With the 2016 Olympic Games underway in Rio, now is a great time to take note of the athletes who aren’t just wowing the world with their skill, but also dedicating their time to making it a better place. Here’s a look at nine of the most philanthropic Olympians on Team USA.
1. Tamika Catchings (Basketball)
A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Catchings is in the midst of her fourth and final Olympic Games. She has earned numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including the 2011 WNBA Most Valuable Player Award and the 2012 WNBA Finals MVP. While her success on the court has been widely recognized, we think her philanthropic efforts deserve a nod too. In 2004, the Indiana Fever star founded the Catch the Stars Foundation, which works to empower youths through goal-setting programs. To help children reach their full potential, Catchings hosts fundraiser nights and annual back-to-school celebrations, providing school supplies for low-income youth.
2. Allyson Felix (Track & Field)
A member of the President’s Council for Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, this four-time track and field gold medalist is ready for her fourth Olympic Games. Felix, a Los Angeles native, is not only a four-time gold medalist, but she is a Right to Play ambassador. Right to Play, a global organization that was founded by former Norwegian Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss, helps 1 million children achieve their goals through education, health and community. Felix has visited Lebanon, Palestine, Kampala and Uganda with the organization, while taking part in events such as the New York Red Ball Gala and eBay fundraising campaigns.
3. Gwen Jorgensen (Triathlon)
A former University of Wisconsin swimmer and runner, Jorgensen earned a spot in the 2012 Olympic Games after only one year of competing in triathlons, the sport she would soon come to dominate. A 2014 and 2015 World Champion, Jorgensen is also a 15-time ITU World Triathlon Series Winner. Outside of competing, Jorgensen launched the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship in 2014 to help young triathletes “pursue excellence” in the sport. Through her efforts, over $40,000 has been awarded to 18 young athletes. Not only does the Wisconsin native fund and help make possible their dreams of competing, but she also mentors the scholarship recipients.
4. Ryan Lochte (Swimming)
Though you may know Lochte from his 11 Olympic medals or even his former reality TV show, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?,” the two-time American and World Swimmer of the Year also dedicates his time to notable causes. The three-time Olympian is a spokesperson for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, an organization that spreads awareness and raises money to end Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Lochte, who lost a close relative to the disease, makes annual donations to the organization. Additionally, he is a spokesperson for the Mac Crutchfield Foundation, named after a young swimmer who drowned during a storm. Lochte works with the organization to provide swim scholarships while funding Special Olympics swim meets.
5. Alex Morgan (Soccer)
Dubbed the “Taylor Swift of women’s sports” by ESPN and the “new face of U.S. women’s soccer” by the Washington Post, Morgan leads Team USA in her second Olympic Games. Morgan is part of the movement pushing for equal pay among women’s soccer players, having filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One of the first female soccer players to be featured on the cover of EA Sports FIFA, Morgan is also recognized for her philanthropic efforts. Through Mondelez International’s Pass the Love Back initiative, Morgan supports youth soccer teams and gives back to the community.
6. Michael Phelps (Swimming)
At 31 years old, Phelps just won his 19th gold medal of his career on Sunday. Coming out of retirement to add to his medal collection in Rio, the Olympic legend and world-record holder also wants to inspire young swimmers to reach their full potential. After the 2008 Olympic Games, the swimmer established the Michael Phelps Foundation, which works with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Special Olympics. From providing grants to swimmers to auctioning off signed swim caps to fundraise, Phelps gives back to the community and encourages healthy lifestyles among youths.
7. Taylor Phinney (Cycling)
The son of Olympic professional cyclists, Phinney is following in his parents’ footsteps. The Boulder native, who has received numerous World Champion titles, also supports the Davis Phinney Foundation, which was started by his father who suffers from Parkinson’s. The Foundation raises money to help and inspire those living with Parkinson’s. In 2012, Phinney donated $25,000 to the cause, while encouraging others to donate as well. Also passionate about art, Phinney hand-painted a bike frame to benefit the organization and raise awareness of the disease.
8. Brittney Reese (Track & Field)
An Olympic gold medalist and World Champion in track and field, Reese is ready to take on her third Olympic Games. As an ambassador for the United States Olympic Committee’s Team for Tomorrow community outreach program, Reese works with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the YMCA. Also heavily involved in the community in her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, the long jump champion awards a college scholarship to two high school seniors each year. She also gave back to the community by donating 100 turkeys to the homeless for Thanksgiving in 2011.
9. Dana Vollmer (Swimming)
At just 12 years old, Texas native Vollmer became the youngest swimmer to compete at the Olympic Trials in 2000. At Rio, she has already won two medals — silver and a bronze. A self-dubbed “momma on a mission,” Vollmer keeps busy with her son, Arlen, who was born just last year. Outside of the pool, the world record-setter is an ambassador for the American Heart Association. Diagnosed with a heart condition when she was 15, Vollmer now works to spread awareness about heart disease.
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