One of the best ways to encourage charitable giving and volunteerism is to provide a strong example for others, and many professional athletes have the public platform to fill such a role. The staff at DoSomething.org, a website that allows people to get involved with charitable initiatives, understands the special role that athletes can play in promoting a good cause. Keeping fans updated on the charitable activities of their sports heroes, the site recently compiled the Athletes Gone Good list, which includes men and women competing in sports ranging from tennis to cricket.
Here is a closer look at the top five athletes on the list:
The all-time leading goal scorer for Real Madrid F.C., Cristiano Ronaldo has set dozens of records in his league and at the European and international levels. He has received four Golden Boot awards and the FIFA Ballon d’Or three times, and he is the top-paid athlete in his sport at $79.6 million each year.
Away from training and competing, Ronaldo advocates for a number of causes, such as ending childhood hunger and protecting the environment, and he has supported UNICEF, World Vision, and Save the Children. He has donated considerable sums to a cancer treatment center, and he even sponsored the brain surgery of one of his fans. In addition, he has made a strong effort to give back to his fans, including a spontaneous trip to Indonesia to raise money for victims of the 2004 tsunami.
In 2000, John Cena transitioned to professional wrestling and quickly gained success with an Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) title that same year. He entered the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), scene in 2002 and has won 15 WWE world heavyweight champion titles. During his career, he has defeated a number of Hall of Fame wrestlers, including The Rock, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton.
Cena has achieved several milestones in his charitable work, as well. An advocate for cancer awareness and treatment, he supports the Susan G. Komen initiative and has guided efforts at WWE to raise more than $1.5 million for the foundation. Through his partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he has granted more wishes than any other celebrity, and he continues to receive the most requests of all individuals affiliated with the organization.
Ranked number one in the world, tennis champion Serena Williams started competing at the professional level before graduating from high school. She quickly rose to her position as the leading athlete of her sport, amassing titles at the U.S. Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon along the way. In December 2015, she was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year a few months after clinching her sixth Wimbledon title.
Williams balances a variety of charitable endeavors, from her namesake foundation to her role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Among other passions, she has supported causes that create educational opportunities for children, such as the 1 in 11 campaign, which focuses on helping children in developing countries obtain access to education. She assisted with launching the movement in 2015 and created the Keep Ups challenge to help spread awareness and encourage donations.
Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea won her first international figure skating competition at age 12. Upon entering middle school, she joined the Korean national team and achieved success despite injuries. She commanded two consecutive first place finishes at the Grand Prix Finals during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons, and in 2010 she set a world-record score of 228.56 points and won gold at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Kim has supported responses to natural disasters in Haiti, the Philippines, and Nepal. She contributed $100,000 to relief efforts in Nepal following the devastating earthquake in 2015, and $100,000 to relief efforts in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Additionally, she recently participated in the FENDI Seoul Peekaboo project, in which she designed a bag for auction. The Yuna Kim Peekaboo bag sold widely and generated $15,000, which she donated to UNICEF.
Brazilian soccer sensation Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. debuted as a senior player with Santos F.C. in 2009, and he scored his 100th professional goal three years later. During his relatively short career, he has amassed several honors, including the FIFA Puskas Award and four consecutive Player of the Year awards. He gained widespread fame for his performance during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in his home country.
Neymar ranked fifth on the DoSomething.org Athletes Gone Good list for his humanitarian collaboration with FIFA in 2014. The organization developed an emergency health campaign titled “11 Against Ebola” in which Neymar recorded video and audio public health messages to help combat the disease in Africa. Neymar also joined with Paypal in the Waves for Water project, which aims to increase access to clean water in Brazil. In addition, he founded the Neymar Junior Institute, which will offer free classes in sports, reading, and computers to Brazilian children in need.