At its annual Congressional Breakfast held on Sept. 19, 2012, Boys & Girls Clubs of America proudly awarded its Champion of Youth Award to a true hero: Michael Phelps. The award, which was presented to Phelps by BGCA co-National Spokesperson Denzel Washington, is given to an individual who has gone above and beyond in service and commitment to youth at Clubs across the country.
A longtime advocate for youth, Michael's first involvement with Boys & Girls Clubs of America was in 2003, when he was featured in the "Where’s Your Card?" ad campaign that encouraged young people to become a member of their local Club.
In 2008 following the Beijing Olympics, he established the Michael Phelps Foundation whose mission focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthy and active lives, especially for children. Following the Beijing games, Phelps traveled nationwide to share his Olympic experience and promote his inspirational message of "Dream, Plan, Reach" with members of Boys & Girls Clubs.
In 2009, the Michael Phelps Foundation, in partnership with KidsHealth.org and the Michael Phelps Swim School, developed im, a water-safety, health and wellness program, which is based on the techniques and principles Phelps has implemented throughout his swimming career. The im program was designed to keep kids safe in and out of the water by teaching the basics of water safety and how to be comfortable and confident in the water. The program also teaches participants how to set and reach goals, and to live a healthy lifestyle.
The program launched nationally in 2010 at six Boys & Girls Clubs, and is now being implemented at 28 Boys & Girls Clubs, across 22 states and one U.S. Naval installation in Naples, Italy. Since the program's inception, more than 4,000 children have participated in im. Nearly 85 percent of participants are new or beginner swimmers, and 80 percent of participants are under the age of 12, the age group most at risk of drowning. More than 3,000 participants are now deemed water-safe because of the im program.
In 2011, the Michael Phelps Foundation partnered with Special Olympics International to offer im to Special Olympics athletes in seven countries across six continents.
In addition to serving Boys & Girls Clubs at a national level, Michael also acts as an honorary board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County in his hometown of Baltimore, Md.
Phelps is the winner of 22 Olympic medals -- including 18 gold medals, double that of his next closest competitor -- in the sport of swimming. Holder of the most career world records of all-time, Michael has retired from competitive swimming as the greatest Olympian of all time.
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