DIKEMBE MUTOMBO, Chairman and President, Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Inc.
"Honored with USA Weekend Magazine's "Most Caring Athlete Award," and from FOXSports.com as the most generous athlete in the world, NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo of the Houston Rockets has long been dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people in his birthplace, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Created in Atlanta, Georgia 1997, the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is attempting to eradicate many childhood diseases that have virtually disappeared in developed countries while those diseases are still life threatening to children in the Congo everyday.
"Having played basketball in the NBA for the better part of a decade, Mutombo spends the off-season traveling throughout Africa on behalf of the NBA, performing at free basketball clinics for as many as 2,000 children per day. Giving back has always been a trademark of Mutombo ever since he entered the NBA in 1991. A former spokesman for CARE, the international relief agency, Mutombo visited the Somali refugee camps in Northern Kenya in 1993 and traveled with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Georgetown colleagues Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
"In 1996, Mutombo paid for the Zairian women's basketball team's trip to Atlanta for the Olympics and also picked up the tab for the track team's uniforms and expenses. Recently, Mutombo and Hall of Famer Bob Lanier led a contingent of current and former players who served as coaches for the Basketball Without Borders Africa initiative, which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was the second year of the program and the 100 participants were selected from more than 20 countries in Africa, based on their basketball skills, leadership abilities and dedication to the sport. In addition to the on-court instruction, the program featured extensive community outreach and incorporates educational seminars addressing important social issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention and education.
"The highlight of the trip was the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation's dedication of refurbished dormitories at Ithuteng Trust, a school for troubled and underprivileged youth in Soweto that Mutombo first visited during the summer of 2003 for the first Basketball Without Borders camp. Children who once slept on the floor and did not have bathrooms now have a safe and comfortable place to live.
"Dikembe Mutombo is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and as an Atlanta Hawk, he was actively involved with Strong STARTS (Schools Taking Action to Reach Troubled Students). He also served as a spokesman for the Atlanta Hawks Team Up program, often visiting children at local hospitals and held a basketball clinic with on-court drills for the Georgia Special Olympic athletes.
"In August 1999, Mutombo and his delegation which included the CBS News Senior Correspondent for 60 Minutes, the late Ed Bradley traveled to Kinshasa, DR Congo on a medical fact-finding mission. As part of the Polio Eradication Campaign in the Congo, Mutombo administered oral polio vaccine to newborns at the Kalembe-Lembe Pediatric hospital and distributed t-shirts with a written personal message encouraging parents to get their children immunized. Despite civil unrest and electricity cuts during the two weeks of the National Immunizations Days, 8.2 million children under the age of five were successfully vaccinated against polio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."