I’ve always been a sensitive person.
When I was in first grade, I came home in tears. When my parents prodded me to find out what was wrong, I told them that one of my classmates forgot his lunch money. Rather than just spotting him a lunch, the lunch lady just shoved some juice and crackers at him and refused to give him a warm, filling lunch.
For some reason, seeing that really bit at my 6-year-old self. It hurt my feelings to see this classmate of mine being treated differently. My young head spun wondering why he didn’t have his lunch money. Did he really forget it? Or, perhaps, could his mama not afford it like mine could? I wondered if he was hungry. These thoughts hurt me so much, that by the time the bell rang, I had no choice but to cry.
As my parents wiped away my tears, they could’ve done two things: Nothing or something.
My parents probably don’t know I remember this, but one of my earliest memories is of them going to speak with my elementary school’s principal after this event took place. Two things resulted from that conversation.
First, my parents provided my elementary school with some money, so that if another kid forgot–or didn’t have–lunch money, he or she would receive a hot lunch.
More importantly, though, by doing something, my parents taught my six-year-old self one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned: When you have the choice of doing nothing or doing something, you always do something.
As the holidays approached this year, my dad began asking me, “So, Leesh, what are you going to do?” “What do you mean, what am I going to do?” I’d retort with. He’d say, “Well, you had quite the year in 2013. Maybe it’s time to give some of what you got back to others.”
He was right. I wasn’t a “newbie” in the sports world anymore. It was time to take my name and use it to do something.
With the thought in my head, I began brainstorming ways I could use my platform to give back to others. In mid-November it clicked: I wanted to publicize sports nonprofits that many people don’t know about and also fundraise for them.
What happened after my idea was born, is perhaps one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed: People began supporting the idea. And I began watching the sports media life I’ve lived over the last 2.5 years come full-circle.
It started with a simple tweet seeking out a graphic designer. From there, I met Quinn Carr–who literally, was the greatest person to work with. Chances are, I wouldn’t have found Quinn if I hadn’t covered a fantasy basketball camp at the University of Miami two months ago and written a story about it. It turns out, that Quinn’s brother played in the camp and followed me on Twitter, and as such, Quinn saw my request for help.
With a graphic designer in tow and a design in progress, I knew that the ball was rolling. It was time to find sports nonprofits to support. Again, I turned to Twitter. What resulted, was finding six sports nonprofits that I think the world of. I learned these organizations’ stories–which ranged from spreading joy to wounded warriors and encouraging children’s cancer patients to eradicating Atlanta’s enormous dropout rate and giving underprivileged children positive memories to hold onto.
In these organizations’ stories, I found hope.
I found a hope that, sports could in fact, change the world.
On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. more nervous than I’ve been in a long, long time.
Thanksgiving meant that it was time for the campaign to begin. That morning, I put the finishing touches on the campaign page and hit the “launch” button for the t-shirt sales page. The jitters in me that morning were palpable. What if nobody bought a shirt? What if nobody clicked on the link and read about these great organizations? What if nobody cared?
In the midst of my nerves, things got good. Really, really good.
You all did something.
Yes, you bought t-shirts (which I am incredibly thankful for). More importantly, though, you shared.
You talked about how sports changed your world. You talked about your hopes for this world. You mentioned what you can do to better this world.
And people listened.
Because of you, six outstanding organizations have new supporters. They not only have new donors, but those willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer.
Because of you, the internet knows that sports can change the world. Thousands of eyes have seen your tweets, Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures. These eyes, in turn, have researched the campaign. That research has led more people to think about how sports can change the world.
Because of you, these “12 Days of Giving” (as I initially called the campaign) have turned into the #Sports4Good Movement.
You did something.
People often gripe about the media. They say, “Why is the media so negative?”
Before I joined the media world, I wondered the same thing. I often thought of the athletes I knew and the good things they were doing and wondered why more people didn’t hear these stories. However, now that I’m on the other side–as a member of the media–I know why you don’t hear those stories.
You don’t hear these stories, because the media gatekeepers think that nobody is interested. I’ve been told by editors when pitching stories about athletes giving back that nobody cares. Or that it doesn’t matter. Or to find something worthwhile.
Over the last twelve days, though, you’ve done something to prove those media decision makers wrong.
People care. It does matter. And it is the most worthwhile story there is to tell.
I’m a sensitive person. And as such, there are tears flowing from my eyes right now. I’m so grateful for the support all of you have shown others throughout this campaign. I’m so grateful to know that what I thought before is true:
Sports can change the world.
Don’t forget to vote for your favorite organization until 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, December 9 by clicking here.
And if you haven’t yet, $25 gets you a #Sports4Good t-shirt! Click here. The shirts will only be sold until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, December 9, so get them while they’re HOT!