Serena Williams via The Dish YouTube, screenshot

Many athletes have taken their success beyond the game, making lasting impacts on communities worldwide. Sure, their athletic talent gets them the fame, but it’s their heart and commitment to giving back that truly defines their legacy. Let’s dive into the stories of five prominent athletes who’ve made remarkable charitable contributions.

Photo by Joel Muniz, free to use under the Unsplash license.

J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt, known worldwide as the star defensive end for the Houston Texans, has made an big mark not just with his football exploits, but also with his philanthropic endeavors. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in 2017, Watt took a step beyond the gridiron, initiating a fundraiser aimed at garnering $200,000 for relief actions.

The outpouring of support was overwhelming, resulting in a staggering sum of over $41.6 million, setting a record as the largest crowdsourced fundraiser to date. Beyond this monumental achievement, the J.J. Watt Foundation has been at the forefront of the city’s recovery, playing pivotal roles in home reconstructions, rejuvenating childcare facilities, and ensuring food is available to those in need in the impacted regions.

Serena Williams

Global tennis superstar Serena Williams, celebrated for her unmatched prowess on the court, has an equally commendable dedication to philanthropy off the court. Her compassionate spirit shines through in her numerous charitable endeavors.

In a notable act in 2016, Serena collaborated with the nonprofit Helping Hands Jamaica to establish the Salt Marsh Primary School in Jamaica, a testament to her commitment to education. Alongside this, Serena has lent her support to a myriad of charitable organizations, notably UNICEF, and has been championing causes as a Goodwill Ambassador since 2011. Her powerful serve on the tennis court is matched by her powerful drive to make a difference in the world.

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Eli Manning

Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, celebrated for his football achievements, has also showcased an admirable commitment to philanthropy off the field. In a significant act of charity in 2007, Eli generously pledged $2.5 million to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children located in Jackson, Mississippi.

This substantial donation played a pivotal role for the institution, now known as Children’s of Mississippi. Thanks to Eli’s continued support, the hospital has been able to offer critical care to countless children, ensuring that they receive the medical attention they need irrespective of their family’s financial capacity. Manning’s legacy, thus, extends beyond touchdowns, marking a lasting impact on children’s health and well-being.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, famed for his exceptional skills on the pitch, has also consistently demonstrated a profound sense of philanthropy off of it. In 2015, he magnanimously contributed €7 million to support the relief efforts in the wake of the devastating Nepal earthquake.

But his generosity doesn’t stop there; Ronaldo has also financed cancer treatments for numerous children, showcasing a compassionate side that matches his athletic prowess. Notably, he is a regular blood donor and actively encourages others to join him in this life-saving act, further solidifying his reputation as a sports icon with a big heart.

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Ronda Rousey

MMA sensation Ronda Rousey, beyond her fierce reputation in the octagon, is a testament to keeping promises and giving back. Early in her life, she made a heartfelt vow to purchase a home for her mother if she ever made it big—and after tasting unparalleled success in the UFC, she made good on that word. But Rousey’s generosity doesn’t end at familial commitments.

She’s channeled her earnings into critical mental health initiatives, generously supporting organizations like Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services that offer invaluable care to those grappling with mental health challenges.

This isn’t just charity for Rousey; it’s personal. The tragic loss of her father to suicide fuels her dedication to these causes, showcasing a profound depth to the fighter that many might not see at first glance.

Big Platforms, Big Impacts

While these athletes excel in their respective sports, their impacts off the field, court, and ring are just as noteworthy. As fans, while we cheer for their victories and records, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate their off-field heroics too. After all, the real game-changer is making a difference in people’s lives.

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