A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how Michael Phelps still has big plans even after his retirement, looking to get involved in startup culture and continuing with his sponsorship deals from multiple companies. Michael Phelps has a lot going for him to keep him busy, but as I forgot to point out in my post on where he’s headed next, he is also a huge philanthropist. It’s good to hear that he’s not just letting fame and fortune go to his head and is using his wealth to make a difference.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Phelps discussed how he “wants to become a global champion for the causes that mean the most to him-swimming and the well-being of children.” Phelps is already well on the way to accomplishing that goal with his foundation, the Michael Phelps Foundation, which he established in 2008. Phelps used the $1 million bonus from Speedo after his record-breaking eight gold medals in Beijing to start the foundation, whose main initiative, the im (I am) program, is to promote water safety for children. According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Children between the ages of 1 and 14 are the most at-risk.
The foundation’s mission is to “promote healthy, active lives, especially for children, primarily by expanding the opportunities for participation in the sport of swimming.” It includes two other main initiatives in addition to the im Program, including the Level Field Fund and Caps for a Cause. The mission of all these initiatives is largely the same: the promote healthy lifestyles and provide equal opportunities for participation in sports.
The im program, named after Michael Phelps’ signature Individual Medley event, fulfills this objective by promoting healthy and active lifestyles for children of all ages and abilities through health and wellness education, water-safety courses, swimming lessons, and recreational swim activities. The program was launched in six Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2010, and is now partnered with the Special Olympics to extend its reach to children of all intellectual and physical levels. The Michael Phelps foundation is also partnered with the Level Field Fund to offer swimming grants to swimmers of exceptional ability to ensure that their opportunities are not limited by their financial situation. Through Caps for a Cause, non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles can apply to receive a baseball cap signed by Michael Phelps to auction off at their fundraising events.
There are many ways to get involved with this wonderful organization, including attending or contributing to the Golf Classic fundraising event, held annually to raise money for the Foundation. There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Special Olympics teams. You can also make a donation directly to the organization or simply join the conversation about drowning awareness on social media.