Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix committed part of her Tokyo earnings to the organization Right to Play. The non-profit was initially named Olympic Aid and was created by Norwegian Olympian Johann Olav Koss, many Olympic athletes donated to the organization throughout the years.
Right to Play is a global organization that uses sports and physical activities to help youth overcome obstacles and break down barriers.
Felix has been a supporter of Right to Play since 2011 when she visited their program in Lebanon for the first time. She soon became an athlete ambassador and ultimately a board member for the United States Branch of Right to Play.
“[Felix] has become the most recent and certainly most high-profile athlete to take up that torch and continue the tradition of Right to Play,” said Right to Play external relations manager Brian Healey. “Using that platform to raise funds for the children in our playgrounds and our classrooms around the world.”
The organization helps youth in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Canada. They work with the education systems and government in different communities to host “play days” for the youth. Right to Play also teaches their methodology to teachers, parents, mentors, and volunteers so they can lead the Right to Play activities with the youth.
Activities range from child-led free play to sports to games in the classroom. Right to Play also has activities pertaining to performing arts. During the pandemic, theatre art became a focal component of Right to Play programming.
“We heard stories of young girls learning about the dangers of child marriage and actually avoiding that fate for themselves based on hearing a radio drama that Right to Play produced,” Healey said.
Right to Play strives to empower, protect, and educate children. They also work on giving girls the same opportunities that boys have.
“We focus on supporting girls as well because there are almost 800 million girls out of school across the world,” Healey said. “Right to Play has a lot of gender equality specialists throughout out our programming.”
As the Right to Play students are inspired by pro athletes, said athletes are also inspired by the youth, according to Healey. He noted that the involvement of athletes like Felix “bring a lot of legitimacy to [their] work.”
“Any of the professional athletes that are involved have gone and seen the programming and see the change in the children that they met, hear their stories, hear about what they’re learning and how it’s affecting them,” he said. “It’s always very influential to the athlete.”
Felix is currently competing in her fifth Olympic games and has earned six gold medals and three silver medals. The Los Angeles native attended Los Angeles Baptist High School before attending USC.