The Red Sox Foundation will receive the 2009 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, which highlights and promotes the impact of strategic, community-oriented giving in professional sports.

The Red Sox Foundation is New England’s largest professional sports charity and has invested over $28 million into New England communities over the past seven years, reflecting the charitable goals of the team’s owners.

“Immediately after we purchased the Red Sox in 2002, one of our biggest priorities was to create a foundation that will have a meaningful impact on the lives of people throughout New England who are facing some of the greatest challenges,” said John Henry, the team’s principal owner. “Boston is one of our nation’s truly great, historic cities, and too often we are divided by walls of race, class and even zip codes. It is obviously a great privilege to be part of a major sports franchise like the Red Sox — and with that privilege, I feel, comes a lot of responsibility.  Through this foundation, I feel like we are starting to chip down some of those walls and make a difference.”

In fact, the Red Sox Foundation has had such a phenomenal influence in New England that it is now Major League Baseball’s largest and most admired charity. 

“The Red Sox Foundation serves as a leader not just within professional baseball but for all of sports philanthropy,” said Greg Johnson, SPP’s executive director. “It is truly an honor to recognize a team from a community where I live and work, where I see their passion for giving back.”

By reaching out to families in Boston’s lowest-income neighborhoods, the Red Sox Foundation helps ensure that children there receive a quality education and offers them the opportunity to learn crucial life skills through the game of baseball. It is also dedicated to promoting cancer research through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

“The Red Sox Foundation has shown great commitment to addressing critical health and social issues,” said RWJF President Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. “They demonstrate a lot of what we mean when we say ‘strategic philanthropy’ — programs that are well thought-out, with a real focus on community partnerships and grassroots change.”

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner notes that the organization’s broad outreach is made possible by support from all levels of the team as well as its fan base. 

“The work of the Red Sox Foundation reflects the passion of our players, the generosity of our fans, and the character of Red Sox Nation,” said Werner. “We are humbled by the teamwork that makes this outreach possible.”

The Sports Philanthropy Project (SPP) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy in 2005 in the memory of Patterson, the UCLA basketball star, NBA player and college coach who became known, during and after his career, for his belief in and practice of the power of sports philanthropy to make a difference in people’s lives. Patterson died of cancer in July 2004 at the age of 56.

Past recipients of the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy include the Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership, Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation, The Moyer Foundation, San Francisco Giants Community Fund and Steve Nash Foundation.

The Red Sox Foundation will be recognized at Fenway Park during a pregame ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 12, before the Red Sox play the Rays.