Cristiano Ronaldo might be one of the world’s most recognizable athletes – but he’s also one of the world’s most giving athletes too.
When the Portuguese soccer star is off the field, he’s using his time and resources to give back to people in need. From people suffering serious diseases to those affected by natural disasters, the Real Madrid baller donates thousands of dollars a year to help around the world. And because of this, he has been voted one of the most charitable athletes of all time.
“My father always taught me that when you help other people, then God will give you double,” Ronaldo said in 2013. “And that’s what has really happened to me. When I have helped other people who are in need, God has helped me.”
Along with donating his own money, Ronaldo is instrumental in organizing events to raise money for a variety of different causes. In 2010, he organized a match between Primeira Liga club Porto and players in Madeira to help raise money for flooding in the area. In 2013, he became a global ambassador for Save the Children to fight obesity.
One of Ronaldo’s most iconic moments, though, was when he helped the people of Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Footage of a little boy named Martunis wearing a number 7 Portuguese football shirt caught the attention of Ronaldo. The boy’s family had died and he was left all alone, stranded on a beach for 21 days. He told a local news station he wasn’t afraid, and that his dream was to become a soccer star.
Ronaldo visited him and raised money to rehabilitate and reconstruct Aceh, as well as other parts affected by the natural disaster. The athlete said he was moved by the boy’s story, and vowed to personally help him.
“I believe that many adults would not even be able to death with what he has gone through,” he said at the time. “We must respect him. His was an act of strength and maturity. He’s a special kid.” Martunis went on to play for Ronaldo’s old youth academy, and was later signed to Lisbon.
Ronaldo said growing up in a poor family gave him a lot of perspective about the world. Now, as one of the richest men in the world, he said he will do whatever it takes to make someone else’s life a little better.
“When I go home, my mom says: ‘Son, you have done a good act in helping other people. It’s good that you are interested in how the world lives’” he told a British newspaper in 2015. “It’s so nice to hear things like that from people who are important to me.”