The philanthropic legacy of the Olympics is both obvious (such as the Special Olympics that provide sports training for people with intellectual disabilities) and not immediately apparent. Fundamentally, the Olympics serve to inspire people around the world to play competitive sports and strive for excellence in our lives – as well as inspire loyalty to our home countries.

Playing sports has been shown to improve mental and physical health, reduce crime and bring communities together. Our own Teen Grantmaking Initiative recently distributed funds to several sports-oriented charities that serve youth in the Detroit metropolitan region.

Sports often inspire charitable contributions, as shown by a bet on tennis great Roger Federer’s recent Wimbledon win that ensured the charity Oxfam received a $157,000 donation. Even after major sports events reach their conclusion, many athletes partner with charities, and even start their own foundations to benefit causes that are important to them. By following sustainable practices, athletes wishing to donate through a foundation can keep giving back in perpetuity. This is evident in the legacies of foundations such as Livestrong, founded by Olympic cyclist Lance Armstrong, which has raised millions of dollars for cancer causes.

What begins with a worldwide event such as the Olympic Games often has a trickle-down effect that positively impacts communities for years to come. How will the 2012 Olympic Games inspire you to do more to give back?

Meanwhile, we’ll be cheering for swimmer Katya Bachrouche (Michigan), and sibling fencers Mona & Zain Shaito (Texas) as they represent Arab Americans and compete for the gold in London!

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Photo courtesy Brigitte Lacombe

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