As a swim lessons instructor, I've had the opportunity to work with the IM program started by the Michael Phelps Foundation. Founded in 2008 with the $1 million bonus he received from Speedo, the foundation has the general goal of fostering wellness and fitness in kids. The IM program offers water-safety courses, recreational pool activities, and swim training in communities around the country.
The money and influence raised by famous athletes can be channeled into a positive impact for our society. Here are nine more athletes who have started foundations based on causes near to their hearts.
Jay Cutler - NFL
The Jay Cutler foundation focuses on diabetes awareness. During the 2009 football season, the foundation partnered with Eli Lilly and Company and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to send children with diabetes to summer camp. The program was called "Touchdowns for Diabetes." For every touchdown pass Cutler threw, $1,000 was donated to ADA for their camp scholarship fund.
Donald Driver - NFL
Driver's foundation is focused on helping homeless families get back on their feet. His philosophy is "a hand up, not a hand-out," The charity is inspired by his childhood experiences with homelessness growing up in inner-city Houston.
Dikembe Mutombo - NBA (retired)
Mutombo is dedicated to helping the people in his home country of Democratic Republic of Congo. The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center opened in 2007, providing modern health care and employment opportunities for the area's residents.
Warrick Dunn - NFL
Dunn was raised by a single mother, a police officer in Baton Rouge. She died in the line of duty before realizing her dream of owning her own home. Dunn's program Homes for the Holidays was started in 1997, and helps single-parent families make the down-payment on a house. It has since helped more than 75 families.
Mia Hamm - Olympic Women's Soccer
In 1997, Mia Hamm's brother Garrett passed away from complications due aplastic anemia, a blood disorder in which the bone marrow does not produce enough red blood cells. The Mia Hamm foundation was created to raise awareness about bone marrow registry and cord blood. There have been several Celebrity Soccer Challenges held, both to raise money and also to recognize survivors of blood disorders.
Shannon Miller - Olympic Gymnast
The Shannon Miller Foundation aims to fight childhood obesity through physical fitness and nutrition information. Her website is full of recipes and fitness tools, and the foundation runs several walks, 5K runs and bike races every year.
Greg Biffle - NASCAR
The mission of the Greg Biffle Foundation is advocacy for animals. It focuses on shelter animals, and has offered grants to countless shelters for improvements and adoption programs. The funding for these grants is supported by the sale of calendars and other racing and sports memorabilia.
Trevor Ariza - NBA
Trevor Ariza has always had issues with his lungs. As a child, he was diagnosed with asthma; he suffered from a collapsed lung while playing basketball at UCLA. His foundation focuses on raising awareness of asthma and it's treatments. It also helps underprivileged children pay for their asthma medications.
Ben Roethlisberger - NFL
Roethlisberger's foundation has a specific goal: to support K-9 units for police and fire departments throughout the U.S. The Millersville Police Department received a grant to purchase and train their first narcotics dog in October of 2011.