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5 Athletes Who Have Given Back In Special Ways 

Published on October 24, 2022

Figure skater Yuna Kim on the ice

These athletes are giving back in a meaningful way. From donating tons of food to fighting for clean drinking water, these five role models are doing their part to make the world a better place.   

1. Neymar Jr.  

Soccer player Neymar Jr. in a press conference.
Neymar Jr. new Handicap International Goodwill Ambassador” by UN Geneva is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Beloved soccer player Neymar has dedicated a good portion of his time to helping Brazilian communities in need. Born and raised in Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo, Brazil, Neymar never forgot his hometown. In 2014, he partnered with Waves for Water, which works to bring clean water to vulnerable communities in the country.  

“It deeply saddens me that so many people from my home country of Brazil have limited access to clean water, a gift so many of us take for granted,” he said in a statement.  

That same year, he started his own charity called Instituto Neymar Jr. The vision behind the charity is to nurture youth through sports and education. Through the non-profit, Neymar has assisted over 10,000 children and their families. In April 2020, the soccer sensation donated $950,000 to UNICEF and Paris-Saint-Germain to assist in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil.  

2. Heather O’Reilly 

FIFA World Cup champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather O’ Riley is involved with various philanthropic organizations. The athlete takes part in Common Goal, a charity uniting the football community and tackling social challenges. Reilley donates a portion of her salary to their various projects supporting youth employability, education, peace building and climate action.  

In 2013, the soccer star founded the Heather O’Reilly Soccer Academy focused on building qualities such as hard work, competitiveness, leadership and positive attitudes in youth.  

3. Yuna Kim  

South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim.
Figure Skating Queen YUNA KIM” by { QUEEN YUNA } is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Since becoming a professional figure skater, the South Korean athlete has made it a top priority to help those in need. On July 12th, 2010, UNICEF appointed the international skating star as its newest Goodwill Ambassador. She has donated over $83,000 to Haiti earthquake victims through the organization.  

“I want to use my own positive experience to help the millions of vulnerable children around the world. Even in the hardest circumstances, dreams can give you the courage to live, and I hope I can share that message with children in need,” she said in a statement to UNICEF.  

That wasn’t the first time Kim donated a significant amount of money to help others. She donated $27,000 from the World Figure Skating Championships to children affected by the Japanese earthquake in 2011.  

4. Mo’ne Davis 

Mo’ne Davis was the first girl to earn a win and to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history.  

In 2015, Davis launched a sneaker line alongside M4D3 (Make A Difference Everyday) to help underprivileged girls. The shoe collection raises funds for education, empowerment and clean water through the ‘Because I Am A Girl Initiative.’  

“I never thought at the age of 13 I’d be a role model, but having young girls look up to me is pretty cool,” she said in an Instagram caption. 

5. Serge Ibaka  

NBA star Serge Ibaka grew up in the Republic of Congo. Wanting to give back, he created the Serge Ibaka Foundation (SIF) to improve living conditions for children in the country and other parts of the world.  

The foundation has been a big source of support for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization donated $100,000 to help Toronto’s homeless population in 2020. That same year, SIF started a relief program that sourced 80 tons of food products and distributed it to 8,000 families in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo.  

“The impact that the coronavirus has had in my country is big,” Serge Ibaka commented on the foundation’s website. “Although infections might have not been as high as expected, the economic consequences have put the population in a difficult position, and the Foundation exists to take action to help them. We decided to focus on food insecurity as it’s the most basic first need and many people are having difficulties to feed their families.”   

Lead image credit: “Figure Skating Queen YUNA KIM” by { QUEEN YUNA } is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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The Author
Conchita is a Toronto-based writer with a background in journalism. She has written for outlets such as CTV, Avenue Magazine and Maclean’s. Conchita enjoys pop culture, travelling and jogging alongside Toronto’s waterfront.