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Pro sports franchises give to victims of Yarnell fire

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It has been said in sports that winning isn’t everything - it’s the ONLY thing.

Winning, however, extends far beyond the games. Arizona’s four major league sports franchises - the Cardinals, Coyotes, Diamondbacks and Suns - and the wildly popular Waste Management Phoenix Open donate millions of dollars and tons of goodwill to communities, charitable organizations and individuals throughout the state.

The contributions of these sports enterprises touch myriad quality-of- life issues, provide better conditions for the less-fortunate and spread a winning attitude where winning doesn¹t always come easily.

During their existence in Arizona, which for the Phoenix Open goes back to 1932, they have given hundreds of millions of dollars to charities and causes of all kinds. And not all of the giving is monetary. Teams donate equipment, game tickets and private suites to nonprofits that raffle those items in their own fund-raising efforts.

Their latest commitment of financial assistance totaling more than $860,000, with each entity acting independently, supported the families of the 19 firefighters who died in the devastating Yarnell Hill fire last month.

Arizona Cardinals

Soon after the blaze, Cardinals President Michael Bidwill presented a $100,000 check to the 100 Club of Arizona, which provides immediate financial assistance to families of public safety officers and firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.

In addition, a Cardinals contingent visited an American Red Cross Shelter in Prescott and met with 60 displaced homeowners and other service personnel.

“Our team is proud to assist the ongoing efforts and encourage our fans, the community and Arizona businesses to support these relief initiatives,” Bidwill said.

A couple of hours later, Cardinals defensive lineman David Carter, part of a team contingent that visited some of the people affected by the fire, walked into a gymnasium that was a temporary home for many Yarnell residents. Carter spent about two hours talking with displaced families, taking pictures, signing autographs and basically raising the spirits of a town in mourning.

Founded in 1990, Cardinals Charities supports programs designed to improve the quality of life and enhance opportunities for Arizona children, women and minorities. Since its inception, Cardinals Charities has distributed nearly $5 million to more than 350 charitable organizations in Arizona.

Last year, the Cardinals gave to such organizations as the American Lung Association of the Southwest, Arizona Blind and Deaf Children’s Hospital, Ballet Arizona, Greater Phoenix Youth at Risk, Inc., Phoenix Rescue Mission, Phoenix Zoo, Special Olympics Arizona, Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Bisbee, Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters and several YMCAs.

The biggest fundraiser for Cardinals Charities is the special Arizona license plates, and their spring golf tournament is the biggest fundraising event.

The team donates raffle and auction items including jerseys, hats, helmets, and other signed items. In addition, the team donates gently used equipment to needy programs at the youth and high school level.

General guidelines for grant recipients include the following: Organizations must be exempt under 501 (c) (3) of the IRS code, at least 75 percent of funding must be spent in Arizona, applications are limited to one a year, and proposals for $5,000 or less are preferred.

Phoenix Coyotes

Coyotes Charities, founded in November 2002, seeks to enhance the quality of life throughout Arizona communities by supporting nonprofit organizations that promote health care, education, cultural arts and sports-related programs for children. Prior to 2002, the team’s charitable arm was called Coyotes Goals For Kids.

During the past 16 years, since the franchise moved to Arizona, the Coyotes report having donated millions of dollars that have helped hundreds of children’s charities in the Valley of the Sun. Actual figures were not released.

Because last season was shortened by a lockout, the team did not hold any fundraising events. Normally, the team stages three fundraising events each season ‹ a golf tournament, Coyotes Carnival and a Celebrity Waiters Night.

Despite the short season, grants were made to 79 Arizona 501(c) (3) organizations. Separate from Coyotes Charities grants, the team has a 50/50 raffle at every home game. Under that program, a 501(c) (3) provides its own volunteers at a game and sells 50/50 tickets - 50 percent goes to the winning ticket holder, 25 percent goes to Coyotes Charities and the remaining 25 percent goes to the 501(c) (3) organization that volunteered that night.

Since the Yarnell Hill fire, the team has conducted several small fundraisers, and plans to hold a larger event once the season starts in the fall. A check will be presented to the 100 Club of Arizona.

Kimberly Trichel, director of community relations, says the team donates 34 full sets of youth/adult hockey equipment, including nets and sticks each season. “We donate on average over 350 pieces of autographed memorabilia to 501(c) (3) charities and other local special events to use in auctions,” she says. “We also donate tickets and suites for auctions as well.”

A feel-good aspect of what the Coyotes do is to provide a special time for kids with a life-threatening disease. One such youngster, Garrett Ray, 6, who has a rare liver disease, had his picture taken with the team in April, and reportedly is stable. His beaming mother Christine said her son had told her two weeks earlier that, “He was ready to see God and Jesus.”

The Coyotes do what they do, Trichel says, because “we know our community has thousands of worthy charities that need financial support, and we also understand that player appearances and volunteer programs play an integral role in our community.”

In addition, the players donate their personal money and time to many charities, Trichel says.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Derrick Hall, president and CEO, says the team gives priority to “nonprofits that address homelessness, indigent health care, veterans, youth baseball field development and children’s programs of all types.”

He adds: “The D-backs and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation will support thousands of nonprofit organizations each year with charitable donations, autographed items, tickets and experiences. We invest in those organizations that are improving the lives of others.”

