- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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If you don't like happy endings, and athletes and coaches with a heart and a conscience, then quit reading this.
If you think Lindsay Lohan and Pacman Jones ought to be dating, that Michael Vick should be commissioner of the World Dogfighting Federation, or that Tank Johnson should become the NRA's newest national spokesperson, then this column isn't for you.
This isn't about the newest Cincinnati Bengal mug shot, a "rogue" NBA ref, or Barry Bonds' ex-mistress or ex-chemist. It isn't about another Tour de Drugs rider testing positive for blood doping, Brian Urlacher's saucy e-mails, or Alex Rodriguez's stripper friend. And it definitely isn't about Elijah Dukes' restraining order, Scott Olsen's police fights, or Joey Porter's six-figure NFL fine.
It's about the other guys. The good guys.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and his wife, Maura, will break ground on the Hannah & Friends Farm next Saturday. Hannah is the Weis' 12-year-old daughter who was born with something called global developmental delays. The Weis' new 30-acre facility will house adults with similar special needs. So if Weis is bummed about losing his recent medical malpractice lawsuit, he can find comfort in the innocent, sweet smile of his daughter.
Chicago Cubs reliever Kerry Wood, who has a few things on his own mind these days (such as, will he ever pitch in the big leagues again?), hosted his annual celebrity bowling charity fundraiser a few nights ago. The event raised more than $300,000 (an autographed Cubs clubhouse urinal went for $11K in the auction) for Project 3000, a University of Iowa-based research foundation dedicated to the cure of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a genetic eye disease. Why Project 3000? Because Wood never forgets a teammate. Derrek Lee's 4-year-old daughter, Jada, suffers from LCA and has lost vision in one eye.
As unexpected acts of kindness go, how about what LPGA touring pro Mi Hyun Kim did only a few days after an F-5 category tornado obliterated 95 percent of what was once Greensburg, Kan.? The South Korean golfer, fresh from winning the SemGroup Championship, donated nearly half of her $210,000 first-place check to the United Way Greensburg Disaster Fund. Kim was touched by the heartbreaking story. The people of Greensburg were touched by her generosity. They certainly weren't the only ones.
Earlier this week, Houston Texans running back Ahman Green cowboy'd up on a handshake deal he made with teammate Jason Simmons. Green got Simmons' jersey number (30), and in return, Regina Foster and her 7-year-old autistic son, Reginald, got a down payment on their first house. Green wrote a check for $25,000, while Texans owner Bob McNair added another $25,000. The grateful Regina, who couldn't afford the down payment on her own, says Reginald will love the new backyard. Green will love writing the transaction description in his checkbook: "Made a mom and her son (and me) very happy."
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is the co-founder of the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), which is based in Walnut Creek, Calif. La Russa and his family have pledged to match as much as $500,000 for all donations made to ARF this year. Maybe this would be a good time for Vick to get ARF's address.
Dwyane Wade is in his hometown of Chicago this week overseeing his annual youth basketball camp. Some guys phone it in at kids' camps. Not Wade. The guy is as genuine as Miller beer.
I'd pay money just to listen to Charles Barkley read the phone book. But here's the thing about Sir Charles: He puts his money where his mouth is. Barkley gave $1 million to the New Orleans/Hurricane Katrina recovery fund. And earlier this month, after touring the fire-ravaged Lake Tahoe area, Barkley said he's donating $25,000 to the relief fund. He also picked up the dinner tab for 100 Tahoe-area firefighters. Doesn't want to be a role model, eh? Sorry, too late.
Dikembe Mutombo, a Houston Rockets free agent, wags fingers and writes checks. His charitable foundation has raised about $15 million toward the $29 million construction bill of a 300-bed hospital and research center in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. I'd list all the other things Mutombo does for charity, but I've got a 900-word column limit.
New Orleans Saints teammates Drew Brees and Deuce McAllister remain two of the NFL's most visible supporters for the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, an effort which sadly still slogs along at a much too slow pace. As always, Brees and McAllister (and some of their Saints teammates) lead with their off time and their wallets.
Seattle Seahawk Grant Wistrom happily pays the bills for his foundation's
Circle of Friends program, which sponsors four-day summer and winter adventure trips in Wisconsin for 40 pediatric oncology patients from nine different cities. Wistrom, and a handful of other former players, are always on the trips. If you saw the looks on those kids' faces, you'd be on those trips too.
Tiger Woods finished tied for 12th in the recent British Open, but he's atop the leaderboard of any kid who's visited the freebie Tiger Woods Learning Center. The 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art education facility is a legacy that matters more than a major.
What a simple, elegant idea: The Marquette men's and women's soccer teams put together a Soccer Mom Clinic earlier this spring. They raised $5,000 for breast cancer research. Every little bit helps, right?
Alabama coach Nick Saban is a certifiable football control freak, but guess who visits recovering cancer patients out of the blue, just to see how they're doing? And Saban, along with Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, USC's Pete Carroll and Texas' Mack Brown, to name a few, couldn't say yes fast enough when asked to help The Jason Foundation, a Nashville-based teenage suicide prevention program run by Clark Flatt, with a considerable assist from Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer.
Did I mention that three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley and her charitable foundation are doing what they can to help at-risk youths in Philadelphia? Or that Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek continues to raise awareness, to say nothing of money, for the effort to fight genocide in Sudan? Or that Chris Paul's foundation does everything from donating food baskets to donating money for scholarship funds?
And this is just the short list. The good news: It's getting longer and longer all the time.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Enough of the crooked refs and fighting dogs. Plenty of stars have a heart ... and they're willing to share it.