INDIANAPOLIS - Lopez Lomong has been named the recipient of the Visa Humanitarian of the Year Award, USA Track & Field announced Thursday. Lomong will be honored on Saturday, December 1, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Daytona Beach. Fla. The event is held in conjunction with USA Track & Field’s 2012 Annual Meeting.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Lomong said. “It will help a lot of people to know what we are doing off of the track and the reasons why we run. I am so happy to be named the Visa Humanitarian of the Year, and a lot of kids are going to benefit from this.”
While building a career as one of the nation’s top middle distance runners, Lomong established the Lopez Lomong Foundation in the fall of 2011 in an effort to give back to his native country of the South Sudan. The foundation teamed up with World Vision to launch the 4 South Sudan campaign to provide access to clean water, offer families basic health care, give children access to education and to provide life saving nutrition.
In less than a year, Lomong raised more than $150,000 for clean water and is hoping to break the $250,000 mark by January.
Lomong has been forced to overcome great adversity. When he was only six-years-old he was taken from his family and forced to join the Peoples Liberation Army as a child soldier during the Sudanese conflicts. Lomong escaped the rebel camp and ran for three days and nights until he reached a refugee camp in Kenya.
After living in the refugee camp for 10 years, Lomong was able to move to the United States as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and begin a new life with his adopted family in Tully, N.Y., where he joined his high school’s cross country team.
Since then Lomong won two NCAA championships at Northern Arizona and has competed for Team USA in two Olympic Games. Lomong gained fans across the country as he was selected to serve as the U.S. flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing.
“Through my whole journey I have said that you can’t stop, but you have to keep going and give back however you can,” said Lomong. “There are still kids going through the same things I went through, or even worse. I just want to be there to give them a hand. I want to be there to tell them that this isn’t the end, and there is hope.”
In addition to raising funds for the 4 South Sudan campaign, Lomong has worked to raise awareness among elite athletes about the needs of South Sudan. 2012 Olympians Sanya Richards-Ross, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and U.S. 50 km record holder Josh Cox have all joined in the fundraising efforts.
Lomong is currently planning a trip to return to South Sudan to work directly with the children that have benefited from his foundation. He hopes to bring other elite athletes with him on his trip to share his passion and to introduce them to the people of his native country.
“I want to bring athletes with me to show them the power that an Olympian has to inspire people and motivate them,” Lomong said.
“Lopez Lomong truly embodies what the Visa Humanitarian of the Year Award is all about and we couldn’t imagine a more deserving recipient of this honor,” said Ricardo Fort, Head of Global Sponsorship at Visa Inc. “Faced with overwhelming suffering even at a young age, he rose above the adversity and now uses his success to help others overcome their challenges. Lopez is a role model for athletes and an inspiration for us all.”
The Visa Humanitarian of the Year Award was established in 1997 to recognize outstanding achievements by athletes in social activities and personal commitments outside the competition arena. A list of past winners may be viewed here.
For more information on Lomong’s Foundation, visit www.LopezLomong.com