Chicago White Sox Score Community Win

Jan 30, 2013, 10:29 PM

Representatives of the White Sox accept the 2012 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy Representatives of the White Sox accept the 2012 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy

The Chicago White Sox had a home turf celebration last week to mark their choice as one of three sports organizations to win the 2012 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy. The White Sox won for their Volunteer Corps, established in 2009, which brings together more than 5,000 fans, players, executives and other staff members to assist underserved Chicago neighborhoods through volunteer work. Since it was founded in 2009, the Corps has collectively put in more than 17,000 hours of service, including:

  • participating in American Red Cross blood drives that have helped save up to 1,200 lives;
  • repacking more than 150,000 pounds of food that has fed approximately 40,000 hungry families and individuals in Chicago;
  • and taking part in renovation and beautification projects for Chicago public schools and Boys & Girls Club locations. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the award in 2005 in memory of Steve Patterson, the UCLA basketball star, NBA player, and college coach who became known for his belief in and practice of using the power of sports philanthropy to make a difference. Patterson died of cancer in July 2004 at the age of 56. The award acknowledges teams and organizations in the sports world who are improving lives by leveraging the unique influence of sports.

According to the ball team, since the White Sox introduced their Volunteer Corps several other teams in Major League Baseball and the National Football League have created similar programs.

“The White Sox have always operated under the belief that it is a team’s responsibility to give back to their community” says Christine O'Reilly, Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities. “By utilizing the popularity of our current and former players, the Volunteer Corps has been able to enlist and engage the fan base in giving back to the community.”

O’Reilly says the Volunteer Corps has also “instilled a sense of pride and accomplishment that is contagious among our members, so much so that they have created their own projects in their own neighborhoods. To see the sustained success of our Volunteer Corps program, coupled with the extension of that work that our members have performed is something in which we take great pride.”

Other 2012 Patterson award winners include the Notah Begay III Foundation and The Women’s Sports Foundation. The Notah Begay III Foundation is named for the only Native American to play on the PGA tour and its mission is to address childhood obesity, physical fitness, nutritional, and other health needs in the Native American community. Evaluations by the Johns Hopkins Center on Native American Health in 2010 found that the work of the Foundation improves the physical fitness of many Native American children.

The Women’s Sports Foundation was founded in 1974 by tennis great Billie Jean King. The Foundation has awarded more than 1,250 grants and $1.4 million to help cover the expenses of talented amateur athletes as they advance to the highest competition levels in their athletic fields and the Foundation’s GoGirlGo! program provides girls in underserved communities with access to physical activity programs.

Previous winners of the Patterson Award have included:

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.