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Andrei Kirilenko urges famous Russian athletes to be more vocal about charity

August 15, 2014

Stanislav Gridassov (twitter) has talked to Andrei Kirilenko for PROsport magazine about doing charity work. Both have a great experience in the area, so they had a lot to share.

Here is my quick (please don’t pick on the wording) translation of the entire interview:

Stanislav Gridassov, editor-in-chief of PROsport magazine and co-founder of Moscow-Saratov Charity Foundation:

I remember well the impression it made when I first visited the United States and saw a typical newspaper photo: five or six basketball players were visiting a children’s hospital, smiling widely for the camera and holding an oversized $5000 check. “Yuck!”, I thought, “It is so fake. They were forced to go there, herded like soldiers. And those satisfied smiles! Couldn’t they just do a good deed without demonstrating it?

You probably were in photos like that a hundred times. I wonder what you have felt the very first time?

Andrei Kirilenko of the Brooklyn Nets and Kirilenko’s Kids Charity Foundation:

I didn’t get the impression that it was fake even when I was still playing in Russia and saw photos like that. On the contrary, it was a nice thing to see: people helping other people. Maybe it’s just our country? We always wonder, ‘What’s the catch?’, always stay on the look-out. And when you make it to the NBA, you get to know Americans better, and then it gets installed in you as a norm. Like a software that works the right way. People coming from different backgrounds, when they succeed in life, feel obligated to help those who were not that lucky. And it’s not about them being so cool and being able to afford it. No, they just have to.



We often have to contact well-known Russian athletes. Sometimes money is needed to build a children’s playground or to help an orphanage. Sometimes a terminally ill kid would ask for his favorite athlete to come visit him. There are different situations, yet we almost never hear no. But there is always one request: do not write anything about it, we will do everything, but in quiet.


This is their right. Here, people generally tend to keep themselves to themselves more than they do in America. They don’t like being public. Maybe it’s not the right thing to say, but an athlete in Russia is always ready to hear something negative about himself. “He gives himself airs”. “He is too proud of himself”. “He is greedy, he could have given more”.


And what should we do about this designation? “”So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others”.


I agree with the ‘do good deeds in secret’. But there is another factor. You can be proud of yourself, sticking yourself out there, or you can attract all the attention to those who you are helping. There are children who need help. Poor people. Hospitals. In this case, information about an athlete X or a club Y helping someone becomes not a PR move but an example for others, a way to move it closer to being the norm. Let people even consider it a PR move, but if someone else follows your example, and then another person, then another – it is already good.


I am not someone who would argue about it. I found out a long time ago that the louder a charity event gets, and the more well-known people get involved, the better the result. It’s strictly math. Did it in quiet – raised $500. Did it loudly – raised $5 000. Or $50 000. The most important thing, just like in sports, is the end result. If a child needs considerable money for a surgery, you cannot console him by saying that we wanted to keep our charity in secret.


There is nothing to argue about – this is the way charity works. The larger the number of people who know about a problem, the more help they can give. And then, you shouldn’t sweat over what people will think or say about you. Just do what you think you have to do.

Andrei Kirilenko - charity


Yes, there is another directive, too. ‘Help your neighbor as far as you can’

Kirilenko: I know a lot of athletes who do charity in quiet, Great gratitude goes to them! But as they stay in the shadows, they are limiting the potential number of people who could join them and get involved and help. And by “help” I don’t only mean giving money, how many would often think. You can donate your time too, your experience, your connections. There are many ways to provide help.

A public person, who millions of people know, can draw the attention to a problem, organize people, give a push for this problem to be resolved. There really is a difference if someone who nobody knows would address, and if Ovechkin would go out and say, ‘Guys, we need to get together and help’. We need to remember that we – pardon me – well-known athletes, have great means at our disposal.


Then, we should not forget that our people is very mistrustful.


Yes, this is another reason why well-known people should get involved in charity events: people trust them more.


How do you personally choose who to help, and who not to?


Originally, when Kirilenko’s Kids foundation was just getting started, we set a few directions for ourselves on who to provide help to: orphanages, children’s hospitals, children’s basketball schools, and also, older sports veterans. Some people we would find on our own, some people would contact us themselves. Right now we are working hard on developing an inter-school tournament School Basket – this season, 92 regular schools from all across Russia took part.


When you came back from NBA to CSKA Moscow for one season, you announced that you would give all of the contract money to charity. Who received that money?


Most of it went into Moscow orphanage number 59 – we repaired it, and built a basketball court there. Also, we have bought gear for teams participating in School Basket. We have repaired gyms in many schools.


Kids from an orphanage in Yaroslavl Region, which new Team Russia captain Anton Ponkrashov is helping, have been brought to attend a game in Khimki.

Gridassov: Who else among basketball players does charity work?

Kirilenko: As an example: Fridzon, Ponkrashov, Vorontsevich.

Gridassov: I will add: Mozgov, Monia. Though Monia doesn’t like to talk about it.

Kirilenko: Well there are many others who don’t like to talk about it. And I am calling for people to speak up. To unite. Create social programs together. Festivals. There is a lot that we can do together. Look at America, where the whole country does charity work.

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