Mitchell still plans to assist others. He’s slowing down but not giving up. As part of the small but influential group of former and current high-profile professional athletes who view charitable work as their responsibility, Mitchell intends to continue putting his effort where his mouth is “because so many people out there need help,” he said. “And the ballplayers are in a position to do so much.”
Superstar athletes are uniquely positioned to effect positive change in society. As global icons in a world with a 24-hour news cycle, they influence everything from the clothes we purchase to the food we consume. The most thoughtful among them believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. They’re eager to use their celebrity to help uplift others less fortunate and only seek successful results in return.
Mitchell, who spent 40 years as a player and front-office employee with the Redskins, has contributed to raising more than $8 million to help cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. Although Mitchell prefers not to discuss his behind-the-scenes role (“It’s not about saying, ‘Look at me,’ ” he says), others familiar with his commitment on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society say he travels 10 months a year, out of his own pocket, to seek funding and arrange the golf weekend.
By persuading other Hall of Famers to join him, Mitchell has “selflessly dedicated himself to the kids fighting blood cancer,” Gabrielle Urquhart, executive director of the foundation’s Washington area chapter, wrote to me in an e-mail.
“He treated LLS as his own foundation, fundraising for us and our mission, never asking for anything in return. We are forever thankful to him.”
Mitchell actually contributes to many charities, his associates say. He has been vocal about some of his work for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, however, in an effort to generate as much funding for research as he could. With most of Mitchell’s other causes, such as feeding the homeless, his celebrity is not as valuable as his time.
“When Thanksgiving comes around, you’re not going to read about us [Mitchell and his family and friends] feeding thousands of people. And you won’t see anything about it,” he said. “But those people we feed year after year, they know.