Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #165

May 24 – May 30, 2015

Welcome to week one hundred sixty-five of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Surfer Forfeits Championship To Give Paralyzed Fan Ride Of His Life
  2. A Soldier’s Story: Remembering Major Stephen Reich
  3. Sports at the Forefront of New Cuba-US Relations
  4. From the wheat field to the soccer field
  5. From OT Kareem McKenzie to Dr. Kareem McKenzie
  6. Undefeated Boxer Keeps Up the Fight for His Mother’s Oxtail Stew
  7. Louisiana’s First Female HS Football Coach Driven by Championship Dreams
  8. Scripps National Spelling Bee champ loves LeBron James
  9. Senators GM Bryan Murray a winner on and off the ice
  10. Liverpool All-Star match featuring Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres raises £1m for charities

When it comes to witnessing competition, we have long just defaulted to sports. It makes sense. Sports involve individuals and teams challenging each other’s skills, knowledge and physical abilities to determine who is best. Those battles bring about the good in people that are associated with sports, e.g. determination, adaptability, resiliency, etc.  Well, that monopoly over the “competition marketplace” is surely gone. If you turn on the TV today, you are likely to see competitions regarding cooking, baking, tattooing, singing, dancing, etc. Wanting to see people challenge themselves to do better has taken over.

One of the most fun examples of this competition evolution involves something many people remember as being a real chore for them growing up, i.e. spelling. Well, spelling has become big fun and big competition, involving thousands of kids (and yes, parents) around the country. The Scripps National Spelling Bee has held a prominent place on ESPN for years now and has become a source for wagering and content for a winning documentary. This week we again saw a group of very smart pre-teens and teens battle it out for supremacy and we could not help include a story related to that thrilling competition. (channel your inner LeBron!)

Other special stories this week include: a champion surfer giving a fellow surfer the ride of his life; an athlete and Army veteran who gave his life for this country; sports as a bridge between two countries long in conflict but now facing a potentially promising future; a business venture launched by a soccer-related non-profit that is extending its good works beyond sport; a former NFL star graduating to the next stage in his life which entails helping his fellow players; the tight bond between an up-and-coming boxer and his mom; Louisiana’s first female high school football coach; an exemplary NHL senior executive; and a thrilling exhibition involving current and former Liverpool football players that raised more than $1 million for charity.

There is a GoFundMe effort that we want to let you know about that involves adults and youth in the West Baltimore area refurbishing baseball fields and making a difference in their community. Please visit the GoFundMe page for Michael Rosenband and support this very worthy effort. (

Finally, two friends of SDG are having fundraising galas in New York City this week. To learn more, please visit the websites for the great folks at Up2Us ( and Urban Dove. (

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Surfer Forfeits Championship To Give Paralyzed Fan Ride Of His Life
Martin Passeri had won five straight national surfing championships in Argentina, and 2015 figured to be his sixth straight victory — he entered the competition as its frontrunner. He wound up losing, but in a way that feels much more like a win. According to The Inertia, Passeri failed to win the contest after his final ride of the day. On his way out to the water for the competition’s final heat, he stopped on the beach to visit with Nicolas Gallegos, a fan sitting in his wheelchair in the sand. The Inertia notes that Gallegos used to be a surfer but was paralyzed from the waist down after an accident when he was 18. That was 18 years ago. It’s unclear how much Passeri knew of the man’s story, but he quickly took to an idea: He would bring Gallegos out on the water and let him ride on his back while Passeri took one last wave.

A Soldier’s Story: Remembering Major Stephen Reich
Prior to his service, Reich was three-sport athlete in high school and a top pitcher for Army’s West Point Academy on the path to a major league career. When the Army called him back to active duty, Reich never expressed regret that his promising professional baseball career lasted only two games for a Baltimore Orioles farm team. “Not being able to pursue a career with the Orioles was a heartbreak for Stephen, but as soon as that decision was made he closed that door and he moved on,” his mother, Sue Reich, said. Baseball was a big dream, but it always came second to the service. FOX Sports’ “A Soldier’s Story” — watch the television feature above, followed by digital exclusives on Reich and his unit below — is a Memorial Day video tribute to Reich and all of our fallen service members.

Sports at the Forefront of New Cuba-US Relations
Zaida, an employee at Cuba’s telecommunications company, believes the time has come to fulfill the wishes of the majority of Cubans. “It’s not just baseball players, who’ve said it more than once, people in general want to see them play among the world’s best. Those who’ve left recently have demonstrated the kind of talent we have in our country, and not all of them were stars here in Cuba.” “I loved what happened with basketball,” Frank opines, “because they didn’t just leave it at an official visit to the Fajardo (the venue of Cuba’s sports institute). They went to a neighborhood court on 23 and B streets, where the kids plays, and they set up a clinic and left balls and modern hoops and backboards. The same thing will probably happen when the Cosmos come over. We need exchanges like that here, because the Cuban Sports Institute (INDER) proved long ago that it can’t handle everything on its own. The money that comes in through contracts is destined to other sectors and isn’t used to improve sports at the grassroots level, which is where champions come from.”

