More than 115 athletes, coaches and sports personalities from 13 countries have joined to raise money for a COVID-19 response fund aimed at providing assistance for individuals fighting the global pandemic.
Simone Biles, Mark Cuban, Stephen Curry, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Hawk, Rose Lavelle, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps, David Ortiz and Michael Strahan are some of the athletes from more than 20 sports who have donated items that will be raffled to donors who make a minimum $25 donation.
David Schwab, the executive vice president for the sports agency Octagon, helped come up with the idea of "Athletes for Relief" following the postponement of the NBA and NHL seasons and the cancellation of the NCAA tournament on March 12. The program, which runs through May 1, has already raised more than $63,000.
"Right away, so many athletes were asking how could they help. What could they do?" Schwab said. "This was a way for them to do something together. Our goal is simple: to provide as much relief as we can for COVID-19. Every day we all wake up thinking about the people who are sick and the spread of this disease. And this will help those people."
Donors can visit athletesrelief.org, and a minimum $25 donation under the name of the athlete of their choice will enter them to win everything from a pair of signed, race-worn shoes from Jimmie Johnson to an autographed Masters flag from Nick Faldo to a signed snowboard from Shaun White. Winners will be selected at the conclusion of the fundraiser on May 1.
All of the proceeds will go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's COVID-19 Response Fund and will be pooled with other donations to help organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Healthcare Ready and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
The CDP works regularly during disasters to help the philanthropic community donate as efficiently as possible, vetting the programs it works with to ensure the greatest impact on affected communities.
"Usually our work is mostly in recovery and resiliency, but with this disaster, you can't wait for the recovery," CDP president and CEO Patty McIlreavy said. "This is everyone in right now. Get off the bench, and get in there. We need all hands."
Also included in the raffle are a signed bat and ball from former Pakistani cricket star Wasim Akram, widely considered one of the greatest bowlers in history, and a signed tennis racket from 20-year-old Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, who announced March 24 on Instagram that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
"This is bigger than one agency or athlete or country," Schwab said. "This is global."
ESPN personalities Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Dick Vitale and Trey Wingo have also donated items.
As much as McIlreavy is optimistic about the financial impact Athletes for Relief could have in helping coronavirus relief, she also said that she sees an important psychological and social impact that will come from such a large group of influential sports personalities coming together.
"People are scared, so scared. It's just a really complicated time," she said. "To have so many athletes put their name to this sort of program and use their platform to be part of a collective campaign to bring attention to this really important cause, it's just incredibly valuable."