Nick Markakis Gets an Award for Helping Kids

Baltimore Oriole Nick Markakis is awarded the Babe Ruth Community Service Award. Click here for PDF Copy

Many professional sports stars feel compelled to give back to the community, often by way of establishing foundations with causes that they feel strongly about.  With the big paychecks that athletes receive, they certainly have the money to invest in such ventures, and the community tends to be thankful that such athletes use their money for generous means.  The world of Baltimore sports is no exception to this trend of athletes giving back, as the example of Nick Markakis illustrates.

Markakis and his wife Christina will be presented with the Babe Ruth Community Service Award today, Friday, February 19, for their work with the Right Side Foundation, a nonprofit they formed in May 2009.  The award presentation is part of the Babe Ruth Museum’s annual “Babe’s Birthday Bash,” to be celebrated at the Sports Legend Museum at Camden Yards, tonight, from 5:30-9:00.

The birthday bash was originally set to take place on February 5, a day before the 115th anniversary of Ruth’s birth, but the date was pushed back twice because of the snowpocalypse.

The Babe Ruth Community Service Award was created to honor Ruth’s memory by recognizing an individual with ties to the Maryland sports community who has demonstrated a strong devotion to Baltimore and Maryland by giving back to the community.  Previous recipients of the award include Edwin Mulitalo, Brian Roberts, and Melvin Mora.

The mission of the Right Side Foundation is to improve the lives of distressed children throughout Maryland.  The foundation has sought to invest in community groups and initiatives and develop strategic partnerships.  In just over half a year of the foundation’s existence, the Markakises have hosted children from the Ronald McDonald House on a trip to the ESPN Zone and the Baltimore Aquarium, led tours of Camden Yards and the Sports Legends Museum for a group from the Living Classrooms Foundation, and organized a day at the Ravens practice facility for patients from Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

The integral initiative of the foundation is its “Fun for 21” program.  According to the foundation’s website, the goal of this program is to “provide 21 children with an experience that enables them to forget about the obstacles in their lives, at least for one day, and enjoy the fun of being a child.”  These daylong events can include exploring the outdoors, visiting cultural attractions, or going to an Orioles game.  The day at the Ravens practice facility with the Mt. Washington patients was part of this program.

Markakis’s full-fledged efforts seem to have been spurred on by the fact that he knew he would be getting comfortable in Baltimore when he signed a six-year contract extension with the Orioles in January 2009.  While the safety of remaining in town that was ensured by the extension made establishing a foundation practical, the desire to make a difference was already there.  “Before we even signed the contract, we’d always say if we were blessed the way we were, we’d help out the community,” Markakis told the Baltimore Sun.  “We live here now.  This is where we call home, and this is where we want to help kids.”

The story of an athlete giving back to the community is hardly unusual, but that is no reason to avoid giving individual stories like Markakis’s significant coverage.  His example and those of others serve as positive reminders that not every athlete is involved in the off-field antics of the likes of Michael Vick and Gilbert Arenas.  Hopefully they do not do it only for the positive press.  Even so, they deserve the coverage.  Here at WLOY, we will continue to follow stories like these, specifically for our listeners who have lost their faith in humanity and are looking to rediscover it.

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