Despite facing numerous segregation-era challenges as a young man in the American south, Hank Aaron was driven to achieve greatness, ultimately rising to fame as Major League Baseball star. Eventually topping Babe Ruth to take the home run record in 1974, Aaron was inducted into the sport’s hall of fame less than a decade later.
Through it all, Aaron remained cognizant of the need many youngsters still had for someone to offer assistance and a hand up as they scaled the ladder of success, launching the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation with his wife in 1994. In more than two decades of operation, the foundation has been credited with providing scholarships needed by underprivileged youth striving to fulfill their dreams, just as the charity’s namesake did so many years ago.
In a 2003 appearance, Aaron’s wife Billy explained that her husband was committed to reaching out to kids while they were still quite young, capturing their attention before their local communities’ ills began to derail their potential.
Aaron’s life’s philanthropic ripple effect did not stop with his own foundation, as several other programs dedicated to his legacy were established with the same aims in mind. Upon Aaron’s 1976 retirement from baseball, the Hank Aaron Youth Fund was created to provide scholarships to deserving youngsters via the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.
Other charitable programs linked to Aaron’s community-minded goals include the 44 Forever program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the endowed “4 for 4” scholarship. Mr. and Mrs. Aaron also donated millions of dollars to Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine.
In addition to helping ensure a bright future for promising kids from underrepresented communities, the reach of the Aarons’ largesse also includes their pledge to donate their collection of baseball-related memorabilia to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum so that future generations can experience the excitement, history, and lore of America’s pastime.
Though millions continue to mourn the recent passing of Hammerin’ Hank at age 83, the devotion he and his wife have long displayed for making the world a better place will live on, and his legacy will never be forgotten by those who continue to benefit from his generosity.