Posts Tagged ‘sports’

The OK List of America's Best

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

As we congratulate Bill and Kathy Magee and Senator Orrin Hatch on their well-deserved recognition in November’s U.S. News & World Report, we are mindful of other great leaders with whom we have had the privilege of working during the past year. With that, I’d like to contribute an “Operation Kids: America’s Best Leaders in 2009″ by highlighting additional leaders who have made an enormous impact in their communities and, due to their commitment and influence, the world.

Anthony Kennedy Shriver: In 1989 Anthony created a mentoring program on his college campus. That project turned into a life’s work. Today, through his stewardship and entrepreneurial spirit, Best Buddies® has grown into a leading nonprofit entity with increasingly international reach across six continents. It has established a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They positively impact more than 400,000 participants every year.  The organization is active in each of the 50 United States, and operates accredited international programs in 44 countries.

Drew Brees:   When Drew left the San Diego Chargers and signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, he and his wife Brittany took a higher view of the situation. They believed that they were directed to New Orleans for a reason, and committed to become part of the community. They immediately sought way to help rebuild post-Katrina. Today, Drew and Brittany have rebuilt nearly a dozen successful projects including athletic facilities, day care centers and critical education programs. Their adopted city of New Orleans have hailed them as true “Saints” in the city.

Steve Young: With an NFL Hall of Fame career behind him, Steve maintains a broadcast career, participates in a private equity firm, and continues to provide leadership of the Forever Young Foundation. Forever Young Foundation is a non-profit organization that serves children facing significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. They focus on efforts to provide academic, athletic, and therapeutic opportunities to at-risk youth. They have expanded beyond their historical focus on Northern California, Arizona and Utah, to include development projects like the Forever Young Zones, Youth Education Town Centers (YET Centers) in each Super Bowl city and now, international initiatives including the building and expansion of schools in Ghana, Africa.

John A. (Jack) Calhoun: In his “retirement,” Jack manages the 13-California City Gang Prevention Network for the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families. In 2007 and has published a book, Hope Matters: The Untold Story of How Faith Works in America. He has spent a lifetime attempting to improve the lot of children and families and the communities in which they live. President Carter appointed Jack to the nation’s top children’s job, Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, where he oversaw such programs as Head Start, Child Welfare, The Center to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, the Office of Domestic Violence and the Office for Families. For 20 years he served at the National Crime Prevention Council as its President and CEO. He also has served as Vice President of the Child Welfare League of America, was the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services, and chair of both the Adolescent and the State of the Family Task Forces.

We give our deepest gratitude and respect to these great Americans who have truly made an enormous impact on their communities and the world around them.

Celebrating Those Who Take Action

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I received an e-mail this morning from New Orleans Outreach, one of our partner organizations. The beginning of the message began this way:

“There is an old phrase, ‘Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.’ I suppose it comes from our need to discuss (usually gripe about) problems that we don’t think we can change, that we are powerless to affect.

“For years, for New Orleanians, the ‘weather’ was public education. It was so bad all we could do was gripe and bemoan. No more. Last year, more than 2,000 people decided to change the weather. They came to volunteer in a New Orleans school or they made a donation so that New Orleans Outreach could bring in professionals to enrich students’ education.”

As I read that, it struck me. There have been a lot of people in the past few years talk big about enacting change in the Big Easy, but many of the talk falls empty and the intended actions lie fallow. But not these more than 2,000 people referenced above. They had finally had enough and put their time, and their money, into affecting a major change – one student, one school, one program at a time.

A couple of months ago, I sorted through hours of video footage to compile a short video about the work New Orleans Outreach and their supporters are doing (see the video here). As I was compiling the video, there was an interview with a child who talked about Outreach’s afterschool programs – where he learned to read music and learned his times tables. I was struck that he was able to learn two things, things I learned during my regular school day as a child, only because thousands of people got together and decided to make a change.

Has it revolutionized all of New Orleans? Not yet. But has it revolutionized one child’s life? Absolutely. And there are thousands of kids just like him who face a better future because someone took action.

Another New Orleanian who is taking action and affecting change is Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. When he and his wife Brittany moved to New Orleans several years ago, they vowed to make an impact in their adopted hometown. Rather than talking big and nothing more, they worked to make a real difference. In fact, one of the blogs on NFL.com today gave the “Gridiron Good Guy Award” to Drew Brees for his work in New Orleans, saying,

Three Pro Bowls, comeback player of the year, offensive player of the year, and Walter Payton Man of the Year. Is there anything that Drew Brees CAN’T do!? You might as well add “Superman” to this list. Brees supports Operation Kids and started his own charity, The BreesDream Foundation. The guy was pivotal in helping to rebuild New Orleans. Oh, and how about six touchdown passes in Week 1!

We are proud to have been a part of Drew’s efforts to help revitalize New Orleans through improving educational and athletic opportunities for the city’s children.

It has made me think about the changes I have tried to affect in my life, in my community. Do I sit and complain and fail to take action? Am I merely all talk? What about you? What have you done? Do you lament about the “weather” only to sit back and accept it, or are you the kind of person to get up and get involved?

One of my favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, said,

“It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time – for we are bound by that – but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time.”

I couldn’t illustrate how important education is any better than that. I am confident that the work of New Orleans Outreach is so valuable that they are improving the city of New Orleans, through its youngest residents, every single day Every day they leave the city and its children better than they found them.

It’s why I am so excited that, to help give an added boost to Outreach, Operation Kids is going to double any donations received for their program this week. We too are serious about affecting change – but we need you to be as well. Together, with people like Drew and organizations like New Orleans Outreach, we can do it.

-Sara