Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #193

Dec. 13 – Dec. 19, 2015

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

  1. Hockey Team Gets Record 28K Toys Tossed At Them For Needy Kids (video)
  2. Sacramento Republic backs a new soccer team … for homeless youth
  3. ESPNW Super IMPACT25 (w/ Marvel)
  4. The New York Cosmos and Street Soccer USA join forces with to change young lives in New York
  5. Rising NBA rookie Karl-Anthony Towns Is Revealing His Secrets, One Game at a Time
  6. LeBron James acknowledges and then gives game shoes to Special Olympics star
  7. Abby Wambach says goodbye with powerful message to next generation of players
  8. Clayton Kershaw makes onlookers cry in Cuba
  9. Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year
  10. Road Warriors: Behind the Scenes of Golden State’s Trip into NBA History

We are entering a time of the year known for year-end lists. There will be a number of “Best (and Worst) Plays; “Funniest Moments,” and “Interesting People,” amongst others. One of the stories we feature this week highlights 25 amazing women, athletes and non-athletes who are, in a variety of ways, changing the world of sports for the better. What makes this list even greater is the imagery that comes with it. Teaming up with the super-talented folks at Marvel, ESPNW rightly showcases these women as the super persons they are.

One of the women on the list is the subject of another story in our group of ten, and that is tennis superstar Serena Williams. Serena is a transcendent athlete and the story from Sports Illustrated is a fantastic look at this dynamic athlete who shows no signs of slowing down. One female athlete who has decided to slow down is soccer star Abby Wambach. Abby is a member of ESPNW’s list of 25 via her presence on the World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s National Soccer team. Abby’s retirement this week from soccer will by no means extinguish her voice as an advocate for issues dear to her, especially those related to her fellow female athletes. Along with Serena and the other women on the list, their impact will be continue to be significant.

Other stories featured this week include: an amazing toy-collection effort at a minor league hockey game (w/ video); the Sacramento Republic’s support of people in its community trying to turn their life around; the New York Cosmos and Street Soccer USA’s effort to create a fun space for some up and coming soccer players on Long Island; the emergence of future NBA superstar Karl-Anthony Towns; NBA MVP LeBron James and a fellow MVP from the Special Olympics; MLB star Clayton Kershaw and his trip with other players to Cuba; and a compelling behind-the-scenes look at the NBA’s reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors.

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Hockey Team Gets Record 28K Toys Tossed At Them For Needy Kids (video)
The artificial fur was flying at a world record pace when the Calgary Hitmen scored their first goal of the night Sunday. The goal was a signal for Canadian hockey fans to toss stuffed animals onto the ice– and the “avalanche of fur” went on for nearly two minutes, setting a new world record in the sporting world’s most unique holiday tradition. The junior hockey players, ages 16 and 21, may be considered amateur athletes, but they were pros at rounding up toys for underprivileged kids after being showered by 28,815 stuffed animals on the rink. The toy drive is set up for a Christmastime game each year, and this year, the charity was off the boards. There were 9,500 more toys than people at the game. Players dove into the toy piles and posed for photos on the fluffy donations for charity. The team donates what they collect every year to 50 Canadian charities which distribute toys to kids in need. The Hitmen have donated more than 300,000 stuffed toys in the past 21 years. “It’s a great opportunity as players to give back,” Hitmen player Jacob Bean said in an article on the team’s website. “There are a lot bigger problems in the world, but if we can help in whatever way we can then we’re more than happy to do that.”
(Video,  Caption: Jordy Stallard’s second period marker triggered a record-setting avalanche of 28,815 stuffed teddy bears at the 21st annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss!

Sacramento Republic backs a new soccer team … for homeless youth
Sacramento Republic FC President Warren Smith has announced the soccer team is working with a new group to bring the sport to the region’s neediest population: the homeless. Republic is helping finance Street Soccer USA Sacramento, a new group that aims to teach homeless adults and at-risk youth vital life skills through the game of soccer. The charity organization is working with Loaves and Fishes and similar groups to ensure that their players also are getting all the social service help that is available to them. Smith declined to say how much money the team would give the venture, but he said it would be a significant slice of Republic’s philanthropic endeavors. “The group does incredible work, around the country and world, using the beautiful game to hit social weaknesses in communities,” Smith said. “It’s a great way to use the sport to help the community. I couldn’t be happier to partner with them.”

