Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic gold medalist and three time World Champion figure skater, founded the “Always Dream Foundation” in 1996, after her professional skating career wound down.
She was inspired by how the Make-A-Wish foundation had the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of children, and wanted to do something on her own. Her foundation’s mission statement reads: “Empowering Children to reach their dreams through education and inspiration.” It provides funding for after school programs, computers, summer camps for kids with disabilities, and even back-to-school clothes for underprivileged children. In the classroom, the foundation’s efforts include improving childhood literacy through reading programs in schools throughout the United States. The most recent project from the Always Dream Foundation is building playgrounds that allows children of differing abilities to play together.
The foundation also started a language arts program known as “Footsteps to Brilliance,” which involves integrating innovative technology initiatives to kindergarten and first grade classes. They also partner with Raising A Reader (RAR), a national organization that engages parents and their children to build and sustain literacy routines in their homes, particularly homes with children at the highest risk for educational failure. The program delivers bright red bags filled with award-winning books to children’s homes on a weekly basis, exposing children to an average of 100 books per rotation cycle.
Even Yamaguchi’s commercial efforts have had a philanthropic element to them. In 2012, she started a women’s lifestyle and active wear brand called “tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi.” A portion of all the revenue made from the sale of this clothing go to support the Always Dream Foundation.