Body: Philanthropy

Lake Forest’s Susan Morrison loves athletics. She believes in the power of sport to transform lives — particularly for women and girls.

Almost 10 years ago, she joined the board of the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), a national organization that advances the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activities.

Morrison particularly loves tennis. She grew up playing it competitively, and her role model was the legendary Billy Jean King, who founded WSF with the first tournament check she won. The opportunity to play in charity tennis clinics with King many years later eventually led Morrison to join WSF.

She explains that Billy Jean launched the foundation to give girls an equal opportunity to play sports. “WSF eventually grew to include research; Title IX advocacy; travel and training grants for promising athletes; a curriculum for girls, parents, and teachers in underserved communities; and more.”

WSF brings athletics to girls in Chicago and across the country who wouldn’t otherwise have any sports opportunity, even as it helps develop the next generation of Olympic champions.

Morrison finds the data compelling. “Girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school. They have higher levels of self-esteem, better body image, less depression, and fewer eating disorders.” She continues, “Sports also can be a starting point for fathers to get more involved in their daughters’ lives at a younger age. And girls with supportive fathers are more likely to become leaders.”

Although she is proud of all that WSF has accomplished, Morrison particularly loves the “Go Girl Go” curriculum offered through partner organizations across the country.

She explains, “I once listened to a circle of teenage girls in Chicago discuss the course they had just completed. I was moved to tears because they felt empowered and able to share their feelings as never before. That empowerment spreads to everything — school, work, feeling smart, every aspect of their lives!”

Morrison also enjoys the camaraderie of the WSF Board of Trustees, which includes national and Olympic champions, prominent business people, and leaders of national sports organizations. “I’m personally inspired by the women with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work.” There is a healthy dose of glamour too, at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports gala in New York City. “It is unbelievably exciting to see these gorgeous women and think what they have accomplished!”

This is Morrison’s final year on the WSF board, so she has begun focusing more effort on the organization, “Women Moving Millions,” an initiative that raises the bar on philanthropic support for women and girls. But, she explains, “I will always stay involved with the Women’s Sports Foundation. The belief that sports can play an important role in the development of girls is part of my soul! My hope is to see this philosophy spread around the world.”

FUN FACT: Make It Better Philanthropy Award winner, Girls In The Game, is supported by the WSF and has used the Go Girl Go curriculum.