BRISTOL - ESPN honored its Volunteers of the Year Friday, selecting those whose altruistic efforts included volunteering with Special Olympics, athletes in foreign countries, struggling students, sexual assault survivors and more.
“The mission for our company is to serve the sports fan,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of corporate citizenship. “We have 5,000 employees and if we mobilize we can do amazing things for the community. We match volunteer efforts from $25 to $25,000.”
ESPN officials honored X Games for their environmental sustainability efforts. ESPN has sponsored with FLIK Hospitality to establish a Food Rescue Program that donates one-to two-day-old food to food pantries for immediate consumption rather than throwing it away.
X Games was able to divert 20 percent of its food waste last year and also donated used décor and Materials to Habitat for humanity.
ESPN Brazil was recognized for its outreach and attempts to create a positive environment in Brazil through sports. Organizers from partner organizations in Brazil recorded videos thanking ESPN for their commitment to help them.
ESPN was able to grow its global participation in its Unified Sports program by 140 percent last year, noting that a lot of growth had also occurred in target areas such as Mexico and India.
ESPN Brazil assists 18 communities and provides 35 at risk youths with eight months of job skills training to help them increase their employment opportunities.
ESPN also honored its school mentoring program for sending 60 mentors to aid students in need, half of whom are at local schools. Martinez said a majority of the local volunteers assist students at Greene-Hills School.
“Volunteers offer one hour of mentoring a week for 36 weeks,” said Marina Escobar, vice president of advanced technologies. “Not only is it a time commitment but it is also an emotional commitment. Most of the students that have been selected aren’t doing well either academically or at home.
“They often come from broken or dysfunctional homes, have social issues or are being bullied, and either witness violence at home or are themselves abused. These volunteers have often had to become sort of like therapists and some of them have had to report abuses to schools and to family services.”
Keri Potts was given the Volunteer of the Year award for her work on sexual assault hotlines and counseling rape victims in hospitals. She was not present to receive her award, but it was noted that she herself had been assaulted 10 years ago when she traveled to Italy. Statistics were also cited that said that rape victims who received counseling were significantly less likely to commit suicide and to report the perpetrator to the authorities.
Jeff Saturday was given the Commentator of the Year award for donating to aid burn victims. Rob King, senior vice president of SportsCenter and news at ESPN. noted that Saturday was a “self-activated” volunteer who got involved after one of his friends’ sons became a burn victim and his own son fell through the glass doors of their fireplace and suffered third-degree burns on his hands.
Brent Colborne, director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, was given the Spirit Award for helping to raise money for cancer research.
“A lot of people know someone whose lives were touched by cancer, said Burke Magnus, executive vice president, programming and scheduling, at ESPN. “Brent has worked hard to raise money and he is committed to finding a cure. In the past two years, we have doubled the number of donations we have received for cancer research fundraisers.”
Mandy Murphy was presented the “ENspire” award for helping to establish a partnership between ESPN and the Special Olympics. She was also described as an “ESPN Super-fan” by Martinez.
“Working with all of you at ESPN has been the honor of my life,” she said. “I’m a huge sports fan and I’m very thankful that I was able to work with you to help tell the stories of athletes whose stories deserve to be told.”
Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, recorded a video to thank Murphy for her efforts.
“It is my belief that The Special Olympics are the best in sports and Mandy is the best in the Special Olympics,” he said.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.