For many Olympic athletes, the road to success is built on years of sacrifice and help from loyal supporters. After the medals have been won and the fanfare dies down, some athletes dedicate themselves to giving back by starting their own charitable foundations.
Some of these organizations are tied to fitness, such as Shannon Miller’s foundation to combat childhood obesity. Others spotlight different aspects of health, like snowboarder Hannah Teter’s mission to provide clean water in Africa. Foundations aren’t only for former athletes—medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps, above, competing in his fourth Olympics this summer in London, started The Michael Phelps Foundation in 2008. The foundation’s IM program for Boys & Girls Club members and Special Olympians encourages more involvement in health and fitness activities and empowers people through goal setting.
Click through the gallery to be inspired by more Olympic athletes.
Have any Olympic athletes motivated you to help others? Let us know about it in the comments.
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Why would the 2006 Olympic gold medalist in halfpipe want to start a clean water project in Africa? Snowboarder Teter explains it this way on the website for her foundation, Hannah’s Gold: “I started Hannah’s Gold because I’ve always felt like there is a lot that needs to be done in the world, and who better to do it than me?”
The organization’s work in Kirindon, Kenya, in the last three years provided school fees and farming tools, supported sustainable farming initiatives, and purchased bicycles. Currently she’s raising money for that clean water project as well as for buying plots of land for homeless AIDS patients.
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Scott Hamilton’s gold medal in men’s figure skating at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics was briefly overshadowed by his public battle with testicular cancer. His experiences factored into the development of the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative, which promotes and supports research and care leading to a cure for cancer.
The intiative was started in 1999 and is a partnership between Hamilton (shown here with wife Tracie) and the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, where he was treated. A mentor program matches newly diagnosed patients with cancer survivor volunteers, and the initiative also includes a cancer research funding program.
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Shannon Miller is the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history and won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She’s also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer in 2011.
Her Shannon Miller Foundation focuses on fighting childhood obesity. The Shannon Miller Running Club sponsors a free in-school program in the Jacksonville, Florida area that supports more than 7,000 children ages 5 through 14.
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Soccer star Mia Hamm was part of the USA women’s national team that brought home the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Since then, Hamm, shown with husband Nomar Garciaperra, started the Mia Hamm Foundation, which promotes two missions. Support for Transplant Patients and Families was started after Hamm’s brother Garrett died from complications associated with aplastic anemia. Her all-star soccer match, called “The Garrett Game,” raises awareness and funds for bone marrow disease research and helps families going through the process of bone marrow transplants.
Meanwhile, the goal of Hamm’s Young Women in Sports is to champion the development of programs for young women in sports.
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi was the gold medal winner in ladies’ singles at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and is a two-time world champion. Her Always Dream Foundation kicked off in 1996 with the goal of helping groups that have a positive influence on children. The foundation’s work so far includes supplying computers for an after-school mentoring program and sponsoring kids with disabilities who want to attend summer camp.
In 2010 the foundation funded the Always Dream Play Park in Fremont, California, a playground with interactive elements for children of all abilities.
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine