Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #174

July 26 – Aug. 1, 2015

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

  1. Erison and the Ebola Soccer Survivors (w/ video)
  2. How David Peralta went from indy league player to MLB outfielder
  3. Breaking down barriers, building lasting partnerships
  4. Sioux Falls Storm Donate $121,435 to Area Causes & Charities During 2015 Season
  5. Arizona Cardinals hire NFL’s first-ever female coaching intern
  6. Jordan Spieth celebrates his 22nd birthday by wearing a chicken hat with his sister
  7. Pedro Martinez’s poignant Hall of Fame speech perfectly sums up pitcher’s brilliance
  8. Southwest Turns Discarded Leather Seats into Soccer Balls
  9. Amazing scenes as eight-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Bailey finishes North Yorkshire triathalon unaided
  10. A bright future for Magic Bus’ Nikhitha & Sangita

Special Olympics

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo participates in its first Special Olympics
  2. Special Olympics Takes On the World
  3. Loretta Claiborne remains the heart of Special Olympics
  4. At age 10, he won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. Now he’s one of the best players in the NFL.
  5. Fans buy gear for Haiti’s Special Olympics soccer team

Our first story this week may be one of the most powerful we have seen in the past 3.5 years. The New York Times gives us a look at an individual caught in a situation that captured the world’s attention in the past year, the Ebola epidemic in Africa. This terrible disease has taken a terrible toll on communities and countries in that part of the world. Some families have been truly decimated, including that of Erison, a young man who lost an incredible 38 members of his extended family. Though the depth of his pain is remarkable, his post-illness situation is not unique, as there are many other survivors of the disease who are also looked upon with suspicion and fear. Erison was living the challenges and stigmatization survivors are currently experiencing within their communities and wanted to do something about it. He did, by creating a soccer club of survivors that invited the admiration and support of those in the community and increasingly, those around the world. We are proud to share this story.

Other stories featured this week include: MLB player David Peralta; the importance of partnerships in executing a successful development plan; the Sioux Falls Storm and their terrific record of community involvement; the NFL’s first female coach, hired by the Arizona Cardinals; the important relationship star golfer Jordan Spieth has with his sister; Pedro Martinez’s wonderful Hall of Fame acceptance speech; Southwest Airlines innovative program to take old seats and turn them into soccer balls; 8-year old triathlete Bailey Matthews; and two young women part of the Magic Bus program in India who got a chance to be part of a great soccer and life experience in the U.S.

We also are adding to this week’s group of 10 stories with 5 additional stories related to the World Special Olympics taking place in Los Angeles. These wonderful stories highlight athletes, officials, and supporters at an event that is being given deserved attention, especially by the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN.

Finally, we would like to let you know about the New York Sports Philanthropy Workshop being hosted by All Sports United. You will find more information at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Erison and the Ebola Soccer Survivors (w/ video)
The most widespread Ebola epidemic ever seen broke out in Guinea in December 2013, before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organisation has estimated the total number of individuals infected at 27,749, with 11,278 losing their life to the Ebola virus disease as of 27 July 2015. However, it is acknowledged that these numbers likely underestimate the true scale of the epidemic. This short documentary by The New York Times shows the challenges and stigmatisation survivors are currently experiencing within their communities. As suspicions and misconceptions remain, one survivor by the name of Erison decided to bring together other Ebola survivors by founding an Ebola survivor football club to play against a health worker team. With the community watching on, the survivor’s male and female teams send a powerful message that they have overcome this disease, and through football, relationships and community trust can be rebuilt.

How David Peralta went from indy league player to MLB outfielder
It is safe to assume that only one current big leaguer spent any time working at a McDonald’s within the past four years. David Peralta is now the everyday leftfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but back in the spring of 2011, he wasn’t much of anything as far as baseball went—just a failed minor league pitcher who hadn’t been a member of any organization for two full seasons. The Rio Grande Valley Whitewings of the North American League—an independent league that was founded in ’11 and would fold in ’12—had agreed to give Peralta a shot, but one problem was that he couldn’t afford to make the 1,400 mile drive from Stuart, Fla. to Harlingen, Texas, where the team was based. Peralta, who was 23 years old, slung fries to pay for fuel.

