They may not always give us a W on the scoreboard, but we know we can always count on our Philly sports stars to be champions off the field.
Over the past year, we’ve watched so many of our players and teams give back to children, families, and folks experiencing hunger, homelessness, illness or other hardships. Here, a look back at some of our favorite athletes’ do-good moments of 2023, with tips for you to give back like the pros.
When the Phils honored community heroes
Each year, Phillies Charities, Inc., the charitable arm of the Phillies, honors community heroes with recognition and financial support. At their recent holiday celebration, the organization honored more than three-dozen local programs — including Paws & Affection, the nonprofit that trains service dogs to support kids with special needs. Included in the celebration: Wheeler, a two-year-old goldendoodle named for his pitcher hero.
Do this: Support Paws & Affection.
When a big guy shared big feelings
For too long, the mainstream has stigmatized mental health issues, keeping folks suffering in silence. The tide has increasingly changed thanks to outspoken mental health advocates like Eagles Offensive Tackle (and Philly Specials baritone) Lane Johnson, who this year, partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to introduce its online mental health partner, Kooth.
On November 28, Johnson, who struggles with anxiety, visited Northeast High School to celebrate students’ high enrollment in the program. Johnson has also received the nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors players for their service to others.
Do this: Support the School District of Philadelphia’s mental health efforts.
When Gritty starred as a very Philly pinup
Forget sexy firefighters: 2024’s must-have calendar is this first-ever homage to Gritty. At $25 each, all proceeds benefit the Flyers Charities, an organization that invests in, among other endeavors, supporting local families impacted by cancer.
Do this: Buy a calendar.
When Lloyd, Hurts, Ali et al supported our girls
To kick off the initiative, NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe, Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, International Boxing Hall of Fame World Champion and WSF Past President Laila Ali, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and two-time FIFA World Cup Champion Carli Lloyd, and Women’s Professional Tackle Football pioneer and philanthropist Qiana “Star” Wright spoke about the importance of supporting girls in sports at an event at Northeast High School.
Do this: Support Fly: FWD
When All-Star bats went to all-star boys
It was a thrill to watch Media’s Little League team in this summer’s Little League World Series. And even though their run ended when they lost to those sluggers from Rhode Island, our Phillies made them feel like pros. They were all there: Schwarber, Turner, Stott, Marsh, Walker, Sosa, and Hoskins, bless him. Backup Catcher Garrett Stubbs got his jersey signed approximately 1 billion times. Right Fielder Nick Castellanos gave every Media player a custom wood bat. Superstar Bryce Harper even “got all emotional” in front of them.
(Also, while in the Media section of the stands, the Phils did their signature ballsy celebration.)
Do this: Support youth sports.
When coffee and a good book made people’s day
When most of us get hurt, we whine. When Eagles Tight End Dallas Goedert was sidelined with a fractured forearm in November, he went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to read stories — Dragons Love Tacos! — to patients, hand out coffee from — where else? — Wawa to families, and spend quality time with kids.
Do this: Support CHOP.
When the smiliest Sixer made others smile
As if Sixers Guard Tyrese Maxey’s grin isn’t enough of a gift to our city, Maxey regularly delivers joy to others through his foundation, as when he distributed 1,000 turkeys to families for Thanksgiving and gave out candy to kiddos on Halloween.
Do this: Support the Tyrese Maxey Foundation.
When mini pitches added up to big fun for kids
With the support of partners like Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, Rebuild and Parks & Recreation, the Philadelphia Union have been building mini pitches (ahem, soccer fields, for non-Ted Lasso-ans). The newest one debuted this fall at Gifford Playground, to the delight of many a Messi fan.
Do this: Support youth soccer.
When we held meaningful moments of silence — together
Most of us are still speechless when it comes to expressing our full range of emotions about the war in the Middle East. But perhaps the Phillies captured our feelings best by saying nothing at all. On October 11, they held a moment of silence before game three of the NLDS at the Bank. In the days that followed, many sports teams followed their lead.
Do this: Support interfaith understanding.
When a captain used his voice against violence
Philadelphia Union Captain and Midfielder, Alejandro Bedoya famously uses his voice on the field for causes off the field — like the need to address our country’s staggering gun violence epidemic. Growing up near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the 2018 Parkland shooting, he feels a personal connection to the cause.
For his outspokenness, Bedoya won the MLS’s 2022 Humanitarian of the Year award. More recently, he received the 2023 Audi Goals Drive Progress Impact Award from the Philadelphia Equity Alliance, Gun Violence Intervention Strategy for the City of Philadelphia and the Civic Coalition to Save Lives. Audi will donate $120,000 to the Alliance to support Bedoya’s work.
Do this: Learn more about gun violence prevention.
When a brother’s loss created a powerful legacy
The In Memory of Arthur (IMOA) Initiative is Sixers Center-Forward Joel Embiid’s philanthropic organization. Named for Embiid’s late brother, Arthur, who died in 2014 at age 13, the organization’s goal is simple. Embiid — who named his son after his brother — told Sean Kennedy, “As an NBA player, I’ve been blessed with resources and influence, and with IMOA, I hope to pour back everything I have into my community, by empowering the experts that are the real MVPs of making a difference.”
Do this: Support YEAH Philly.
When Jason Kelce did, well, anything
His documentary, Kelce, made us cry. His daughters crack us up. His connection to Taylor Swift keeps us riveted. But what we love most about Eagles Center Jason Kelce is his big, honkin’ heart. No one else in Philadelphia can unify folks around good causes like he can. Kelce’s now done this countless times, raising millions of dollars for youth causes with his Underdog clothing line, A Philly Special Christmas album and its spectacular sequel, and anything else he pours his heart into — like bartending down the Shore to raise money for the Eagles Autism Foundation.
We’ll take him on the field and on the New Heights podcast for as long as he’ll stay, all the while hoping that once he does retire, he continues to champion Philadelphia … in a Mummers suit, or from City Hall. Kelce for Mayor, anyone?
Do this: Be like Jason.
MORE PHILLY SPORTS MAGICJason Kelce being awesome at an Eagles fundraiser event. Courtesy the Philadelphia Eagles.