"The Official Word"
A rotating blog featuring USATF Board members and officials
The Best Kept Secret in Our Sport
Friday, October 15, 2010
by Jack Wickens
Would it surprise you to hear that a small group of passionate USATF members collectively donate almost a half a million dollars every year to important causes within our sport?
And that thousands of children in some of America's most challenged metropolitan and rural areas have received uniforms, equipment, running shoes, and character-developing experiences thanks to this generosity?
Would it surprise you to also learn that some of our highest ranked athletes have little or no sponsorship support, but that very generous fans have stepped up to provide the critical financial assistance that enable them to pursue their athletic dreams?
Or that we have one of the strongest programs among all professional sports in America to help our elite athletes successfully transition to post-competitive careers after their athletic skills start to fade?
Well, be surprised!
These are just a few of the quiet accomplishments of the USA Track & Field Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization, which is celebrating the five year anniversary of its youth support and athlete development programs.
In the past 5 years, the USATF Foundation has awarded grants to 177 youth clubs and youth programs across America, with an emphasis on our nation's most vulnerable communities. These grants have enabled young athletes to have access to travel, equipment, coaching and programmatic initiatives that help grow them as athletes and individuals.
The Foundation also annually gives $20,000 to help fund USATF's Win With Integrity school programs, aimed at educating youth, parents, educators, and coaches about the positive results that come from leading a physically active, drug-free lifestyle.
Through our Elite Athlete Grants program, the Foundation has awarded 145 grants to high-ranking but under-funded track & field athletes with significant financial needs. These athletes often compete in our sport's least "glamorous," but most-deserving events.
Professional athletes in all sports notoriously struggle with the transition to post-competitive careers. The Foundation recently launched a program that delivers first class career-development mentoring and job search assistance to current and retired athletes. More than 35 major corporations and 75 professional executives have volunteered to be part of this program, which to date has assisted more than 70 athletes.
What is the USATF Foundation, exactly?
The USATF Foundation was founded in 2002 as a means to attract and guide funds to new and innovative track and field programs, with an emphasis on providing opportunities for youth athletes, emerging athletes, distance training centers and anti-doping education. The Foundation depends upon donations from its Board of Directors and from generous fans of track and field.
Chaired by NASDAQ CEO Bob Greifeld, the Foundation's Board is composed of 25 individuals who share a love of track and field and a desire to provide substantial financial support to under-funded programs and individuals. Board members range from Olympic gold medalists to Fortune 500 executives and entertainment industry luminaries. (http://usatffoundation.org/about/directors.asp)
The generosity and volunteer spirit that fuels the Foundation's work is typical of the passionate commitment we see in every pocket of our sport.
When I was recruited onto the USA Track & Field's board in early 2009, I happily accepted for a number of reasons. Ultimately, for me it's all about this sport's vast potential to inspire people in extraordinarily positive ways. This sport has inspired me since I was fourteen years old and first laced up a pair of running flats and I continue to feel energized by the extraordinary things that happen on and off the track every day.
For more information on the USATF Foundation, visit www.usatffoundation.org.
Jack Wickens has served on the board of directors of the USA Track & Field Foundation since 2005. He became a member of USATF's Board of Directors in 2009 and serves as board Vice Chair and as chair of the business development committee.
Share your comments about "The Official Word" by completing the form below. USATF reserves the right to edit or delete submissions for profanity, inappropriate content or any other reason. Anonymous postings or those without a valid email address will be removed. The content of the submissions does not necessarily reflect the opinions of USA Track & Field, its athletes, employees, officers, sponsors or volunteers. USATF does not intend for the content of the submissions to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. Neither USATF nor any of its athletes, employees, officers, sponsors or volunteers is responsible for, and neither will be liable for, either the submissions’ content, implication or intent, or any loss, damage or injury resulting therefrom.