Jozy Altidore: Striker, Humanitarian, Role Model
By Kim Tate
U.S striker Jozy Altidore has been making headlines a lot lately.
First it was goals galore in a USA friendly. Most recently, he gave fans a big scare when we learned he was left out of Sunderland's 18 last Saturday due to a hamstring injury.
In his sport, he gives us a lot to talk about, to be fair. With 31 goals last season in the Dutch league, he surpassed Clint Dempsey's record of the most goals scored by an American at a European club. His recent hat trick and assist in the USA's 4-3 come-from-behind win over 13th - ranked Bosnia stretched his consecutive game scoring streak to five games, the most in US national team history. It also handed team USA its 12th consecutive win, which is the longest currently active win streak in the world.
He's attracted the attention of Premier League team Sunderland, and recently signed a four year deal to play for them. He scored his first goal for them on August 27 in the Captial One Cup, helping Sunderland eliminate their 2-0 deficit over the final 12 minutes of the match and win 4-2 against MK Dons. He also had an assist in that game. For those who are unfamiliar with his entire playing career, I'll invite you to look up his name online to read more about his athletic accomplishments, because I'm limited to a certain character count here and for me to touch on everything he's done would put me well over my limit.
At only 23 years old, and the youngest of four children in a Haitian-American family, Altidore is a remarkable athlete and person. It would be an understatement to say he's been invaluable for both club and country, and additionally, he's quickly becoming a role model off the pitch. There's an aspect of his celebrity that can amplify awareness of worthy causes, which is why he created the Jozy Altidore Foundation in 2011. The Foundation not only serves underprivileged and at-risk youth, but also collaborates with athletes, educators and organizations to back other charities and causes. "I may be a young person," his foundation website reads, "but I believe it's never too early to want to make a difference."
The great thing about him besides his celebrity is his youth and vibrant energy, paired with an element of maturity and poise which gives him an extra boost of credibility for his efforts. And in just two years, Altidore has left his charitable footprint both locally and on a global scale, with plans to expand even farther. With a team comprised of sister Lindsey and his VP of Media Relations, they've worked to raise money and build community awareness for a number of projects in Haiti, including a project which would build a well to deliver clean water to 300-400 people in the area where his mother was born. It's only one of many things they've done to fulfill his quest to make a difference. Readers can see his website for a list of everything he's done with the Jozy Altidore Foundation.
"We have laid the ground work for success since Jozy restructured the foundation a few years ago, and we're excited about the future," says V.P of Media Relations and Foundation strategist, Jeremy Pond.
His sister Lindsey - the foundation's president- has worked with connections and groups worldwide for the Foundation to become involved in various areas which will benefit people in the U.S. and around the world. Teaming up with Adidas, students at the University of Pittsburgh, and the New York Red Bulls (where Altidore made his debut at age 16), he spearheaded a collective effort to work with kids at an orphanage in Haiti.
All of his achivements had me both moved and intrigued, so I asked him some questions about his charitable efforts, and how he's using his footprint to combat what he's endured with racism at his former Dutch club, AZ Alkmaar. (I'd like to add that he not only responded to the rasict behavior with class, but by setting a new record and helping his team lift the Dutch Cup for the first time in 31 years.)
KT: What motivated you to want to start your own foundation? Was there a particular cause or charity which inspired you?
JA: "I really wanted to give something back, not only to my community in Florida, but around the country and the world. As a professional athlete, I have the opportunity to help men, women and children and it gives me nothing but pleasure to see my foundation at work assisting those in need."
KT: Where do you envision the foundation in a few years? In other words, are there any goals you’ve set for funds raised, certain causes you want to support but haven’t had the chance yet?
JA: "One of our goals is to start creating scholarships for children across the country. I'd love to be able to reward young men and women chasing their college dreams who need financial assistance in their career pursuits. Hopefully in a few years, my foundation has grown leaps and bounds and we are able to do a projects of that magnitude on an annual basis."
KT: Enduring what you did at AZ with regard to racism, do you have any plans to combat the issue in sports through your Foundation?
JA: "I was actually asked to become a member of the FIFA Anti-Racism Task Force last Spring, which was obviously very humbling. I accepted the appointment and look forward to working with the group filled with people from around the world tackling and combating racism, not only in soccer, but on a global scale."
KT: If you could offer advice to other athletes wanting to get involved with charitable giving, what would you tell them?
JA: "First thing I would recommend is finding people you trust to handle your philanthropic endeavors. Find people who share your beliefs, goals and direction you want your foundation to go in. My sister ... is president of the foundation and my publicist, Jeremy Pond, is heavily involved when it comes to finding important things [and] fund-raisers [where] I should be involved, so I couldn't be happier with the team I have behind and representing me."
KT: How would you encourage readers of this article to get involved with your foundation? What needs does the JAF currently have?
JA: "I think first and foremost we are always looking for events and fund-raisers to get involved with across the country. People shouldn't hesitate in contacting us. Also, we are always appreciative of donations from the public that go toward various projects in the future. The best e-mail to contact us at is firstname.lastname@example.org for information and all other items related to the foundation."
Fans of Altidore and the US Men's National Team will get to witness his work first hand in Columbus, Ohio on September 10, when USA hosts longtime rival Mexico in a World Cup qualifer at Columbus Crew Stadium. Columbus was home to former Crew player Kirk Urso until 2012, when the 22 year old passed away unexpedly from a congenital heart defect, leaving the MLS and American soccer community stunned and saddened.
The Foundation will pay tribute to Urso with a pair of Jozy Altidore signed custom cleats: Adidas F50 adizero TRX FG boots. All proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Jozy Altidore Foundation and the Crew Soccer Foundation’s Kirk Urso Memorial Fund - another foundation Altidore has gotten behind wholeheartedly and will continue to promote.
** Update to previous edition: Altidore has been recalled back to Sunderland after receiving a yellow card suspension in Friday's qualifier against Costa Rica and will not be available for the match against Mexico. Qualifier aside, I'd encourage anyone reading to take a moment to think about ways in which they can help him continue to reach his goals for making a bigger impact, by visiting the foundation page on his website.