ESPNW Super IMPACT25 (w/ Marvel)
What do you get when espnW IMPACT25 honorees Carli Lloyd, Lydia Ko, Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey and Misty Copeland join forces with Ms. Marvel, The Black Widow, Thor, She-Hulk and Medusa? A #SUPERSQUAD, that’s what. And below, see more original renderings as Marvel artists turned our illustrious list of 2015 Influencers and Athletes into super versions of themselves. Athletes and influencers include: Simone Biles, Loretta Lynch, Chloe Kim, Erica Enders, Lauren Chamberlain, Elena Delle Donne, Lauren Greenfield, Becky Hammon, Katie Ledecky, Jessica Mendoza, Olivia Quigley, Breanna Stewart, Jen Welter, Simone Manuel, and others.

The New York Cosmos and Street Soccer USA join forces with to change young lives in New York
Young people within the Elmont Union Free School District will not only benefit from a new playing field but they will also have the opportunity to take part in a number of free soccer programs run by non-profit organization, Street Soccer USA. The mini soccer playing field is a grassroots effort to make a positive difference to the Elmont community and supporters of the proposal have the opportunity to donate funds.  “Here at the New York Cosmos we understand the power of sport and the impact it can have in young people’s lives,” commented New York Cosmos Chief Operating Officer, Erik Stover. “This is a unique project and one we are proud to be part of through we hope to raise vital funds to transform this playing field and Street Soccer USA will ensure that the vision for this site is sustainable through their programs,” he added. Elmont Union Free School District is in support of this project, which will provide after school programs and help with the district’s childhood obesity initiative…Together the NASL Championship winning team, charity and crowdfunding platform has raised over $30,000 and are looking to hit a target of $98,700. Click here to donate.

Underutilized Elmont Field To Receive Makeover

Rising NBA rookie Karl-Anthony Towns Is Revealing His Secrets, One Game at a Time
“I always want to be working on the tricks in my bag,” Towns said. “I just wait to develop the trick fully and make sure it’s the best trick I can possibly use.” In other words, his 3-point shot is one such trick. He promised more to come. Towns has always been on an advanced curriculum. At 16, he joined the Dominican Republic’s national team for a summer of exhibitions. Towns said he tried to learn as much as possible from teammates like Al Horford — lessons about the importance of repetition, about the complexities of defending the pick-and-roll. “It put me light-years ahead in terms of my knowledge for the game,” Towns said. “Not so much physically — physically, I couldn’t do anything at that age.” His education has continued with the Timberwolves, who commissioned Kevin Garnett to act as Towns’s mentor. It was viewed as a gamble — Garnett can be abrasive — but he has embraced Towns and the team’s young core. After a recent practice, Garnett remained behind to counsel Andrew Wiggins on post moves for at least a half-hour. Towns has attached himself to Garnett as much as possible. “Talking, watching, learning,” Towns said. “It’s an all-day thing.” Towns, right, in a win against the Lakers last week. Credit Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

LeBron James acknowledges and then gives game shoes to Special Olympics star
LeBron James and the Cavaliers visited the Celtics on Tuesday night and the superstar left quite an impact on the crowd, first with a thunderous breakaway slam dunk, and then with a kind gesture. During the game, James stopped by courtside to chat with Aaron Miller, a 16-year-old who overcame brain damage and multiple surgeries to not only walk again, but also play on his high school’s golf and basketball teams, according to NESN. James also came back around after the game and dropped off a pair of shoes for Miller, who recently won the Greater Boston Basketball League’s tournament MVP award. The two-time NBA champ saw Miller’s story on the Jumbotron during a timeout and decided to pay the teen a visit, and was happy to notice he was wearing a special edition of LeBron’s shoes designed for players with disabilities. “I also saw he had my shoes on, I designed those shoes for kids with conditions where they’re not able to tie their own shoestrings. He had a pair on. Those shoes he had on are made for kids who can’t tie their own shoes, it’s just one strap and they’re able to get them on with one hand or whatever the case may be. When I saw that and I saw his story, I just felt like I was a part of him. I just showed him my respect and gave him my shoes.”
(Video,  Caption: LeBron James provided a huge surprise for a young fan in Boston who was being recognized for a recent MVP award at a Special Olympics event.

