Blue Jays get Selig Award for philanthropy

Club recognized for Blue Jays Community Commitment, a $7.5 million COVID-19 response plan addressing food insecurity and unprecedented youth social isolation across Canada

December 21st, 2020

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been named the 2020 recipient of the Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence, recognizing the organization’s “Blue Jays Community Commitment,” which raised $7.5 million to support those disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

The club’s work specifically addressed food insecurity and the social isolation that many young Canadians faced in 2020. This is the second Selig Award that the Blue Jays have received, with the first coming in ‘12 for its “Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy” initiative. They join the Boston Red Sox (2010, ‘19) as the only clubs that have won the Selig Award multiple times.

Other club finalists for the 2020 Selig Award included the Arizona Diamondbacks (D-backs Youth Jersey Program), Atlanta Braves (COVID-19 relief efforts), Chicago Cubs (food insecurity in the time of COVID-19), Cleveland Indians (bridging the digital divide), Miami Marlins (COVID-19 Relief Efforts and educational support in South Florida) and the Washington Nationals (Nationals Food Access Program: COVID-19 response). You can read more about each of those club's initiatives here.

“In these unprecedented times, clubs across our League have stepped up in their efforts to provide meaningful support to those in need within their communities,” said Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. “The impact made by the Blue Jays and their Jays Care Foundation in critical issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada has been inspiring. All of us throughout baseball are proud of their contributions. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate the Toronto Blue Jays organization for this well-deserved recognition with their second Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence.”

The Blue Jays were selected by a panel that assessed the club’s ability to address and respond to an important community need or problem while making an impact on its community.

While the 2020 season was a unique challenge for all clubs, the Blue Jays faced the added wrinkle of playing away from Toronto, with Buffalo’s Sahlen Field stepping in as their temporary home. The work back in Toronto continued, though, and one of the most valuable tools that the Blue Jays had was Rogers Centre, which was sitting mostly unused without ball games and 45,000 fans in the stands.

The Blue Jays transformed their stadium to use the field space and concourse areas as storage and packaging sites for food and supplies, which went out to communities in need. Having this space in the heart of downtown Toronto allowed the Blue Jays staff and volunteers to maintain physical distancing while they worked together to distribute these packages to youth and food insecure families.

“Despite not playing on Canadian soil this summer, our hearts remained in Canada -- with those in our community that were experiencing urgent needs exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro. “Sport provides a tremendous opportunity for positive change. By turning challenges into opportunities this season, our fans, staff, players, alumni, and partners worked together to help thousands of Canadians when they needed us most. This holiday season, I hope this honor from Major League Baseball reminds Blue Jays fans of the collective power each of us has to help our neighbors and be a positive force for good.”

In total, the Blue Jays delivered 8.1 million meals to food-insecure Canadians. Jays Care also pivoted much of its efforts to virtual programming, which reached 14,200 youth in Canada and was led by 1,500 teachers, youth leaders and volunteers. Staff members of the Blue Jays, Jays Care and Rogers volunteered 20,000 hours this past year while the organization’s work with Challenger Baseball continued, with 2,000 adaptive equipment kits being delivered to families of children living with disabilities.

“Though COVID-19 has impacted all Canadians, the pandemic has disproportionately affected those already facing significant barriers in their lives,” said Jays Care Foundation chair Melinda Rogers-Hixon. “We are very proud of how our organization came together, creating innovative solutions to support children and families in need across the country. On behalf of Jays Care Foundation and the Toronto Blue Jays, I want to thank Commissioner Manfred and Major League Baseball for this humbling recognition.”