Since the inception of the franchise in 1998, the team has donated $33 million to charities. Like the batting average of an all-star, the annual donation of the D-backs continues to rise, from about $1 million in the early years to consistently exceeding $4 million. D-back fans and the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation generated more than $700,000 in charitable support for the 100 Club of Arizona and the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, Hall says.

The team’s biggest fundraiser of the year takes place on the field, under the stars, at the end of spring training. All the players and coaches attend and popular concert acts are featured. Hall says the event pulls in more than $1.8 million for the foundation. That’s not all. The foundation stages several other events, including D-backs Race Against Cancer, D-backs Celebrity Golf Classic and a 50/50 raffle.

The Diamondbacks also donate more than 5,000 autographed items to nonprofit organizations for their use at fundraising events. In addition, 250,000 tickets are donated to organizations to provide a baseball outing for those who might not otherwise be able to attend a game, Hall says.

“I make several appearances throughout the year, along with speeches,” Hall says. “I donate all appearance fees to local charities. I serve on more than 25 boards and have been chairman of the board for Valley of the Sun United Way the past two years.”

He is incoming chair for Make-A-Wish Arizona.

“The organization’s commitment to the community is at the centerpiece of its guiding principles,” Hall says. “It is a part of our mission statement and we encourage all employees, players and coaches to be positive and contributing members of the community. We consider ourselves a community asset and understand our social responsibility. We know we can make a difference and impact lives positively.”

Phoenix Suns

Jason Rowley, president, says the organization has contributed tens of millions of dollars to local charities since the team’s inception in 1968, including nearly $20 million through corporate giving and Phoenix Suns Charities since 2000 alone.

“We are extremely proud of a partnership with Central High School that we announced this past season,” Rowley says. “The program, deemed’SunsCentral,’  is the result of a three-year, $500,000 grant from Phoenix Suns Charities designed to improve the graduation rate at Central High. The first of its kind in professional sports, the partnership focuses on three key factors that directly impact a student’s likelihood of staying in school: success in the classroom, attendance at school and mentoring. The Suns have deployed resources focused on each, in addition to sustaining a presence at the school through facility improvements, volunteer hours and entertainment elements at school functions.”

The Suns also work with the Make-A-Wish program to grant a child’s wish by making the child a “Sun for a Day,” Rowley says. A recent Make- A-Wish youngster was featured in a press conference making him a ‘Sun’ for the day, his own Suns locker and uniform, a chance to participate in a team shoot-around, and lunch with his favorite player, Channing Frye.

The team and Suns Charities provide resources to more than 200 groups each year, focusing on nonprofits that support children and families. The Suns raised a total of $38,000 for the Yarnell victims, including a $24,000 grant from Phoenix Suns Charities, during a monetary donation drive prior to the Phoenix Mercury game July 2.

“Jump Ball,” an annual gala, brings together the Phoenix Suns team, other local celebrities, philanthropists and team supporters to raise money to further the mission of Phoenix Suns Charities. There’s also an annual book drive benefitting roughly 25 Valley nonprofits organizations, as well as canned food and clothing drives for St. Mary’s Food Bank and the Salvation Army, respectively, Rowley says.

The Suns donate $5,000 in basketball uniforms and equipment to one high school each year, and support fundraising efforts of local nonprofits by donating more than 800 team autographed items and merchandise for their use at raffles, auctions and other events.

“As members of this community, helping those in need is simply the right thing to do,” Rowley says.

Waste Management Phoenix Open

A fixture on the Arizona sports scene since 1932, the Phoenix Open ‹ under the banner of Waste Management during the past five years and sponsored by The Thunderbirds since the late 1930s ‹ has contributed more than $80 million to an assortment of charities. Contributions have ranged from $5,000 to $200,000.

Among the recent recipients of funds from Thunderbirds Charities and the WM Phoenix Open are the Arizona Science Center, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, Hospice of the Valley, and Valle Del Sol, Inc.

In addition, the sponsors donate tournament ticket packages that can be used by groups for auctions or raffles, says Tom King, the 2014 tournament chairman.

“The Thunderbirds also support youth sporting groups through cash donations,” King says. “Groups must submit a request in writing to be eligible for ticket package donations and/or cash donations.”

The Thunderbirds and the WM Phoenix Open donated $20,000 to the 100 Club of Arizona for the 19 fallen Granite Mountain firefighters.

Among the lesser-known recipients have been:

Fillmore Commons at Sojourner Center, the oldest domestic violence shelter in Arizona and the largest in the United States, serving more than 2,900 women and children annually. Financial assistance from the Thunderbirds helped build an apartment community that offers affordable transitional housing to families after their emergency shelter stay. To protect the safety of these women and children, the location of Fillmore Commons is confidential.

Foundation for Blind Children, 1235 E. Harmont Drive, Phoenix, provides education, tools and services to enable the visually impaired of all ages, from birth to a current client of 102 years old, to achieve greater independence. Thunderbird Charities provided funds for a Braille center at the foundation, enabling students throughout the state to have their class work transcribed into Braille.

King says charitable giving is “an important initiative of the PGA Tour as well as the core of the Thunderbirds organization.”

“The Thunderbirds have been an integral part of the Valley of the Sun since 1937,” he says. “Although, better known as the host organization for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, we are equally proud of our contribution to charity. In 1986, Thunderbirds Charities, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation, was established for the purpose of distributing money to charitable causes.”

 

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