Breaking down barriers, building lasting partnerships
A core component to building a successful campaign is being able to measure and evaluate the impact, ensuring that the messages resonate locally and internationally. UAM conducted a survey pre- and post-World Cup and found that Tanzania was one of the most supportive and engaged countries: 64% of people who viewed the UAM PSAs or heard a UAM radio spot recalled the key messages, and 6.6. million citizens took action to ensure their families slept under a mosquito net. Sports communication platforms are incredibly powerful, reaching different countries and cultures, and highlighting social issues with a high degree of credibility due to the influence of these sports stars. Such campaigns are gaining more recognition for their ability to positively impact communities through behavior change, education and empowerment. Combining the power of sport, with the tenacity and commitment of multi-sector partners under a unified, neutral brand, leads to great progress in addressing global health challenges.

Sioux Falls Storm Donate $121,435 to Area Causes & Charities During 2015 Season
2015 will perhaps go down as the most memorable and rewarding season in Sioux Falls Storm history! On the field, the football club went unbeaten during the 14-game regular season schedule and picked up two more wins during the post-season to capture their fifth straight IFL United Bowl Championship in a row (9th overall in the last 11 seasons). Away from the field, the Storm organization came through like “Champions” for the community, donating $121,435.22 in cash contributions to area charitable groups and local families in need not to mention the numerous team appearance requests that were fulfilled at charitable events attended by the Storm Lightning Girls Cheer Team, Storm Promo Girls and Storm Players. The Indoor Football League awarded the Storm franchise with the 2015 “Community Team-of-the-Year Award” as a result of their efforts.

Arizona Cardinals hire NFL’s first-ever female coaching intern
Arians said: “She came for an OTA and I met her, and I thought she was the type of person that could handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door,” adding that Cardinals veterans said “they were all very cool with it.” “It’s not going to be a distraction in any way,” Arians said. To anyone saying, “Well, she’s only an intern …” Please note: These are tough jobs to land. Not every team brings in training camp coaches/interns, and there are no more than 500 full-time coaching jobs in the entire NFL. It’s exclusive company, and Welter has put herself there with her work and talent. Arians is one of the most bottom-line coaches in the NFL, but he’s also a progressive thinker. Those two qualities married in this historic move. It has been a banner year for women in men’s professional sports. Not only is the NFL bringing on its first full-time female official in Sarah Thomas this season, but an NBA team — the San Antonio Spurs — won a summer league championship with Becky Hammon, whom they hired last year, running the squad.

Jordan Spieth celebrates his 22nd birthday by wearing a chicken hat with his sister
The relationship between Jordan and Ellie Spieth is a touching one. According to Golf Digest, Ellie suffers from a neurological disorder and Spieth calls her the “best thing that ever happened to our family”: “Growing up with Ellie has helped Jordan and Steven both have that quality of not being self-centered,” Shawn says. “In sports, there are certainly some benefits to having everyone and everything focused on you. It can help get you there faster, and usually that’s what it takes to be the very best at anything. But it can also be harmful. Over a long career, I think balance and perspective, more times than not, will make you happier, whether you end up being the very best or not. If Jordan doesn’t ever become No. 1, he’ll know that’s only a piece of life, not all of life.”

Pedro Martinez’s poignant Hall of Fame speech perfectly sums up pitcher’s brilliance
This was Sunday for Pedro Martinez, in front of his family and everyone watching back in the Dominican Republic, showing the world what he grew into and how others could do the same, digging into the deepest reservoirs of himself to imbue others with the sense that even the poorest kid could find himself here, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his face on a plaque alongside the finest players in the sport, forever a part of the game. And though it didn’t take pomp or ceremony for that to be the case, Martinez’s rousing speech – a stream-of-consciousness homily delivered in English and Spanish, accompanied by kettle drums that impelled him to pump his fist and dance, punctuated by the sort of finish reserved for a closer, not a starter – served as a reminder that for all of his brilliance on the field, Pedro’s arm never could match his mind.

Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez poses with Juan Marichal after the Induction Ceremony at National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Southwest Turns Discarded Leather Seats into Soccer Balls
Now comes word from the airline that Southwest didn’t just toss out all of that discarded leather, but has created a recycling program where partners in Kenya, and the U.S. would turn all of that cowhide into soccer balls and shoes, and create jobs. The LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose program has Southwest donating the discarded leather in a sustainability drive to nonprofits and community groups such as SOS Children’s Villages Kenya and Life Beads Kenya, both in Kenya, and Team Lift Inc. and Looptworks in the U.S., among other groups. One of Southwest’s partners is Alive & Kicking, which plans on turning the discarded leather into soccer balls to support education programs geared to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and preventing Malaria. In another example, Team Lift intends to develop a leather works’ training course at a boarding school under construction in Malawi. Southwest views the leather-seat recycling initiative as part of a broader sustainability drive and a way to give it some street cred as a leader in corporate responsibility.

Southwest is taking no-longer needed leather seat covers and is donating some of them to Alive & Kicking, which will use the leather to create soccer balls to support education programs that use sports to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention. Southwest Airlines

Amazing scenes as eight-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Bailey finishes North Yorkshire triathalon unaided
“We have always tried to make sure that if there is something he wants to do, there is no such word as ‘can’t’. “He had made his mind up, we knew he would do it but I didn’t expect the reaction from everyone else. The difficult thing is that for us it is normal. We know how amazing he is but the response we have had from other people has been amazing. He inspires us all the time. “We think it is amazing but you don’t realise that other people thing that as well.” Yvonne Turner, one of the race organisers, said: “It was an amazing sight. He contacted the race director and he made the arrangements for him to take part. “His Dad helped him with the swim and he did the cycle section with the help of stabilisers. Race support people were with him throughout but when he got to the running section he kept trying to push his walker away.

Bailey Matthews 8 from Doncaster crosses the finish line to complete his first ever triathlon at Castle Howard on Saturday.

A bright future for Magic Bus’ Nikhitha & Sangita
“This trip showed me a new culture and way of life,” says Sangita, who lives with her six family members in a Mumbai slum, and was initially overwhelmed upon arriving in the United States. “I was outside my comfort zone, but it helped me grow as a person. I feel more confident and open-minded.” Nikhitha and Sangita’s involvement with the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy in July marks the fourth year of a partnership with Magic Bus. A handful of girls from India, along with girls from the U.S., aged 12 to 18, train in soccer or lacrosse, while learning leadership skills and gaining confidence on and off the field. Foudy says the results of the partnership are rewarding and impactful. “The courage these girls have to come to America for two weeks is incredible to watch,” says Foudy, who added it was an “eye-opener” to many U.S. participants when Magic Bus’ Nikhitha and Sangita shared the reality of life in India during a Q&A session.

Sangita (left) and Nikhitha (right) during a defense drill

Special Olympics

Democratic Republic of Congo participates in its first Special Olympics
They flew 25 hours to run 400 meters in less than a minute and a half. But just getting the four athletes from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Los Angeles for the delegation’s first-ever appearance at the Special Olympics World Games was a victory to be savored. Three of the four teenagers on the team had never been on an airplane before — the lone exception being 14-year-old Sara Mulekia, who once flew in a small regional plane from the capital of Kinshasa to Goma. The team itself was only formed about five months ago when former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo wanted to see his home country send a contingent to the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles beginning Saturday. Mutombo is global ambassador for the Special Olympics movement and is a member of its board of directors. But with the nation still battling poverty and having no infrastructure in place to train a team of athletes with intellectual disabilities, his foundation, Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, or DMF, stepped in — along with a grant from Google — and paid the way for the Democratic Republic of Congo to participate in 2015.

