By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LOS ANGELES – For Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and defending Cy Young Award recipient and Regal author Clayton Kershaw every strikeout in 2012 matters — for his team on the field and also for children at risk on two continents.
According to a news release, Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, have announced that for the second consecutive year they will donate $100 each time he strikes out an opposing batter as the centerpiece of what they call Kershaw’s Challenge: Striking Out to Serve. During the 2012 season, which begins today with Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers in San Diego, the funds will go to four diverse non-profit causes, including one in Southern California, one in the Kershaw’s home state of Texas, a national movement called “I Am Second,” and the work with orphans in Africa that started it all.
Kershaw’s Challenge: Strike Out to Serve (www.kershawschallenge.com), which has just been re-launched, began in 2011. For each of the league-leading 248 batters the Dodger ace struck out last season, he and his wife, Ellen, gave $100 to help build a new children’s home in Zambia, teaming up with Arise Africa (www.Ariseafrica.org). Kershaw also donated a portion of the monetary prizes he received for baseball honors and added direct contributions from others to bring the total amount raised to $202,000.
In January 2012, the Kershaw’s traveled to Lusaka, Zambia, for the second consecutive off-season, walking the land where the new home is now under construction. To be called Hope’s Home, this orphanage will be a safe haven for about one dozen at-risk children.
“Our inspiration is a 12-year-old girl named Hope,” said Kershaw, a native of Highland Park. “She is an HIV orphan who stole our hearts. She desperately needs a place to call home.”
The Kershaws tell the story of their dream to serve others in Zambia (and baseball stories, too) in Arise, a book they co-authored and released in January 2012.
Seventy-percent of the 2012 Kershaw’s Challenge proceeds will go toward Arise Africa projects in Zambia, including furnishing the orphanage, purchasing adjacent farmland so the children can learn to grow crops, building a chicken coop, establishing a medical emergency fund and funding a child feeding program.
Why Zambia? As a high school student, Ellen Kershaw was moved by a segment on orphans in Africa featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In college, she decided to make a difference, and has now traveled to Zambia six times, joining forces with Arise Africa.
The Kershaws remain committed to Africa, but their desire strike out to serve goes further. Thirty percent of the proceeds from the 2012 challenge will go to three nonprofit organizations, each receiving 10 percent. The Kershaws will partner with the Peacock Foundation in Los Angeles (www.peacockfoundation.org), Mercy Street in Dallas (www.mercystreetdallas.org) and I Am Second (www.iamsecond.com).
The Peacock Foundation uses rescued animals in a therapy program to bring healing to at-risk and traumatized children and their families throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Kershaws Challenge will help fund a Peacock Foundation program called Creature Comfort.
Mercy Street seeks to see transformation in a west Dallas, Texas, neighborhood, through mentoring, sports and community development. Kershaws Challenge will fund a youth baseball program for inner city kids with baseball equipment.
I Am Second is a nationwide grassroots and media campaign that empowers people in various walks of life to live for God and others. Clayton Kershaw’s I Am Second film went live online April 5.
Kershaw said the essence of Kershaw’s Challenge: Striking Out to Serve is that the better you do, the more you give, making whatever you do about something more.
“Baseball is more than just a passion of mine. It’s a platform to do more, to give back to our community, and to make a difference in the world.” In 2011, the Kershaws were thrilled when college, high school and little league baseball players joined The Challenge, donating 25 cents or $1 or more per batter they struck out or per hit they got. Non-athletes partnered, too, donating various amounts.