Here's a heartening example of how sportsmen and women can, and do, help others less fortunate than themselves, with US swimmer Natalie Coughlin and Chinse diver Gao Min among those doing their bit:
This summer, 10,500 men and women will be transformed from top-of-their-game athletes into world-class Olympians. To help them realise the powerful and positive impact they can have on others in their new role, Johnson & Johnson and the international humanitarian organization Right To Play have united to inspire this new class of Olympians to open their 'Hearts of Gold' and make a difference in their communities and around the world.
'Becoming an Olympian is a life-changing event,' said Coughlin, an ambassador for the Hearts of Gold programme. 'Through my work promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, I?ve witnessed first-hand the impact we can make, especially on kids. Our hope is that this programme will encourage athletes to share their Olympic experience by connecting with and inspiring others in their communities.' Joining Coughlin as a fellow ambassador for Hearts of Gold is American gymnast Dominique Dawes and China's Gao Min.
To launch Hearts of Gold, Johnson & Johnson, with the International Olympic Committee, will honour every Beijing 2008 Olympic athlete with a unique gift that is specially designed to be both personally enjoyed to commemorate one?s role as an Olympian and shared as a 'thank you' with someone who supported the athlete?s journey to Beijing.
'We wanted to provide Olympians with something different ? the dual opportunity to celebrate their achievements and get personally involved,' said Owen Rankin, Vice President, Corporate Equity and Olympic Sponsorship, Johnson & Johnson. 'In the same way that the Olympic flame passes from torch to torch, we believe that one act of caring inspires another. We want to help athletes get into this frame of mind so that when they return to their home countries, they will share the Olympic spirit with others and help do even more good.'
The Hearts of Gold programme also will engage Olympians in several ways that encourage them to support Right To Play?s mission: using sport and play to serve children and communities that have been affected by war, poverty and disease:
1. Olympian Service Fellowships: Johnson & Johnson is underwriting five full-time fellowships with Right To Play so that Olympians have the opportunity to learn first-hand what giving back is all about. For three months, the Fellowship recipients will work in one of Right To Play?s offices as well as with children in a disadvantaged part of the world. Through this opportunity to work with the organization and those it benefits, the Olympians will also acquire valuable job skills?in areas like program management, fundraising and communications?that will help them throughout their post-competition careers.
2. Medal Grant Program: Inspired by the generous actions of Johann Olav Koss, Olympic medalist and Right To Play?s founder, President and CEO, Johnson & Johnson has established a medal grant program that will provide a financial contribution to the organization on behalf of every medal a Right To Play Athlete Ambassador wins at the Beijing Olympic Games. Through the program, their victories will also become a win for children in need. To date, more than 300 athletes and 40 countries are represented by Right To Play?s Athlete Ambassador program.
3. Right To Play Auction Hosted by Johnson & Johnson: Olympians will be encouraged to contribute items to or participate in a live fundraising auction to benefit Right To Play that will be hosted by Johnson & Johnson on August 19, 2008, at the Johnson & Johnson Pavilion.