, food and personal hygiene products for each center for one full year. Approximately 1,500 children benefitted from this donation.
"The Kid" Helps Young People Succeed
Ken Griffey Jr. is on the National Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Each years, Griffey flies groups of children in from Seattle and Orlando to attend a game. He personally pays for their airfare, lodging, tickets, etc. Griffey is also very active in granting wishes for chronically and terminally ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060905&content_id=1647209&vkey=news_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin
Hank Aaron’s “Chasing The Dream Foundation” provides financial assistance to underprivileged children. Run by Hank and his wife Billye Aaron, the foundation provides children ages 9-12 with limited opportunities a chance to pursue their dreams in areas in which they have shown early ability. http://www.southernliving.com
The Barry Bonds Foundation's mission is to encourage, promote and fund programs designed to improve the educational achievements, standard of living and quality of life conditions for African-American youth within the Bay Area community. Bonds embraces today's technology as the gateway to opportunity for underprivileged youth. He was awarded the 1999 Philanthropist of the Year Award by the National Conference on Black Philanthropy in recognition for his conviction towards education. The Barry Bonds Foundation established the Link n' Learn program and "Bridge to the Future" campaign as well as the Bonds Private School Scholarship Fund. . http://barrybonds.mlb.com/players/bonds_barry/about/foundation.html
Willie Mays’ "Say Hey" Foundation is dedicated to the promotion of academic study for underprivileged children. Willie established his own philanthropic tradition very early on when he first started playing professional baseball. His personal assists to children whether by providing tuition, by paying for schoolbooks or by just giving them a pair of shoes were second nature to his compassionate and generous spirit. For details, visit http://www.dustybaker.com/sayhey.htm
Ernie Banks’ Live Above And Beyond Foundation provides educational scholarships, and promotes social welfare through programs that lessen neighborhood tensions, eliminate prejudice and discrimination among various age groups and races, and improve and develop the capabilities of children who are underprivileged and reside in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Reggie Jackson’s “Mr. October Foundation For Kids” provides scholarships and other programs to help close the digital divide for underprivileged youth by helping them to learn from trade school or higher educational opportunities. Funded , in part, by the popular Reggie Jackson Invitational Golf Tournament, which held in November of each year in Carmel, CA, The Mr. October Foundation for Kids has spent more than $1,000,000 to help enhance children's educational opportunities. Recent recipients include the Oakland Unified School District, the UNICEF tsunami relief fund, City of Hope, and the All Stars Helping Kids Foundation. http://www.mroctober4kids.com
The Mickey Mantle Foundation promotes and support organ transplants http://www.transweb.org/mantle.html
Ted Williams at the Hall of Fame Induction
The Ted Williams Memorial Fund supports the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber's quest to find cures for cancer. http://www.tedwilliams.com/index.php?page=foundations&level=6
The Mark McGwire Foundation For Children is now working with the National Kidney Foundation to conduct a nationwide awareness campaign on the issue of bed-wetting, or enuresis, which affects nearly 7 million American children, yet still remains one of the more stigmatized childhood conditions. http://www.mcgwire.com/charity.html
Sammy Sosa has donated millions of dollars to provide food and water, and to rebuild storm damaged communities in his native Dominican Republic. During early 2006, Sosa toured with the country’s President Leonel Fernandez to encourage international businesses and tourists to consider the Dominican Republic as a destination. During his playing days, Sosa donated 2,720 computers to Dominican schools – including four computers for each of the 68 homers he hit in 1998 in the home run derby he had with fellow 500 HRC member Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals. http://polaris.umuc.edu/~hreyes2/charity.html
The Harmon Killebrew Foundation, Ltd. enables Harmon to host separate and distinct events that will benefit charities that he has chosen to be involved with and to be recipients of the Foundation’s proceeds, such as the Vista Hospice Care Foundation to aid in their research for the ultimate in pain relief and care management for the terminally ill. http://www.harmonkillebrew.com
The Mike Schmidt Foundation provides contributions to various charities
Frank Robinson was a vocal supporter of The Jackie Robinson Foundation, which encourages inner city kids to play baseball and to pursue their dreams.
Josh Gibson Foundation Is A Private, Nonprofit Organization Established In 1994, Founded By Surviving Family Members In An Effort To Preserve The Memory Of Josh Gibson And The Negro Leagues. http://ww.joshgibson20.org/
In 1988, Sadaharu Oh (Japan’s all-time leading home run hitter, and honorary member of the 500 Home Run Club) and Hank Aaron created the World Children's Baseball Fair (WCBF), to increase the popularity of baseball by working with youngsters. Today, 18 countries on five continents participate in this global event! http://home.att.net/~creativeentpr/wcbf/index.html
Others of Note:
The Jackie Robinson Foundation - The Jackie Robinson Foundation Perpetuates The Legacy Of Jackie Robinson By Providing College Scholarships For Minority Youths. http://www.jackierobinson.org/