7 Incredible Organizations Using Sports as a Vehicle for Change [LIST]

Sports are one way to get your mind, body and spirit in shape


Kids playing sports.

(matimix / Shutterstock.com)

Physical activity has been proven to be good for your health, but its benefits are ten-fold; positively affecting emotional wellbeing, socialization skills and intelligence. From soccer to swimming, get to know seven incredible organizations that are using sports as a way to get the mind, body and spirit in shape.


WHAT: A nonprofit that uses running and physical activity as a vehicle to instill strength and confidence in young girls aged 7-13.
HOW: The 12-week program takes place throughout the United States and Canada, and has already reached out to over 700,000 girls. Instructors are certified Girls on the Run coaches who work with a curriculum which is divided into three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and learning how to connect with and shape the world at large.
THE X FACTOR: Every Girls on the Run program concludes with a 5K running event in which each young girl runs with a running buddy; friends and family are also invited to volunteer or run themselves, spreading the confident, can-do attitude in all.


WHAT: A New York based nonprofit that offers affordable swim lessons to kids, teens, adults and seniors.
HOW: Swim Strong Foundation is intent on teaching swimming as a life skill and helping individuals overcome their fear of water. They also work with more experienced swimmers to engage and challenge them to swim competitively. All of the coaches are volunteers and donate their time and swimming expertise to encourage more people to get their feet wet.
THE X FACTOR: Since 2009, the nonprofit has provided over 883 swimming scholarships to kids in need and boasts an impressive alumni who have since joined professional swim teams, became swim coaches and even commercial divers!


WHAT: First Descents provides free challenging outdoor experiences to young adult cancer fighters and survivors.
HOW: Participants get to surf, climb and paddle beyond their cancer with a range of free programs, all the while connecting with others who are going through similar experiences.
THE X FACTOR: First Descents puts the emphasis on living, and encourages young people who felt weakened both physically and emotionally by their diagnosis to push the limits.


WHAT: Africa Yoga Project uses the transformative power of yoga to improve the lives of Kenyans of all ages.
HOW: The nonprofit offers yoga instruction, teacher training, health education and community activism programming.
THE X FACTOR: AYP trains instructors, many hailing from violence-stricken and impoverished slums of Kenya, who survive on less than $2 a day. The local AYP teachers are personally taught by Baron Baptiste, a prominent figure in the yoga industry, and while receiving a vocation, give back by teaching in prisons, schools, special need centers, HIV/AIDS support groups, deaf schools and rural villages.


WHAT: An Ethiopian nonprofit that uses skateboarding to improve the lives of young people ages 6 -19.
HOW: Ethioskate founder Israel Dejene introduced skateboarding to kids in his hometown of Addis Ababa, and aims to use skateboarding as a way to steer youth off the streets.
THE X FACTOR: Ethioskate has created the first skatepark in Ethiopia named, ”Love in Action.”


WHAT: A 5k/3-mile race held in cities throughout the world.
HOW: The Color Run is a fun run - meaning, no pressure on speed and performance and open for runners of all levels, the only condition is that you wear a white shirt. Each kilometer during the dash is marked by a specific color: yellow, orange, pink or blue. When runners arrive at the Color Run Zone, they are bombarded with color (made from completely natural and safe ingredients). The race culminates with a happy, colorful party.  
THE X FACTOR: The Color Run is into giving back and some of the proceeds from the race are donated to charity. A  local organization is selected in each city The Color Run is held in- and since 2012 the race has raised 3 million dollars.


WHAT: A nonprofit that works with underserved youth in the USA and abroad through the love of soccer.
HOW: Soccer Without Borders provides programming to kids who cannot afford or do not have access to extra-curricular activities. Active in select US cities in addition to Nicaragua and Uganda, the nonprofit provides year-long and seasonal programs and camps.
THE X FACTOR: Aside from teaching soccer skills, the nonprofit’s instruction includes team building games, civic engagement project and cultural exchanges to create well-rounded and healthy youth.