03 Jun

Life Lessons and Sports

When you think about sports, there’s no denying the valuable life lessons that kids can learn. You don’t need to be a great athlete to gain the benefits.

In my own life, sports gave me confidence, drive and the physical ability to work and achieve. I learned dedication, persistence, will and how to overcome obstacles. I learned camaraderie, hope and how to cope with failure as well as relishing in the victory of success.

Several months ago, Tracy Evans, 3 time Olympic aerial skier contacted me to help her to market her non-profit, Kids Play Intl. I created brochures, business cards, did a PR campaign, created a short video and worked on branding with her. When she spoke of her upcoming trip to Rwanda where she would work to teach children in orphanages about sports, I never imagined it would be somewhere I would go or something I would do…but guess what?… My flight leaves on Monday!

Over the next 2 weeks, please follow my journey (at the Raising Boys World blog) as I build a sports room, work with the children and even go on a gorilla trek in Rwanda. There will be 8 of us traveling, including 4 Olympic athletes; Tracy the aerial skier, a 2006 bronze medal winning women’s ice hockey player, a luger and a silver medalist in 400 meter track & field from Senegal (who is now the President of the African Olympics Association) and a film team that’s working on a documentary. I’ll introduce you to everyone  as my adventure takes shape.

So here’s the very coincidental thing that happened in this experience, a few days ago at an event I attended, I met a young lady who came to the US from Rwanda with her mother when she was 4 (she’s now 15). I learned that there’s a connection between where I live and Rwanda as many people made Buffalo, NY their home after escaping the 1994 genocide. Tomorrow morning, my family is coming with me to this girl’s house to have breakfast and talk about my trip. She still has family near Kivu in Rwanda – which also happens to be near where I will be. So, I will likely meet her family and bring photos and necessary items for them from their family.

As I’ve prepared for this journey, I’ve shared with my boys where I’m going, with whom and why. They’re excited to learn and I think their awareness of the world around them is critical is developing their own compassion and future philanthropic outreach. I’ve heard them talking to their friends about my trip and I can hear the pride in their voices in knowing that I’ll be working with kids their age. I think it sends a message of strength to  them that I’m doing something on my own that’s going to make a difference to someone – even though they’re far away. The only thing they’ve been upset about is that I will be away for my 40th and my son’s 8th birthdays.

As most parents spend countless hours in ice arenas, on soccer fields and in gymnastics centers, we know first-hand the time and dedication required to participate in sports. In our country, we’re fortunate that even the poorest children in our community have access. Elsewhere in the world this access is simply not available…until now that Olympians like Tracy have made it their focus to bring sports to kids everywhere so that all children use the confidence they gain to help make their dreams turn reality.

Click here if you would like to donate to Kids Play Intl.

Tracy and Jerry Rice: chosen by the United Athletes Foundation as this year's Male and Female Athlete Philanthropist of the Year