From the wheat field to the soccer field
Jean Kendy has already been helping GOALS teenagers paint the new bakery, and is training up parents how to make the bread. We can’t wait to get cooking! With no electricity in the village, the work of mixing the dough will be done by hand, and the ovens will be fired up using propane. It won’t be easy, but we’re confident that thanks to Jean Kendy’s planning and leadership, the GOALS Boul’anjri will be successful, providing jobs, food security, skills training, and locally-produced food for our programs. At GOALS, our mission is to make daily life easier, while helping to shape a better future. This what we work for every day: Healthy, nourished children who gain confidence on the soccer field and have the opportunity to grow up and make their communities a better place. And they couldn’t ask for a better role model than Jean Kendy.

We decided to call the GOALS bakery the “BOUL’ANJRI” with an apostrophe because BOUL in Haitian Creole means “ball or soccer ball” and BOULANJRI is the word for bakery. We have a soccer bakery, so it is a BOUL’ANJRI!“

From OT Kareem McKenzie to Dr. Kareem McKenzie
After 11 years in the NFL McKenzie too was faced with this transition. But then, the former right tackle, who was drafted out of Penn State University in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and played the last seven years of his career with the New York Giants, had an epiphany; he would help others going through what he went through. After he found counseling helpful with his own transition as well as some other life issues, McKenzie decided that with his NFL career behind him, he would become a psychologist. He is on track to earn his Masters of Education in Professional Counseling in 2016 from William Paterson University’s College of Education, after which he will pursue his doctorate. His ultimate goal is to provide counseling to professional athletes as well as retired members of the military for whom he sees similarities when it comes to the rigidity of their schedules and unrelenting performance expectations.

Undefeated Boxer Keeps Up the Fight for His Mother’s Oxtail Stew
Meanwhile, he is trying to be smart. He also has his girlfriend, a flight attendant, and their daughter, to worry about. Lately he has been reading books and watching videos about business management from the likes of Robert Kiyosaki, who wrote “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” and Warren Buffett. One thing that has to stop, he said, is his expensive-accouterment habit. No more limited-edition Jordans; no more leather-and-snakeskin Nets caps. “I’ve reformed,” he said, quoting something he has learned: “Broke people buy stuff, middle-class people buy liabilities, and rich people buy assets.” Jeffrey said that she was a “proud mama” but that she was not sure she would go to watch Browne’s bout on Friday. “It makes me nervous to see him fight,” she said. “My stomach gets so tightened up. I can’t believe he has the courage to do it.” She added: “But he says, ‘Don’t worry about me, Mama. I’ve got this covered.’ ”

Browne hopes to earn enough money to help his mother open a restaurant. Credit Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Louisiana’s First Female HS Football Coach Driven by Championship Dreams
Being named the first female high school head coach in the state will be a badge of honor she’ll wear with pride. Being named the first female head coach at LSD, however, might hold a little more weight sentimentally. There’s no language barrier between Gremillion and her athletes. She is fluent in American Sign Language and doesn’t need an interpreter to converse with her students. “I think that helps with a totally different level of respect,” she said. “I can communicate for myself; I’m in their language.” In her 12 years as an assistant prior to the recent promotion, Gremillion says she went to work looking to make a difference. And, for most of those days, mission accomplished. Now she’ll do the same as a head coach.

Scripps National Spelling Bee champ loves LeBron James
Gokul Venkatachalam is taking his talents to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Not only, is the 14-year-old a huge LeBron James fan, but he’s been showing some mad swagger on the stage. Venkatachalam made this promo video referencing James famous decision to move to South Beach in 2010. Needless to say, Venkatachalam has caught the attention of social media. Fans have connected with him on everything from his music preferences, to his stylish Jordan XIs. Without asking one question, Venkatachalam spelled the final word perfectly and earned a co-championship with Vanya Shivashankar. A James-esque chalk toss to celebrate would have broken the Internet.

Senators GM Bryan Murray a winner on and off the ice
Bryan Murray was front and centre Thursday night. This time, the Senators’ GM was being honoured by the United Way as community builder of the year during a dinner at the Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa, partially because of his selfless act to go public about his battle with Stage 4 colon cancer last November. Last month, he was inducted into the Washington, D.C. Sports Hall of Fame during a Nationals baseball game. The city where he started his NHL coaching career back in 1981. He was among 13 inductees — including Capitals’ and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis — that will have their name hang on a banner at the Nationals’ ballpark.

Senators GM Bryan Murray talks to a guest at the United Way Community Builder awards Thursday, May 28, at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. (Keaton Robbins/Ottawa Sun)

Liverpool All-Star match featuring Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres raises £1m for charities
LA Galaxy-bound Gerrard said: ‘I’m delighted that we have raised £1 million through what was such an enjoyable day for the fans, the local community, and the players who took part. ‘I hope that these funds will make a real difference to all of the local charities and I would like to thank everyone who supported the match because we couldn’t have achieved this without such fantastic support.’ A crowd of more than 45,000 attended Anfield for the match which ended in a 2-2 draw after a cracking strike from Mario Balotelli and a rare assist for the controversial striker for Carragher’s side were cancelled out by two penalties from Gerrard either side of half-time. With the funds, Liverpool FC Foundation is making donations to partner charities Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Claire House Children’s Hospice, Centre 56, Positive Futures and Cash for Kids.

Former Liverpool strikers Luis Suarez (left) and Fernando Torres were among the match’s star attractions

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Contact InformationSarbjit “Sab” Singh