If there’s one thing Clayton Kershaw takes seriously, it’s . . . ping-pong? The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and three-time Cy Young Award winner is half way through his 12th Major League season. He and the Dodgers are in fine shape to pull out another National League West division win later this summer (may it be so). But it is Kershaw’s ping-pong pitch, not baseball, that has Number 22’s attention at the moment.
On August 8, Kershaw and his wife Ellen will host the 7th annual “Ping-Pong 4 Purpose” charity event and celebrity tournament on the field at Dodger Stadium. PP4P is the premier fundraiser each summer for Kershaw’s Challenge, a charity begun by the couple in 2011 to serve vulnerable and at-risk children in the U.S. and abroad. Proceeds are earmarked for several local and international organizations working to improve the quality of life for under-served children.
“Clayton and Ellen feel strongly about serving kids in need,” said Shay O’Dwyer, Director of Advancement for Dallas-based Kershaw’s Challenge. “They believe every life matters, and changing families, communities, and countries can happen one kid at a time.”
A beast with singular purpose on the mound, Kershaw’s heart for community and humanitarian causes is just as fierce — a quality that comes as no surprise to Dodgers fans. In 2012 he received the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the MLB player who best demonstrates a commitment to community and an understanding of the value of helping others.
Passion for At-Risk Kids
That passion for helping and encouraging others, particularly at-risk children, is born of a strong faith. Clayton and Ellen both share the story of that faith and commitment to God’s plan in Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself. In the book, co-authored with Ellen’s sister Ann, they write of their desire to live for something greater than themselves. On the ball field or the mission field, and all the places in between, Colossians 3:23 guides their steps: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
“Right where you are — God has a purpose for your life,” they write. “Rise up to see it, and join us in striving to live for something more.”
Of course, the Kershaws know how to fill the journey with amusement and energy. As they considered ways to raise funds, Clayton wanted a fun and casual way to bring people together. He drew on one of his favorite pastimes — ping-pong — an unusual change agent, to be sure, but one that has been effective. Since its founding, Kershaw’s Challenge has raised and given away more than $7.5 million to make life better for thousands of children.
Ping Pong Beneficiaries
Here’s a look at this year’s beneficiaries of the PP4P tournament:
- Dream Center — a resource center finding solutions to homelessness, hunger, and the lack of education through residential and community outreach programs. In 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge is working to support Dream Center’s Back to School Bash and build the Kershaw’s Challenge Park.
- Just Keep Livin Foundation (JKL) — a non-profit started by Camila and Matthew McConaughey to empower high school students to lead active lives and make healthy choices. Kershaw’s Challenge is working to bring JKL’s after-school program and curriculum into a Los-Angeles area school.
- Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation — the official charity of the LA Dodgers helps fund programs that engage kids in sports, keeps them active and promotes academic success. Kershaw’s Challenge is helping build two new Dodgers Dreamfield ballparks in Compton.
- International Justice Mission (IJM) — the world’s largest anti-slavery organization, working to set slaves free and throw oppressors in jail. Kershaw’s Challenge supports rescue and restore initiatives at the IJM office in the Dominican Republic.
- Both Ends Believing — a nonprofit that is transforming global child welfare through technology initiatives and collaboration. Kershaw’s Challenge is helping bring software to Zambia and the Dominican Republic that gives orphaned children an official identity, in turn allowing for easier placement of these young ones into loving families.
- Arise Africa — a Christian ministry working to empower young people of Zambia through initiatives such as the operation of schools in Ngombe and Taonga, as well as two homes for orphaned children. In 2019, Kershaw’s Challenge is supporting phase three of the Arise Christian School, which includes classrooms and a cafeteria.
PP4P will be a star-studded event. Last year’s event drew such Hollywood notables as Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Matthew McConaughey, Josh Duhamel, Bill Nye, and Bryan Cranston.
This year one celebrity couple in particular will be honored. Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley will receive the Community Impact Award for their leadership in the development of a free grocery store in Nashville, TN. When complete, The Store will give needy families a place to shop for groceries free of charge for one year.
Back to baseball. It’s true, Dodgers fans are itching for another crack at a World Series win this fall. No doubt Kershaw’s pitching prowess will help propel the team in that direction. But first, he is going to bring the heat with his best topspin, smash and twiddle at PP4P — all for the sake of the kids.
More information about attending or supporting Ping-Pong 4 Purpose is available at Kershaw’s Challenge.