Abby Wambach says goodbye with powerful message to next generation of players
The time has finally come for Abby Wambach. The international scoring leader and legend officially announced her retirement back in October and will play the last game of her career Wednesday night in New Orleans as the U.S. women’s national team takes on China to close out an incredible 2015. It will be an emotional evening for Wambach, her family, and her USWNT teammates, but as she steps onto the field one more time, she has a message to the next generation of players (in the video above): “Forget Me.” To Wambach, this means the game can and will move on and grow without her. “So, forget me,” Wambach says. “Because the day I am forgotten is the day we will succeed.” Wambach leaves soccer after 14 years with the national team where she made 254 international appearances and scored 184 goals — which is more than any other male or female. She won two Olympic gold medals (2004 and 2012), as well as the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
(Video,  Caption: Abby Wambach is one of the greatest soccer players to ever step on the field. Pushing the sport forward, while championing the fight for equal rights, her impact extends far beyond the field. Yet, as she faces retirement, her focus is solely on the next generation. Urging them to achieve things so great that she is all, but forgotten.

Clayton Kershaw makes onlookers cry in Cuba
MLB’s three-day trip to Cuba is its first since diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the island country were rekindled last year, and it has had a profound impact on the Cuban people and MLB representatives on the trip alike. “It kind of put it in perspective, how important baseball is here,” Kershaw said. “Just the passion that the Cuban people have for baseball, and then maybe the significance of this trip, too.” Kershaw spent Wednesday teaching 150 children how to pitch, instructing them to hold their leg at the top of their wind-up and pause for a few seconds before driving towards the plate just like he does in his iconic delivery…”It’s amazing to see where baseball can take you,” Kershaw said. “An opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often. Just to be a part of this trip and to kind of be the outsider, just to see how the different players interact and just how important it is for them to come back, it puts a lot of it in perspective. Baseball is just a game, obviously, but it means a lot to a lot of different people.”

Clayton Kershaw talks to a youth baseball player during a three-hour skills camp in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo

Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year
It wasn’t until 2006, when Williams made her first trip to Africa and toured Ghana’s slave dungeons, that inequality became a more visceral concern. She revisited the continent often and financed the construction of two rural high schools in Kenya, a country where many girls drop out and marry by 14. Williams insisted that enrollment be at least 40% female. For now her schools serve 442 students, 54% of them girls. This year’s senior class at the secondary school in the village of Wee included two boys who qualified for college—a level that no student in the region had ever attained. In the U.S., meanwhile, Williams has financed four years of college education for six youths and is paying the bills for a dozen more. Her return to Indian Wells presented a new opportunity. Williams knew that media coverage would be enormous, and Michael Brown’s age resonated with her. “I had been a teenager at Indian Wells, and that was hard for me to go through—especially when I was thinking, It’s 2001, I [shouldn’t] have to deal with that stuff as much anymore,” she says. “Now fast-forward to 2015, and we still have young black men being killed. Someone needed to do something. And I thought then that there was something greater than me and tennis. I needed to go back there and speak out against racism.” After viewing a TED talk by Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative—a Montgomery, Alabama-based legal organization that provides representation for prisoners, mostly black and poor, who might have been wrongly convicted—Williams decided to pair her return to Indian Wells with an appeal for support for EJI’s work.

Road Warriors: Behind the Scenes of Golden State’s Trip into NBA History
He worked so hard on his conditioning over the summer, and it’s paying off…but he’s drained. Even though he agrees with Green about the silver lining and is proud his teammates aren’t too down about the defeat, Curry did want this. After victory No. 28 in a row in Boston, Curry had quietly brought up “the 33 number” for the Lakers’ all-time record streak and said: “How many times are you going to get the opportunity to do this?” But he does all his interviews, offering nothing more than the usual slight head tilt when he doesn’t quite agree with a reporter’s point. It’s all over anyway—the streak, the trip, the demands of his public. Fly back to the Bay; a full day off at home with the family is coming, plus five consecutive home games. Let’s go. Wait. There’s still that one thing he agreed to do. A woman who is a big fan of his. Her cancer fight. The leg they had to amputate. And, of course, Curry makes the time, hugs her warmly and poses for all the inevitable extra photos. He knows what matters: the people around him.

Charlotte offered a warm welcome to Curry wherever he went during his visit home. Nell Redmond/Associated Press

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