-- All Stars Helping Kids, the charitable organization founded by NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, awarded Willie O’Ree the inaugural Bill Walsh Champion of Change Award during the All Stars Sports, Business and Philanthropy luncheon Thursday, September 27 at the NASDAQ Marketsite.
|Willie O'Ree poses with Jack Kemp, Ronnie Lotts and Marlon Evans of All Stars Helping Kids.
The award was developed in memory of Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh, who died of leukemia July 30, 2007, and recognizes an individual or an organization whose tenacity of purpose helps pave paths for others. Walsh’s efforts in the advancement of minority coaches were legendary and prompted the Fritz Pollard Alliance to bestow Walsh with its highest honor in 2003.
“I am honored that All Stars Helping Kids has made me the inaugural recipient of the Bill Walsh Champion of Change Award,” Willie O’Ree said. “Through the All Stars Helping Kids and NHL Diversity programs we can work to provide positive opportunities to thousands of children.”
“Willie O’Ree is the ideal recipient for the inaugural Bill Walsh Award, because his courage, talent and determination laid the foundation for others to play the game,” Lott said. “Bill Walsh was a genius not because of his Xs and Os but because he made the game more inclusive. We felt it was important to establish an award in his honor to reward great achievements in sports and to recognize those who truly make a meaningful difference for others. Willie made history in Boston and 50 years later with the NHL he continues to provide opportunity to others, especially children.”
In 1987, Walsh established the Minority Coaching Fellowship Program to enhance the skills and opportunities for minority coaches. The NFL later adopted it as a league-wide program that continues today. Walsh led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.
O’Ree also joined Lott, Jack Kemp and Commissioner Bettman to ring the NASDAQ closing bell.