Sunday, August 31, 2008

8 Gold medals and a heart of gold, too?

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing have been over for a week now and the 2008 Paralympic Games are open, but Michael Phelps keeps on bringin' the goodness.

This time, bringing it to some New York kids with his visit to the Manhattan YMCA on Thursday.

Just below this unforgettable image of Phelps during the Beijing games, here's the scoop on his YMCA visit from People magazine:

Michael Phelps faced his toughest competition yet this week in New York City: a group of 6-to-12-year-olds!

The eight-time Olympic gold medalist visited the McBurney YMCA in Manhattan on Thursday to hand over a $20,000 check on behalf of Visa as part of the Play Every Day partnership. Phelps, not surprisingly, spent most of his time in the water, running drills, racing, and slapping high fives with the kids.

"He was very gracious and spent a lot of time with the kids in the water," Mike Spezzano, vice president of programs and membership for the YMCA of greater New York, told PEOPLE Friday. "They swam against Phelps, which is something they'll be saying for the rest of their lives."

Phelps partnered with Visa and Play Every Day, which aims to get kids more physically active. The money donated to the YMCA will give 185 inner city second graders the opportunity to attend the YMCA for swimming lessons. Other funds will go to purchasing new equipment and expanding the organizations aquatic facilities.

"The spotlight is on him after all he's accomplished," Spezzano said. "Meeting with community organizations and kids when he could probably be doing a lot of other things says a lot about him as a person."
Yup, I would hafta agree with that. Right now Phelps could be all over billboards for Speedo, or remaining scantily clad for a celebrity fragrance campaign, but instead it's great to see that he's on track to keep kids interested in the sport of swimming and encouraging their involvement in physical activity. Now if only I would get off the couch and follow his lead...

What say we take a few mins to enjoy some lovely pics of Phelps - in this first one, I think it's really very nice to see him and his U.S. teammates unabashedly enjoying each other's half-naked company:

In this next photo from Michael Phelp's previous appearance on MTV's TRL, I think it is fairly safe and certainly necessary to say that host Vanessa Minillo is, quite simply, a bitch.

And, in one of the cooler photo sessions of the year, famed photographer Annie Liebowitz snapped beautiful, artistic images of well-known folks in Disney-inspired themes. For that project, Michael Phelps signed on as part of the Little Mermaid session. Here he is getting ready for his close-up:

Such a cutie. Next up is the final image Liebowitz created featuring not only Merman Phelps, but also, as Ariel herself, the lovely and beautiful (and one of my all-time favourite actresses) Julianne Moore. This picture is really, really somethin' alright (make sure you click on the pic itself to open up a hi-res version... it's really worth a close look)

So thanks to Phelps and his good deed down at the YMCA for inspiring us today. If you want to know more about how to get involved, check out your own local YMCA or YWCA.

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