When Curtis Granderson became a Major League Baseball player, he knew the responsibility that came with it: He was a role model for admiring kids around the country. It meant that he had two goals to pursue. The first was to solidify his standing as a professional baseball player. Once that was accomplished, he started a charitable foundation to help children reach their educational goals.

"When you get to the major leagues, the first thing that concerns you is how you are going to stay there," says Granderson, who, as centerfielder for the New York Yankees, holds one of the most prestigious positions in all of pro sports. "Once I had established myself as a player, then it was time to start working on my other goals."

In the last decade, professional athletes have been hard at work using their fame and resources to raise funds for worthy causes. With the astronomical rise in player salaries through free agency, today's athletes are wealthier than their predecessors. Many of them feel that giving back to their communities is part of what it means to be a professional athlete.

In Granderson's case, his philanthropic goals may have been partly due to his upbringing. "My mother and father were both teachers in the Chicago public school system," he says. "My sister is also a professor at Jackson State University in Mississippi. I graduated with a double major in business management and business marketing from the University of Chicago-Illinois. As you can imagine, education has been a big part of our family life. I knew that if I was ever in a position to help other people, education was the place I wanted to start."

With The Grand Kids Foundation, Granderson has created a grant system where schools that have sustained budget cuts in critical programs such as music, the arts and language studies can apply for funding to help re-establish those programs. "My mom and dad have been a big part of how we've determined to focus the foundation." Granderson says. "Their experience is invaluable. They know well the challenges that public school systems face in a challenging economy and that has informed everything we've done. When you look at the growing diversity of students in our country, language studies is such a critical part of a young person's growth. If we can help fuel that growth, we're going to be successful."

Granderson believes his foundation has a chance to make a difference because of his passion for education. "When I started this," he says, "I thought everyone would be into it as much as I am. You realize very quickly that there probably isn't anyone who is as excited about it as you. But if you were looking to contribute to a charity, the passion of the people running it is a good indicator of the work that they do."

Rebuilding Haiti
Athletes are also exhibiting a passionate desire to help in the rebuilding of Haiti, which is still suffering from the devastation caused by a 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010. 

Welterweight boxing champion Andre Berto remembers the day vividly. He was preparing for the fight of his life, a championship match against legendary fighter Sugar Shane Mosley. The fight would be the biggest payday of Berto's fledgling career. Instead, upon discovering that several of his relatives had perished in the quake, Berto cancelled the fight, choosing to focus his attention on recovery efforts. He immediately flew to Haiti and helped rescue workers dig people out of the rubble-some alive, and some not. "I think about it every day," Berto says. "Sometimes it consumes me. There is still so much to be done. People should know that just because the cameras go away, the problems don't."

Berto started the Berto Dynasty Foundation to raise funds for the rebuilding effort.

Jonathan Vilma, linebacker for the NFL's New Orleans Saints, last year's Super Bowl champions, also joined the cause. Vilma's parents emigrated from Haiti in the 1970s to start a better life for their family. They settled in South Florida, where Vilma became a standout player for the University of Miami and later a Pro Bowl middle linebacker in the NFL.

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