Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces 2016 Sports Award Finalists

    • May 25, 2016
A boy runs across obstacles outside in a field.

Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced 12 finalists for the 2016 Sports Award, an honor recognizing professional teams, individuals and organizations that strengthen and serve communities through sport. The winners will be announced on September 28, 2016 at the Foundation’s headquarters in Princeton, N.J.

The Sports Award recognizes innovative and influential approaches to using sports to make communities healthier places to live. Approaches may include: helping children maintain a healthy weight, creating safe play environments, encouraging positive behaviors, eliminating bullying, abuse and violence, and expanding opportunities for children living in poverty.

“The finalists for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sports Award are outstanding examples of organizations dedicated to a Culture of Health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of RWJF. “They have demonstrated a successful track record as a powerful voice for the importance of sports as a platform for community health and well-being.”

Below are the finalists in each category:

A professional sports team community relations department or foundation:

The Giants Community Fund collaborates with the San Francisco Giants to use baseball as a forum to encourage underserved youth and their families to live healthy, productive lives and provides assistance to targeted community initiatives in the areas of education, health and violence prevention.

MLSE Foundation believes all kids should have access to sport and the opportunity to develop lasting dreams on the playing field. With the support of MLSE’s teams (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Toronto Marlies) the Foundation’s latest project, MLSE LaunchPad, will be the first collaborative space in North America to leverage sport, education and research to promote social change.

The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is an organization dedicated to using baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic success, and improved health among underserved youth in Washington, D.C. Designed specifically to meet the needs of those from underserved neighborhoods, the Academy’s programming is rigorous, research-based, and diverse, giving youth opportunities to improve their physical fitness and academic performance, while gaining exposure to new experiences.

An individual athlete or professional coach's foundation:

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism (DFF) is a not-for-profit helping families affected by autism live life to the fullest. Through programs and partnerships, DFF helps people with autism get access to care; lead more active lifestyles; and grow toward adult independence. The Foundation was established in 1998 by NFL quarterback Doug Flutie and his wife Laurie, whose personal experience raising a son on the autism spectrum inspired their passion to help other families.  

The Moyer Foundation provides comfort, hope and healing to children and families affected by grief and addiction. Founded in 2000 by MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen, The Moyer Foundation supports thousands of children and families each year through its free signature programs and services. The Foundation supports Camp Erin®, the largest national bereavement program for children and teens grieving the death of someone significant in their lives, as well as Camp Mariposa®, an addiction prevention and mentoring program for youth impacted by the substance abuse of a family member. The Moyer Foundation Resource Center extends the Foundation’s continuum of care by providing robust online resources and personalized support for families experiencing grief or addiction.

Since 1996, the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation has provided opportunities to improve the physical and emotional health through gymnastics for children of all ages in underserved communities. Founder Wendy Hilliard, Hall of Fame rhythmic gymnast and the first African-American to represent the U.S. in international competition was inspired to begin the foundation after training her athlete, Aliane Baquerot, for the 1996 Olympics. Through a myriad of programs, the foundation addresses the issues of childhood obesity, diabetes and other health problems due to a lack of exercise among urban youth by providing a comprehensive youth development program that introduces them to healthier living.

An organization that is an influential leader and model for others:

For more than 23 years, A World Fit for Kids! has prepared children and young people to lead fit and fulfilling lives. The organization has brought more than $30 million into high poverty neighborhoods in inner city Los Angeles, used sports and innovative physical activity approaches to make life-changing opportunities available free of charge to over 300,000 low-income students and trained more than 10,000 classroom teachers and staff to deliver high quality programming both during the school and afterschool hours.

Figure Skating in Harlem is the first community-based fitness and education organization in the world that combines the power of education with the sport of figure skating to help underserved girls thrive and build strong leaders and healthy communities. For nearly two decades, they have engaged girls from some of New York City’s most under-resourced communities in their innovative program, which provides a safe, supportive, and structured girls-only after-school environment, academic support, educational enrichment, and access to regular exercise. Through ice skating and fitness, they help students improve their health while developing valuable life skills, such as perseverance, responsibility, teamwork, and leadership that propel them to success on and off the ice.

InnerCity Weightlifting reduces youth violence by connecting proven-risk young people with new networks and opportunities, including meaningful career tracks in and beyond personal fitness. InnerCity Weightlifting uses the gym to replace segregation and isolation with economic mobility and social inclusion, disrupting the system that leads to urban street violence. The gym is a hook for us to earn our students trust, build relationships, and provide a positive community for our students to belong.  Our students gain hope. They get to see the world—and be seen by it—in a very different way, paving a path for sustainable and systemic change. 

Based on the premise that “children who play together can learn to live together,” PeacePlayers International (PPI) uses basketball to unite, educate and inspire young people in divided communities around the world. With key institutional partners like USAID, adidas and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, PPI has developed a groundbreaking peacebuilding-and-leadership development curriculum that uses sport to bring children together and teach them proven tactics for improving their communities. Explains Ali, a PPI participant in Jerusalem, “Now I have friends who I never thought I would be friends with, people I can go out with outside of the court ... and it doesn’t matter what’s his religion, where he’s from, what’s his culture, what he thinks.”

STOKED creates fearless leaders through mentoring, opportunity, and action. STOKED’s core programs, rooted in action sports, provide the foundation for underserved youth to gain confidence, set and achieve goals, and lead healthy lives. Since 2005, STOKED has transformed the lives of over 4,000 at-risk youth through snowboarding, skateboarding, and surfing.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs are the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. The Foundation partners with local communities to create cost-effective, long-term initiatives that meet each community’s youth-development needs.


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sports Award

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sports Award honors individuals, organizations and teams that are making communities healthier through sport and are dedicated to creating a Culture of Health. Follow the award on Twitter (@RWJFSportsAward).


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Media Contacts

Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

Additional Media Contact: Alisha Greenberg

RWJF Sports Award (301) 657-9379

RWJF Sports Award

Inspiring Healthier Communities Through Sport

The RWJF Sports Award recognizes innovative and collaborative approaches to making communities healthier places to live.

Learn more about the award