Known to many as simply "Gio," Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano has distinguished himself as a difference-making star on the ice. Despite going undrafted, his hard work and dedication to achievement played a critical role in his realizing the goal of a successful professional hockey career.
It's that spirit of dedication that Giordano brings to his off-the-ice efforts with an impressive commitment to giving back and helping others, which led to his recognition as the winner of the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award at the third annual Sports Humanitarian Awards on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
The Ali award, which was renamed after the legendary athlete and humanitarian for this year's event, recognizes an athlete whose continuous, demonstrated leadership has created a positive impact on his community through sports.
Giordano's "5 for 5" initiative provided the funding to build five homes with Habitat for Humanity in Ethiopia, India, Kenya, the Philippines and the Calgary area.
In 2014, Giordano and his wife, Lauren, launched Team Giordano, which has helped 1,900 students in four high-needs Calgary schools. The program not only provides resources, including computers, supplies and "Gio Journals" to track students' progress, but also promotes physical fitness, academics and the positive behaviors that lead to success in life. The program is working, with one school reporting that 88 percent of students are reading at grade level, thanks to the literacy resources provided courtesy of Team Giordano.
"I think that it's a really memorable experience to have such an influential role model in our school," one ninth grade student said after a visit from the Giordanos. "I feel like we take a lot of things for granted. Having Gio at our school and having so much of his time, his effort and his kindness, it really has made an impact, and we're very grateful for it."
Giordano also stands behind other important community causes, including stamping out discrimination based on sexual orientation and support of mental health awareness. That altruistic spirit makes Gio a worthy recipient of this distinguished award named after one of the most influential figures of social change the sports world has ever seen.