2018 RWJF Sports Award Winners Announced: Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, The Sanneh Foundation, and Soccer Without Borders

    • November 12, 2018
2018 RWJF Sports Award Winners

Princeton, N.J.—The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, The Sanneh Foundation and Soccer Without Borders have been selected as 2018 winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Sports Award. The winners will receive a $10,000 cash award and will be honored at a November 15, 2018 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 improve the Culture of Health in their communities. Approaches include: using a baseball platform to address community food access; advancing diversity, equity, and community well-being for Minnesota's youth; and building a more inclusive world through soccer.   

Past winners include the Chicago Fire Foundation, Doc Wayne, Doug Flutie Foundation for Autism, InnerCity Weightlifting, MLSE Foundation, PeacePlayers International, San Francisco Giants Community Fund, The Moyer Foundation and Tony Hawk Foundation.

“Congratulations to these organizations and the passionate, dedicated people who lead them,” said Richard Besser, RWJF president and CEO. “We are inspired by their choice to use healthy play as a starting point to greater social and emotional well-being in their communities. They forge leaders, build greater understanding among strangers and endeavor to heal the personal wounds of discrimination, poverty and inequity.”

Below are the winners in each category.

A professional sports team community relations department or foundation:

The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy uses the sports of baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic achievement, and improved health among youth from underserved communities in Washington, D.C. The Academy primarily serves 150 youth ages 8–13 during the out-of-school-time programs (summer and after-school). All of these Scholar-Athletes reside in Ward 7 and 8, Washington, D.C., communities located east of the Anacostia River. Programming is rigorous, research-based, and diverse, giving youth opportunities to improve their physical fitness and academic performance, while gaining exposure to new experiences throughout the year—all free of cost to the child and their family. Beyond this core program, the Academy provides 800 young men and women with additional baseball and softball opportunities through YBA PLAY, supports 100 families in building a Culture of Health through nutrition education, cooking workshops, and community events.

“The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is honored to be recognized alongside so many dynamic organizations dedicated to promoting healthful communities. Our holistic approach—combining sports, nutrition, academics, and meaningful civic engagement—has for the past six years supported underserved children and their families in Washington, D.C. We’re thrilled to continue working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sport Award winners and affiliated organizations in the pursuit of innovative solutions and approaches to enhancing the overall wellness of those we serve,” said Dr. Jennifer Cartland, deputy director of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

An individual athlete or professional coach's foundation:

After representing the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Tony Sanneh established The Sanneh Foundation (TSF) in 2003 to leverage the universal appeal of sports to provide high-quality and holistic youth development opportunities for Minnesota’s increasingly diverse youth population to become positive and productive adults. TSF’s mission is to empower youth by promoting and supporting academic success, improve lives by strengthening physical health and social and emotional development, and unite communities by advancing diversity, equity and community well-being. Aligning this mission with culturally relevant programming, TSF achieves its goals by connecting positive adults with students as tutors, mentors and classroom assistants, delivering free community camps that provide positive exposure to sports, and access to community centers and recreational facilities that foster community cohesion and active lifestyles.

“For The Sanneh Foundation to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sports Award is among the highest honors any organization in the field of health equity and community well-being can receive.  It validates the hard work and dedication of our team, and shows what we can accomplish when we work with partners to address the social factors that affect the health of our communities,” said Tony Sanneh, founder/CEO, The Sanneh Foundation.

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

Soccer Without Borders (SWB) runs year-round youth development programs in under-served areas in the USA and abroad, using soccer as a vehicle for positive change. Through soccer, education, and community activities, SWB programs provide youth with a toolkit to overcome obstacles to growth, inclusion and personal success. Operating in multiple locations throughout the United States and internationally, SWB provides year-round direct services to more than 2,000 refugee and immigrant youth and marginalized girls ages 5–20 from 60 different countries of origin, speaking 29 languages.

"Soccer Without Borders is honored to be selected as a Sports Award winner, and hope that together we can advance the vision that welcoming and inclusive communities are healthier communities,” said Mary Connor, co-founder and executive director.  “We believe that sport has a meaningful role to play in realizing that vision, and are grateful to all of our participants, coaches, families, staff, partners, volunteers, and supporters who enable Soccer Without Borders to work toward it every day.”

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at twitter.com/rwjf or on Facebook at facebook.com/RobertWoodJohnsonFoundation.

Media Contacts

Jordan Reese

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-6322

Additional Media Contact: Alisha Greenberg

RWJF Sports Award (301) 657-9379

Inspiring Healthier Communities Through Sport

The RWJF Sports Award celebrates, supports, and raises awareness of the power of sports to connect us and make us healthier, no matter our race, gender, abilities, or economic background.

Learn more about the award