The Real MVPs: Five Athletes Who Give Back

Filed under: Sports

LaDainian Tomlinson

San Diego Chargers player LaDainian Tomlinson hands out turkeys the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, among other charitable acts. Credit: Getty Images

If you could choose your child's sports hero, who would he -- or she -- be? The best athlete or the most giving person? Many pro athletes shine as brightly off the field as on. Here are five who give back in amazing ways from Thanksgiving to Christmas:

LaDainian Tomlinson: From September to December, No. 21 Tomlinson scores touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, LT (as he's known) is at a Wal-Mart parking lot in San Diego. He passes out holiday meals -- vegetables, canned goods, stuffing, drinks and 16-pound turkeys -- to 2,100 needy families. "Standing in that line, I hear so many things: 'Thank you so much ... We love you. God bless you.' I can't explain the feeling it gives me," Tomlinson told BusinessWeek. Before Christmas, Tomlinson is back in action. His Touching Lives Holiday Program gives away more than 2,100 books, toys and videos to children at local hospitals.

Kevin Youkilis: In addition to his charity work through Hits for Kids, each year the Boston Red Sox slugger spends Christmas morning visiting patients at Boston's Children's Hospital. "It's just a great thing when you can make a kid smile that's going through some hard times in life," Youkilis told

Tamika Catchings: Before Thanksgiving, Catchings, who stars for the Indiana Fever of the Women's National Basketball Association, hosts a fitness clinic for youth players. Admission is free, but Catchings asks each child to bring 10 canned goods. Later, the kids, accompanied by the hoops star, stop by the local food bank with their donation. At Christmas, Tamika's foundation, Catch the Stars, teams with the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association to host a fun Christmas party for 100 disadvantaged children.

Rick Nash: Over the last four years, Nash, the leading scorer for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League, has contributed $60,000 to Santa's Silent Helpers. The group helps families with children, single mothers and the elderly in central Ohio who are having trouble paying bills.

Jeff Suppan: Last year, the Milwaukee Brewers pitching ace started a program called Soup's Troops to honor military personnel and their families at Brewers games. Suppan learned that shipping holiday gifts to loved ones serving in Afghanistan cost families more than $3,000. So Suppan picked up the tab. Suppan also hosted a holiday party for 350 children at two Milwaukee-area schools, providing holiday gifts and a backpack sporting Suppan's autograph.

Now that's a sports hero.

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms our Kids" (Beacon Press).

Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at

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