On April 10, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation (USOPF) announced four athletes as the 2022 award recipients for Team USA Community Champions – which includes Running Strong for American Indian Youth® co-founder and Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills.
Billy and the three others (Mary Cain, Atalanta NYC; Kelsey Dickinson, Women Ski Coaches Association; and Tyler Merren, U.S. Association of Blind Athletes) “were selected based on their commitment to serving and bettering their communities through nonprofit work.”
Each will receive $25,000, of which half will be directed to the athlete’s nonprofit of choice with the other half awarded to the individual athlete through the USOPF in partnership with Comcast.
Billy (Oglala Lakota), described by the USOPF as a “track and field legend,” won his gold medal for Team USA in the 10,000 race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 1964.
“His victory is considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets, as he was not among the top stars and considered relatively unknown prior to the event.”
Billy, with the late U.S. Air Force Col. Gene Krizek (Ret.), co-founded Running Strong “to meet the critical needs of indigenous communities, foster cultural identity development and support Native youth in pursuit of their dreams,” noted the USOPF. “He has given assistance in outreach and fundraising efforts to the organization for over 30 years.”
For the 2022 cohort of awardees, nearly 100 athlete applicants were considered and selected from a competitive pool of 22 finalists.
USOPF President Christine Walshe stated: “We are in awe of Mary, Kelsey, Tyler, and Billy, not just for their impressive athletic achievements, but for their dedication to enriching their communities.
“Our Team USA Community Champions show us the meaning of service and the difference we can make in the lives of others. We hope that their efforts inspire others to do what they can to make a positive impact in their own communities.”
And as for Billy himself:
“As a young Lakota runner, I dreamt of winning a Gold medal in the Olympics. After I achieved my dream, I knew I was now able to tangibly create positive change on my reservation and across the nation by co-founding Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, a national non-profit organization.
“We are excited and humbled that Running Strong for American Indian Youth® has been recognized by Team USA in partnership with Comcast.”
To see the press release from TeamUSA, please visit https://www.teamusa.org/News/2023/April/10/2022-Community-Champions-Award-Winners