Princeton, N.J.–The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) Foundation, and InnerCity Weightlifting have been selected as 2016 winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Sports Award. The winners will receive a $7,500 cash award and will be honored at a September 28, 2016 ceremony at the RWJF headquarters in Princeton, N.J.
The three recipients have been awarded this honor for their innovative and influential approaches to using sports to build a Culture of Health in their communities. Approaches include: developing community facilities that address education and community safety, expanding programs for all individuals on the autism spectrum to live an active lifestyle, and reducing youth violence by connecting proven-risk young people with career tracks in and beyond personal fitness.
“Congratulations to these three organizations and their creative approach to building a Culture of Health in America," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF President and CEO. "Their ongoing work demonstrates a much-needed passion for community and their belief in the power of individuals to make that community stronger.”
Below are the winners in each category:
A professional sports team community relations department or foundation:
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 Foundation funds the refurbishment of local athletic facilities and programs that support kids through sports and recreation. Its latest project, MLSE LaunchPad, is a 42,000 square foot youth facility that will be the first collaborative space in North America to leverage sport, education and research to promote social change.
“Our vision is to change lives through the spirit and the power of sports,” said Michael Bartlett, Executive Director, MLSE Foundation. “We’re extremely honored to receive recognition from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for our work and we’re excited to see where MLSE LaunchPad takes us—the opportunities are endless.”
An individual athlete or professional coach's foundation:
The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism helps families affected by autism live life to the fullest through access to care, an active lifestyle and adult independence. The Foundation was established 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 Foundation's "Autism on the Go" initiative honors Doug's late parents, who instilled a love of recreation and physical activity in their children. Autism on the Go provides funding for recreational and sports programs for all individuals on the autism spectrum.
"Having a child affected by autism, I see the positive effect an active lifestyle has on his health, both physically and emotionally, said Doug Flutie, former NFL professional player and co-founder of the Doug Flutie JR. Foundation for Autism. "I am proud of the work we are doing at the Flutie Foundation to create more recreational opportunities for individuals with autism and it is such an honor to be recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for our impact."
An organization that is an influential leader and model for others.
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 to earn our students trust, build relationships, and provide a positive community for them to belong. They 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.
"We are incredibly honored and excited to be a recipient of the RWJF Sports Award. Our work centers around using sport and careers in fitness to reduce violence by creating economic mobility and by facilitating connections," said Jon Feinman, Executive Director and Founder. "By bridging social capital we as individuals and as a society gain the value of perspective, knowledge, and understanding. It allows us to find meaningful solutions for some of our most challenging problems and to help heal communities as we replace fear with understanding, replace segregation and isolation with inclusion. This award means so much, as it helps to further this message, and to empower all people growing up in our nations cities, no matter what section they were born in. We are honored to be able to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and continue this journey together."