The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) named the San Francisco 49ers Foundation, Tony Hawk Foundation, and the LA84 Foundation recipients of the 2013 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy. The class of 2013 winners was announced on September 25, at a ceremony in Princeton, N.J., where RWJF hosted a celebration of sports philanthropy, inviting 2013 award applicants, past winners and the review committee to an exclusive day of learning, networking and recognizing excellence in the field.
The Patterson Award celebrates and promotes those in the sports world who are improving lives by leveraging the unique influence of sports. The 49ers Foundation joins an elite list of past honorees that are unwavering in their commitment to give back to their communities.
"It is an honor to present the Patterson Award to these three outstanding sports philanthropic organizations and celebrate the positive impact they make in our communities," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD. "The core values of these sports philanthropies align with the core values we espouse—dedication to community and improving the health of everyone in America. It is genuinely inspiring to see their commitment to advancing health and wellness and we are proud to recognize their impact."
The 49ers community initiatives demonstrate the team's commitment to creating strong families, schools and communities through hands-on community service and numerous in-kind donations. The 49ers have continually displayed their commitment to creating measurable results through transformational grants and impact programs, donating nearly $20 million over the past 20 years.
"The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Steve Patterson Award embody what we strive for at the 49ers Foundation, and that's to improve our community by using sports as a platform to connect with other things that make the Bay Area a better place," said John York, chairman of the 49ers Foundation and co-chairman of the 49ers. "To be recognized for the difference we make in the community, through the interactions and connections of our players, coaches, family and fans, is truly an honor."
The 49ers Foundation's partnership with the 49ers Academy, a school for low-income, middle school youth, embodies their mission to "keep kids safe, on track and in school." In addition to providing funding and personal support from players and team ownership, the 49ers have helped to build the Academy's facilities, donate supplies and educate its students about exercise and the importance of education. These efforts are true examples of the transformative and lasting impact of the team's work.
"Off the field, the statistic we are most proud of is that one hundred percent of the team's players have participated in one or more community events each of the last two years," shared Joanne Pasternack, Executive Director of the 49ers Foundation and Director of Community Relations. "When our current and alumni players, ownership and executives participate in an event, they aren't just showing up – they are rolling up their sleeves and participating fully, making a tangible difference in the community. The Foundation does more than just make financial contributions – we build playgrounds, play board games with kids fighting cancer, speak with incarcerated youth about turning their lives around, and execute hundreds of youth football camps, among many other activities. Philanthropy is something that is deeply rooted in the culture of the entire organization."
"When people get here, it's something about being a part of the 49ers organization that makes you want to give back—and that's a beautiful thing," said tight end Vernon Davis. "It's a great opportunity to be here and help out in the community because at the end of the day, we are all family."
While the players do their best to make a positive impact in their community, it is also quite a common occurrence that those they are serving end up changing their lives in return.
"The other day we had a young girl come out to practice and she informed me I was her hero," said guard/tackle Alex Boone. "I got nervous because I had never had someone tell me I was their hero before. When I met her, I was almost as taken aback as she was—she was a lovely girl with such an awesome spirit. It's hard to describe the feeling you get when someone tells you they appreciate your hard work every day because it helps them get through their day. That's when you realize you're doing this for a bigger cause than just playing football. You're doing it for the fans and the community, and it's powerful."
The overall feeling of the team when it comes to making a difference in the community is that it's not just part of their job, but it's a strong desire. Throughout the entire organization, there is an understanding that they have the power to make real and lasting change.
"I truly believe that I have been blessed with an opportunity to be here and it is a responsibility of mine to use the position I'm in to give back," fullback Bruce Miller said. "I've been put here for a reason, and giving back is a huge part of it."
The 49ers are delighted to receive the prestigious Patterson Award and to join an impressive and growing list of sports organizations and individuals who are answering the call to give back.
"Being recognized with this award is like winning the Super Bowl of philanthropy. You can't really ask for more," said Vernon Davis. "It inspires me to continue helping people, and it's an honor to be a part of the Foundation, the community, and the 49ers."
The San Francisco 49ers Foundation is the non-profit community funding extension of the San Francisco 49ers. Now in its 21st year, the 49ers Foundation supports development programs for underserved youth that keep them, "Safe, On Track, and In School." The San Francisco 49ers are promoting RESPECT for schools and community by donating a significant portion of the foundation's funding toward family violence prevention programs and activities that teach youth leadership and respect. Since 1992, the Foundation has donated over $20 million to support non-profits, including $2.9 million in 2012. To learn more visit their website at www.49ers.com/community. You can also visit the 49ers on Facebook at and on Twitter @49ers.
The Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy is presented annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The award acknowledges sports organizations and individual sports philanthropies that have demonstrated excellence, leadership, and a sustained commitment toward a mission that serves and improves the lives of others. For more information about the Steve Patterson Award and past winners, please visit www.rwjf.org/patterson.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.