In 2017, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt took it upon himself to help his community in Houston. After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Watt began raising money to help his friends, neighbors and fans. Although his original goal was $200,000, Watt and his foundation outdid themselves, raising $37 million for multiple charities and organizations in Houston.
This story captured our attention, but Watt isn’t the only athlete to see a need in his community and address it. Many athletes work with charities or create their own foundations to meet the needs of the cities they play in or give back to the communities they came from.
LeBron James is a shining example of an athlete who solves community issues with his own resources and leadership. Since making it in the NBA, James has also been actively involved his hometown of Akron, Ohio. This week, his efforts to provide for at-risk kids in the community reached a new level.
Not satisfied with conditions at home for children growing up like he did, James stepped in to tackle as many challenges as he could:
“Everything these kids are going through – the drugs, the violence, the guns, everything they’re going through as kids, I know. For me to be in a position where I have the resources, the finance, the people, the structure and the city around me – why not?”
The I Promise School opened its doors to 240 children from Akron with James’ vision of an education environment that helps children who struggle academically or have troubles at home. They provide programs and assistance to keep kids engaged and improve their lives outside of school.
Unique education environments like the I Promise School break down barriers for kids in poorly performing school systems. They are given a greater chance to succeed because they aren’t inhibited by their income or area code. It’s the ultimate example of providing an alternate solution for kids rather than waiting for the current system to get better.
There’s a strong wave of athletes who know the challenges of the communities they come from, such as James, or the communities who’ve adopted them, such as Watt. Their advocacy for those around them reminds us that we all have a responsibility to help others when we can and innovate to solve problems in our hometowns.