Princeton, N.J.—The U.S. Soccer Foundation and the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation have been named winners of the 2010 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy. The prize is awarded annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to the professional sports organization and individual sports philanthropy that most effectively demonstrates excellence, leadership, and a sustained commitment toward a mission that serves and improves the lives of others.
RWJF established the award in 2005 in memory of Steve Patterson, the UCLA basketball star, NBA player and college coach who became known, during and after his career, for his belief in and practice of the power of sports philanthropy to make a difference in people’s lives. Patterson died of cancer in July 2004 at the age of 56.
Previous winners of the sports organization category have been the Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership (2005), Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation (2006), Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation (2007), San Francisco Giants Community Fund (2008), and the Red Sox Foundation (2009). Individual athlete category winners have been The Moyer Foundation (2007), started by All-Star Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen; Steve Nash Foundation (2008), founded by the two-time NBA MVP Phoenix Suns guard; and Marvin Lewis Community Fund (2009), begun by the Cincinnati Bengals 2009 AP Coach of the Year.
Over the past 16 years, this year’s winners have collectively contributed close to $75 million to community programs aligned with their missions.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation is the Major Charitable Arm of Soccer in the United States. Established in 1994, the Foundation has distributed more than $51 million to groups across the country, supporting the development of 1,100 fields and reaching more than 4.9 million total players. The Foundation uses soccer as a tool for social change and, in doing so, focuses its efforts on supporting programs and field-building projects that improve the health and well-being of children.
Its Soccer for Success program provides free after-school soccer programming for at-risk, urban youth in grades K–8, offering a safe environment to exercise, work with mentors, and develop important life skills. The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Passback Program is a community service initiative that collects and distributes new and gently used soccer equipment, providing children and organizations across the globe with a chance to play and learn the game. To build upon these efforts, the U.S. Soccer Foundation holds a series of free soccer clinics across the U.S. and is partnering with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health to provide free family health screenings at each Tour stop. The Foundation also organizes an annual Urban Soccer Symposium – a national event designed to help develop new programs and strengthen existing organizations committed to using soccer as a tool for positive youth development in under-resourced communities. By supporting the development of safe playing fields and offering soccer programs that provide participants with mentoring, tutoring, and nutritional guidance, the U.S. Soccer Foundation is working to ensure that children develop not only as athletes, but as people.
More than $24 million dollars has been distributed since the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation was formed in 1997. Mutombo is a humanitarian who is committed to improving the quality of life for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo. After playing basketball at Georgetown University, he played 18 seasons in the NBA and was Defensive Player of the Year four times before retiring in 2009. Giving back to his homeland remains a huge priority for Mutombo. In 2007, the Foundation opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo hospital in the Congo. It is a state-of-the-art complex that has brought modern medicine to the undeveloped area where he grew up. The hospital has a staff of over 400 employees and provides care to close to 20,000 patients of all ages each year.
Mutombo's efforts as the NBA Global Ambassador, board member for UNICEF and the National Constitution Center and former spokesman for the international relief agency CARE have earned him numerous accolades. Mutombo has been the recipient of the President's Service Award, J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, and the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award; he has also been inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
"I am delighted to see the commitment the U.S. Soccer Foundation has shown to promoting physical activity and healthy living through the sport of soccer," said RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "And I’m equally impressed by the dramatic impact on health and health care that Dikembe Mutombo has had through his foundation’s work in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo. These are two wonderful examples of the power that philanthropy can have in people’s lives when practiced so strategically and consistently."
"We are truly honored to be recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted solely to the public's health, and to be in the company of so many other excellent organizations," said U.S. Soccer Foundation President and CEO Ed Foster-Simeon. "The attention this award brings to our work, particularly our focus on healthy living and combating childhood obesity, is invaluable."
"I remain loyal to providing opportunities to those less fortunate around the world," Dikembe Mutombo said. "To be recognized with an award in honor of another former NBA player is a highlight of my work in sports philanthropy."
The U.S. Soccer Foundation will be formally recognized with the Steve Patterson Award in Washington, D.C. at the annual Sneaker Ball on Tuesday, September 14. On October 19, Dikembe Mutombo will be presented with the award at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.
"Both of the 2010 award winners represent Steve’s vision of and devotion to improving the lives of others," said Carlette Patterson, Steve’s widow and president of Patterson Sports Ventures. "Our family is honored that two strategic organizations are continuing his legacy."
About the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy
The Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy is presented annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The award acknowledges sports organizations and individual sports philanthropies that have demonstrated excellence, leadership, and a sustained commitment toward a mission that serves and improves the lives of others.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful, and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.