WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19. MICHAEL Phelps received the Champion of Youth award today at a special presentation by the Boys and Girls Club of America, then joined the organization to speak on the importance of child safety in and out of the pool.
Phelps, through his foundation, has been working since 2008 to get kids water safe, partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of America to start the “im” program. The learn-to-swim initiative started in 2010 with six Boys and Girls clubs, and grew to 28 clubs this year, as well as in an U.S. Naval installation in Naples, Italy. It is this work that helped garner him the Champion of Youth award.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Boys & Girls Clubs for almost ten years now and it is a great honor to receive their Champion of Youth award,” said Phelps, a 22-time Olympic medalist and Founder of the Michael Phelps Foundation. “I always said that I wanted to change the sport of swimming, to do something that nobody had ever done before, and it is my hope that through my story I can inspire children to pursue their dreams and understand that anything is possible in life. Through my Foundation, and with the support of the Boys & Girls Clubs, we are able to offer children the im program, which is based off many of the same principals I used throughout my swimming career, to help them become water safe, teach them to set and achieve goals, and provide them with the resources to live healthier, active lives.”
Phelps attended a special press conference today at the National Press Club, alongside Boys and Girls Club spokesperson Denzel Washington and music artist Ashanti, to introduce the Great Futures Impact Plan, which will, in part, increase membership at clubs and provide academic support to children living in poverty.
First given in 2006, the Champion of Youth Award is awarded annually to someone “who has gone above and beyond in service and commitment to youth at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country.” Phelps joins impressive company, with basketball player LeBron James earning the honor in 2011, and tennis player Anna Kournikova in 2007.