Posted by: charityinfo | December 6, 2011

The Speed Skater who Donated His Olympic Prize to Charity

In the world of speed skating, everybody knows Joey Cheek. The American speed skater and former inline speed skater specialized in short and middle distances – and he was a champion in both categories. During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Cheek defeated other countries when he won the men’s 500-meter dash in record time for the United States. Three years prior, Cheek won a bronze medal at the World Single Distance Championships in both 1,000 and 1,500-meter events. These are just the highlights; many more medals were won throughout his entire athletic career.

But Cheek made the ultimate act of greatness when he decided to give up his proudly-won token –$25,000 prize money from his Winter Olympic gold medal. The speed skater also put his medal up for auction to benefit Right to Play, an organization dedicated in helping refugee children from Darfur. The humanitarian crisis in Darfur has claimed between 200,000 and 300,000 lives. More than two million people have been displaced, including helpless children caught in the middle of the crisis.

Cheek was inspired by no less than Johann Olav Koss, also a speed skating hero who donated his performance bonus to Olympic aid in 1994. Koss echoed his first philanthropic act by joining UNICEF and traveling all over the world with the organization. He saw firsthand the effects of war and poverty and saw how sports can uplift people’s downtrodden spirits.

With all his recent acts of generosity, Cheek may just live up to become Koss. He may even exceed the latter’s involvement in philanthropy.

Cheek’s decision to donate his prize money to Darfur led the whole world to learn more about him and the sport he loves. Speed skating is not as popular as the other events, but through his selfless acts, Cheek was able to introduce not only himself, but also speed skating and what it can do to change the world.

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