The legendary boxing champion and his wife are using their foundation to bolster CHLA’s efforts against pediatric diabetes.
Who could miss the sweet irony of a man called Sugar taking aim at diabetes and obesity?
Certainly not Sugar Ray Leonard himself, though he might suggest that the irony, like a glass of iced tea, be taken unsweetened. But it makes absolute sense that Leonard, whose celebrated boxing career included an Olympic gold medal and multiple world titles, has turned his post-boxing life toward battling endocrine disease.
Over the past several years, the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation has given more than $450,000 to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. The donations have supported and augmented resources that help type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients with diet, fitness and weight management, as well as with the psychological strain associated with their condition.
As familiar as Leonard is with a good fight, he is overly familiar with diabetes, an illness he saw strike his father, who passed away last May, along with several friends and children of friends.
“One of my friends was a picture of health,” he says. “He trained every day, worked out. He ate right. When he told me that he had diabetes, it scared me. It hit home that I should try to do more, do something. I felt with my fame and my contacts, I should start a foundation.”
He did so a decade ago, partnering with his wife, Bernadette, with one intention: “Diabetes was always the target.” Residents of Pacific Palisades, the Leonards began their relationship with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in December 2011, when they visited the hospital and took a tour of the Endocrinology Clinic. If, as Ray says, diabetes was the opponent, children were his collaborators.
“That has been my focus from day one,” he says, “trying to make sure kids have a great future. Not just my own kids, but other kids.