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Humanitarian Kershaw gets Branch Rickey Award

Exemplifying 'Service Above Self,' Cy Young Award winner youngest to earn honor

DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw didn't wait for fame before sharing his fortune.

Kershaw, a left-hander of historic accomplishment for the Los Angeles Dodgers, added to his lengthy list of awards on Saturday when he received the Branch Rickey Award, created in 1991 by the Rotary Club of Denver and presented by AMG National Trust Bank.

This week, Kershaw was revealed as the winner of his second National League Cy Young Award in three years. The lefty has a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, and he has been to the last three All-Star Games. Last year, Kershaw earned Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award, another well-recognized humanitarian award.

But it was in 2010 -- before even his first All-Star Game -- that Kershaw began contributing away from the field. That year marked the first time Kershaw accompanied his wife, Ellen, to Africa. Ellen Kershaw previously went to Lusaka, Zambia, and a young orphan named Hope -- who was battling HIV and AIDS -- stole her heart. Kershaw decided then and there to spend his non-baseball time making life better in Africa, as well as at home.

That 2010 trip led the Kershaws to start "Kershaw's Challenge," and found their cornerstone charity, "Arise Africa." In 2012, the charity opened a home that now houses nine children who come from desperate situations. "Kershaw's Challenge" is contributing to the inner cities of Los Angeles and Dallas, the lefty's hometown. According to organizers, the Branch Rickey Award, honors those who personify the Rotary International Motto of "Service Above Self."

At 25, Kershaw is the youngest of the 22 winners of the award, all of whom are inducted into Rotary International's Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame. Kershaw is glad he didn't wait until he was older to serve people outside of baseball. It's a message the pitcher said can be useful even for those without his platform.

"That's kind of the whole point of 'Kershaw's Challenge,'" Kershaw said. "You don't need to get established to give back. You can start doing stuff right where you're at. For us, we're 25 and 26. We don't have a whole lot of life experience, and we know that.

"But that's kind of the point of the people that we're trying to reach. People that are in high school or right out of college or just trying to find a job or things like that. Even though you're not completely settled in who you are, there's something for you to do right where you're at."

It's a busy time for "Kershaw's Challenge."

Kershaw, who raised $116,000 for "Kershaw's Challenge" this year by donating $500 for each of his NL-leading 232 strikeouts, will leave Wednesday for Africa to oversee "Arise Africa's" next goals -- rebuilding a community school in the heart of Lusaka and adding five classrooms and paying salaries for higher-educated teachers, as well as drilling a new well to bring fresh water to the town. Additionally, Kershaw is involved with "Sharefest" in Los Angeles and "Mercy Street" in Dallas -- charities that provide after-school and sports programs, not limited to baseball, to at-risk youth.

"No matter what was going to happen with his career, both Clayton and I knew that we wanted to give back," Ellen Kershaw said. "It's always been part of the fabric of who Clayton is. He doesn't do this sort of thing to get honored. Actually, it's kind of funny because he's so humble, but being in baseball puts him in the spotlight."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw