Cheek donated funds to help cause in Darfur

Updated: December 5, 2006, 2:11 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Olympic speedskating champion Joey Cheek did some football poses after learning he would receive the inaugural Heisman Humanitarian Award for his efforts to help refugees in war-ravaged Darfur.

The Heisman Trophy Trust will honor Cheek at a Dec. 11 dinner in New York, two days after its namesake award is given to the nation's top college football player.

"Even though I am a speedskater, and this is a humanitarian award, I cannot lie," Cheek said. "When I heard I would be receiving it, I did some Heisman poses around my living room."

After winning gold and silver medals at the Torino Olympics this year, Cheek donated all of his performance bonuses -- a total of $40,000 -- to Right To Play, a humanitarian organization founded by another Olympic champion, Johann Olav Koss.

Cheek earmarked his money for refugees in Darfur, a region in the African nation of Sudan. Three years of fighting between government and rebel forces have caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people and forced some 2.5 million from their homes.

Cheek was chosen to carry the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies in Torino, and his donations helped generate more than $500,000 in aid for victims in Darfur. He has since retired from skating and founded his own nonprofit organization, Where Will We Be?

The Heisman Trophy Trust will make a $25,000 donation in Cheek's name to Right To Play.

"Every time I receive a blessing, I look at it as an incredible opportunity to help someone else," said Cheek, who plans to study economics at Princeton beginning in the fall of 2007. "This award is a huge honor, but even more important is the chance it gives me to speak out for those with no voice."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press