Democratic Republic of Congo Special Olympic athlete Mardochee Lufuluabo Mutombo, 15-years-old, runs in his socks during practice at Santa Maria High School in Santa Maria, CA, Thursday, July 23, 2016. This is the first time athletes from the DRC will compete in the Special Olympics World Games. That is largely due to civil war that engulfed the nation for seven years until a tenuous peace agreement was reached in 2013. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Special Olympics Takes On the World
When Special Olympics officials say their athletes are the world’s most vulnerable and neglected population, they mean it literally. Special Olympics has become a global public-health organization simply because its athletes kept showing up with serious, untreated medical problems. At the first health clinic at the World Games in 1995, 15 percent of athletes had eye or dental ailments so debilitating they were sent immediately to the emergency room. Almost 20 percent were in severe pain. At the 2015 Games, large tents on the University of Southern California campus are packed with athletes waiting for checkups with volunteer doctors and technicians. Along with medals, they will go home with prescription eyeglasses, hearing aids and shoes that fit. There is a paradox within the Special Olympics — the organization puts a heavy emphasis on inspiration and joy. It lays that part on thick; it is hard to think of a happier bunch of people. But its message resonates so powerfully because of the pain it is working to erase.

The team from South Korea in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Loretta Claiborne remains the heart of Special Olympics
Forty-five years after she first competed in a Special Olympics event, Claiborne, who will turn 62 on Aug. 14, is still nothing if not herself. It is part of her charm. It is also part of her power. One could argue no athlete’s voice is more valued by the organization, now or ever, than Claiborne’s. Claiborne has never seen herself as different, even if others did. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, she endured shame and shunning. Being black and female would have been enough to break most; Claiborne also had to deal with partial blindness and an intellectual disability. “Imagine you go to school and someone says, ‘Don’t walk next to me. You walk behind me.’ Imagine that,” Claiborne says. “Or, ‘Oh, you can’t sit here.’ It was like a disease in my time, just because I didn’t learn as fast as everybody else.”

Bill Clinton talks with Claiborne during a Clinton Global Initiative summit in 2012. She had introduced Clinton years earlier at a speaking engagement, and he returned the favor, introducing her at his summit. Courtesy of Special Olympics

At age 10, he won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. Now he’s one of the best players in the NFL.
There’s so much stigma that surrounds people with intellectual disabilities. Charles provides some much-needed representation. As he says in his speech, when he was growing up, other kids teased him because of his learning disability. Various studies have shown that children with learning disabilities are more likely than other students to be bullied at school. For an NFL star athlete to come forward and open up about his learning disability is huge. In giving this speech, Jamaal Charles is giving kids like him a role model; he gives them something to aim for. And maybe, he even gave would-be bullies something to think about before they pick on a classmate. All this because of one short, honest, heartwarming speech.

Fans buy gear for Haiti’s Special Olympics soccer team
Jenifher Albeno, a 29-year-old former college soccer captain from Long Beach, was among those watching from the stands. She, like everyone else, immediately noticed that the Haitians were not wearing uniforms, but white T-shirts and mismatched shorts. Still, that wasn’t what broke her heart. Where are their cleats? she thought. As one Haitian after another slipped and fell on the natural grass, Albeno was appalled. “I looked around and everyone either had tears in their eyes or they were looking away because they didn’t want to watch this,” she said. “Who cares about jerseys — as a soccer player, cleats are your most valuable possession.” Sixty yards away, on the other end of the bleachers, Mia, a 15-year-old high school sophomore who spent much of her youth in foster care, felt the same way. She broke down and started bawling. “I don’t cry much, but it was kind of like an instant reaction,” Mia said. “I couldn’t watch the game at all.” Simultaneously and unbeknownst to one another, both young women decided to take action. Albeno, her voice cracking as she held back tears, got up in front of the bleachers. “Does anybody else want to help Haiti get shoes?” she yelled.

The Haitian Special Olympics soccer team celebrates with fans after their match at UCLA on Tuesday. On Saturday, some fans had an impromptu collection to get them new equipment. Robert Beck for ESPN

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