June 16, 2011
Courtesy of the Jefferson Awards
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Recognizing their selfless, generous and tireless commitment toward improving the world around them, Warrick Dunn and Jerry M. Reinsdorf have been awarded with the Jefferson Award, one of the nation’s top honors for community service and volunteerism. Past recipients of the 39-year-old award include General Colin Powell, television personality Oprah Winfrey, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and NFL star Peyton Manning.
Dunn, a five-time Pro Bowl running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, and Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, will join 15 other recipients from around the country at a Washington, D.C., gala June 21 to receive the 39th annual Jefferson Awards, known as the “Nobel Prize for Public Service.” Dunn was selected to receive the Jefferson Award in the category Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy. Reinsdorf was chosen to receive the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged.
The Jefferson Awards are bestowed in five categories: national recipients,
“unsung heroes” at the community level, champion winners (affiliated with companies or organizations), schools, and, for the second time, professional athletes. Reinsdorf is a national recipient, while Dunn was chosen in the athlete category (Nnamdi Asomugha of the Oakland Raiders and Tyrus Thomas of the Charlotte Bobcats were the first winners in the athlete category in 2010.)
“We are proud to recognize Warrick Dunn and Jerry Reinsdorf with Jefferson Awards,” said Sam Beard, founder and president of the American Institute for Public Service and The Jefferson Awards. “What Warrick Dunn has accomplished in his lifetime is nothing short of extraordinary. He is the consummate team player, on and off the football field, first taking care of his family after the untimely death of his mother and later taking care of the communities closest to his heart. And Jerry Reinsdorf has made Chicago a much better place for sports fans and non-sports fans alike. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of his community, ensuring that his White Sox and Bulls are as ingrained in the community as the community is in them.”
Dunn, a limited partner of the Atlanta Falcons, starred at Florida State University and was the 12th overall selection by the Tampa Bay Bucs in the 1997 NFL Draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in five seasons (1997-2001) with the Bucs before moving on to Atlanta, where he added three more Pro Bowl seasons in six years (2002-07) with the Falcons. He capped his career with one more season in Tampa Bay. For his career, Dunn ranks 19th all-time in rushing yards with 10,967 and also totaled 4,339 receiving yards as one of the best dual-threat running backs in NFL history – he is one of only six backs in NFL history to top 10,000 yards and 500 receptions.
Dunn, the oldest of six children, experienced the struggles of life in a single-parent family. His mother, Betty Smothers, was a City of Baton Rouge (La.) police officer who often worked security shifts to provide for her family. It was always her goal to experience the American Dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. Before she could realize her dream, she was gunned down in an armed robbery during an off-duty shift, leaving 18-year-old Dunn to care for his five siblings. Dunn’s dedication to charity was born as a result of the outpouring of support his family received from the Baton Rouge community during this tragic time.
Dunn started the Homes for the Holidays program in 1997 during his rookie season in the NFL to honor his late mother’s dream of homeownership. In 2002, he established the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation as a way to grow programs and services for single-parent families. Through his charitable efforts, Dunn has rewarded over 100 single-parent families in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, La., and Tallahassee and Tampa, Fla., for achieving the American Dream of becoming a first-time homebuyer. The Homes for the Holidays program has contributed more than $2 million in home furnishings with furniture provided by Aaron’s, Inc., and $515,000 in down payment assistance, since 1997.
“I am honored to receive this award from All Stars Helping Kids and the Jefferson Awards for Public Service selection committee, and I believe it is a testament to the values instilled in me by my mother,” Dunn said. “Without her strength and determination as an example growing up, I would not have been able to achieve my goals in life and on the football field. I hope that other athletes in my position will see the value of being positive role models to inspire others.”
Reinsdorf has made an impact on professional sports for the better part of 30 years as the owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls. He became the third owner in the history of North American sports to win a championship in two different sports when the White Sox won the 2005 World Series – the Bulls have won six World Championships (1991-93, 1996-98) during Reinsdorf’s reign.
Reinsdorf, who previously served as an attorney, certified public accountant and real estate developer, led the limited partnership that purchased the White Sox in 1981. Since then, he has been a fixture in Major League Baseball initiatives at an industry-wide level. Reinsdorf serves as a member of MLB’s Executive Council and the Boards of MLB Advanced Media, MLB Networks and MLB Enterprises. He was involved in the decision to return baseball to Washington, D.C., as chairman of the Relocation Committee, and he also serves on MLB’s Equal Opportunity Committee and was instrumental in the formation of Baseball’s Diverse Business Partners Program, through which Major League Baseball and its clubs have purchased more than $260 million in goods and services from minority and women-owned businesses since its founding in 1998.
Both the White Sox and Bulls have donated millions to causes in the Chicago community through the Chicago White Sox Charities and CharitaBulls. Among the many organizations that have benefited from Reinsdorf’s charities are the Chicago Park District, Special Olympics and the Inner City Little League. Chicago White Sox Charities rebuilt all of the city’s baseball diamonds and backstops in the 1990s, made a $1 million donation to build four ballfields – baseball, softball, Little League baseball and a Miracle League Field designed for children with special needs, and recently donated $2 million dollars to the Salvation Army to help build the Ray & Joan Kroc Center on Chicago’s south side.
In response to President Barack Obama’s call to national service, the White Sox created the White Sox Volunteer Corps in 2009. More than 5,000 White Sox fans, along with team members, have donated almost 10,000 hours of community service since the Corps creation, renovating public schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, re-packing food for the hungry and donating much-needed blood during the summer months. Through their Energizabulls program, the Chicago Bulls offer schools and thousands of children a specially designed exercise program to combat childhood obesity and diabetes.
“This is truly a wonderful recognition, one that I am very humbled and honored to receive,” Reinsdorf said. “I’m thankful to all who have had a hand in helping along the way. All sports teams have a responsibility to give back to the fans and the communities that support them. Hopefully, we’ve done our own small part in improving the quality of life for Chicagoans of all ages, races and genders.”
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About the Jefferson Awards
Co-founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard, the Jefferson Awards annually celebrate America’s commitment to public service. Recognizing both the famous and the unknown, individuals and organizations, the young and old, the awards reflect one of the founding ideals of our nation, that of contributing toward the larger good. As Thomas Jefferson himself wrote, “Private charities as well as contributions to public purposes in proportion to everyone’s circumstances are certainly among the duties we owe to society.”
The Jefferson Award recipients are nominated from throughout the country and selected by the organization’s board of directors. This year’s national recipients include Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry M. Reinsdorf, actress Marlo Thomas and Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Honorees are chosen on the basis of two main criteria: the outstanding nature of the acts of service and the impact on the community of those acts.
For more information on the Jefferson Awards, visit www.JeffersonAwards.org.
About All Stars Helping Kids
All Stars Helping Kids, founded by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott in 1989, teamed up with the Jefferson Awards for Public Service to inspire people to Get in the Game by recognizing and honoring professional athletes that are giving back. All Stars helped the Jefferson Awards identify and promote athletes with a proven track record of community outreach as well as those that are just getting started, but possess a sincere passion for service. The mission of All Stars Helping Kids is to promote a safe, healthy and rigorous learning environment for disadvantaged kids in low-income communities. All Stars has been a galvanizing force and vehicle for individuals, professional athletes and corporate partners to invest in the future of children in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Over the last two decades, All Stars has raised more than $20 million to fulfill its mission. For more information on all of the professional athlete Jefferson Award nominees, please visit www.allstarshelpingkids.org