A number of athletes were quick to step up and lend their support to the disaster relief effort in Japan after last month's powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami -- most notably 19-year-old golfer Ryo Ishikawa's pledge to donate all of his tournament earnings this season, along with 100,000 yen (about $1,200) for every birdie he makes.
Hilton Head Island resident Tom Shimada hopes his new non-profit organization will help inspire more charity from athletes.
Shimada started Mission A2J (Athletes Assisting Japan) as a vehicle to raise funds for his two-fold mission to help -- "helping today and helping tomorrow," he says -- by which half of the donated funds will go to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund, and the other half will go to various organizations to help rebuild the athletics infrastructure in the affected areas.
"I always thought of sports as like a second set of parents, in a way," Shimada said. "I learned so many valuable life lessons and things that I wouldn't have without sports."
Shimada was born and raised in the United States, but he represented Japan during his professional career, which included 16 Davis Cup ties and the 2000 Olympics. He already has begun working with the Japanese Olympic Committee and the Japanese Tennis Association on the second part of that mission, and his organization has raised more than $120,000 through fundraising events and private donations.
An event at Van Der Meer Shipyard Racquet Club on April 3 raised more than $5,000 through two doubles clinics, pro exhibitions, lunch and a silent auction, and Shimada has planned a similar event in Charleston later this month. His contacts in the tennis community have helped get things started, but he wants to bring other athletes into the fold.
"This is not just a tennis-related thing, it's all athletes," Shimada said. "I would hope that the cause would be something a lot of different athletes could rally around."
To that end, Shimada hopes to organize some sort of event in conjunction with next week's Heritage golf tournament, which he believes could help the organization "take the next step" in its fundraising efforts.
"I wanted to try to do my part to allow the people and the children of that area to dream like I did," Shimada said, "whether you're a weekend warrior or an aspiring professional athlete or someone who just likes to take a walk in the park."
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