- Senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine
- Written for ESPN.com since 2000
- Three-time Sports Emmy Award winner
More than 115 athletes, coaches and sports personalities from 13 countries have joined to raise money for a COVID-19 response fund aimed at providing assistance for individuals fighting the global pandemic.
Simone Biles, Mark Cuban, Stephen Curry, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Hawk, Rose LaVelle, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps, David Ortiz and Michael Strahan are some of the athletes from more than 20 different sports who have donated items that will be raffled to donors who make a minimum $25 donation.
David Schwab, the executive vice president for the sports agency Octagon, helped come up with the idea of “Athletes for Relief” following the postponement of the NBA and NHL seasons and the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament March 12. The program, which runs through May 1, has already raised more than $63,000.
“Right away, so many athletes were asking how could they help. What could they do?” Schwab said. “This was a way for them to do something together. Our goal is simple: to provide as much relief as we can for COVID-19. Every day we all wake up thinking about the people who are sick and the spread of this disease. And this will help those people.”
Donors can visit https://athletesrelief.org/, where a minimum $25 donation under the name of the athlete of their choice will enter them to win everything from a pair of signed, race-worn shoes from Jimmie Johnson to an autographed Masters flag from Nick Faldo to a signed snowboard from Shawn White. Winners will be selected at the conclusion of the fundraiser May 1.
All of the proceeds will go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund, where it will be pooled with other donations to help organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Heathcare Ready and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
The CDP works regularly in all disasters to help the philanthropic community donate as efficiently as possible, vetting the programs it works with to ensure the greatest impact on effected communities.
“Usually our work is mostly in recovery and resiliency but with this disaster, you can’t wait for the recovery,” said CDP president and CEO Patty McIlreavy. “This is everyone in right now. Get off the bench and get in there. We need all hands.”
Also included is a signed bat and ball from former Pakistani cricket star Wasim Akram, widely considered one of the greatest bowlers in history, and a signed tennis racket from 20-year-old Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, who announced on Instagram March 24 he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is bigger than one agency or athlete or country,” Schwab said. “This is global.”
ESPN personalities Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Dick Vitale and Trey Wingo have also donated items.
As much as McIlreavy is optimistic about the financial impact Athletes for Relief could have in helping COVID relief, she also said she sees an important psychological and social impact that will come from such a large group of influential sports personalities coming together.
“People are scared, so scared. It’s just a really complicated time,” she said. “To have so many athletes put their name to this sort of program and use their platform to be part of a collective campaign to bring attention to this really important cause, it’s just incredibly valuable.”
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