“Protect your vision, and as you grow within your organization there might be times when things change, but what your vision is doesn’t change at all.” – Madieu Williams
Every week – even during the NFL season – Madieu Williams attends the after school program held by The Madieu Williams Foundation. He believes that his presence communicates to the kids how important the program is, and how seriously he – and they – need to take it. It’s the kind of discipline that an athlete brings to the table, and that translates to a foundation’s vision, in this case a focus on education, health and fitness for underprivileged youth in the U.S. and in Williams’ native Sierra Leone.
The foundation prides itself on the partnerships that enable it to undertake a growing range of projects, like the University of Maryland’s sustainability engineers and Engineers Without Borders, who dreamed up a program to install solar panels at a school in Sierra Leone, which itself was built by the foundation in partnership with the Segal Foundation and the MASS Design Group.
Whether building a school in Sierra Leone or implementing a summer reading program in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the foundation is driven forward by a strong vision and a solid structure. Williams and foundation Executive Director Dahlia Levin spoke about the keys to the foundation’s success and the importance of passion for your cause:
Q: How do you think you exemplify excellence in sports philanthropy?
Williams: As an athlete and someone who’s been doing this for a long time, I don’t take a lot of credit for what we’ve done. I’ve been lucky to have partners and volunteers that have helped me achieve some of these goals for the foundation. My goal is to do the best that we can, to be as sound as possible in all areas, and more importantly just to be sustainable as an organization. For me, being a sustainable organization is the key as far as exemplifying excellence.
Levin: The sports world is so unstable, so when you build a legacy it’s something that you can have and build upon and use as a good model – something that stays in place.
Q: What would be your advice to fellow athletes looking to give back?
Williams: You have to understand the landscape. Understand what you would like to do – what you’re passionate about. Start where your heart is. You have to protect that, and that’s what’s going to drive you and motivate you, and set the tone for what your mission statement will be. It’s very important to have that vision in place, because when you have to articulate what that vision is, you have to be able to do that or other people won’t be able to buy into what you’re selling.
Levin: If you don’t find the thing you can talk about forever, you’re not going to be able to do it. Make sure it’s what you want to do. Make sure you’re passionate about it.
Williams is a finalist for the first-ever All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 10, 2013 at the Skyline Club in Indianapolis. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and a $100,000 media grant provided by PVBLIC to provide the winner with unprecedented access to public media channels to promote his or her inspiring work. Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.