- Aaron Judge's All Rise Foundation provides food and scholarship rewards for kids from his local high school and elementary school in California.
From the time he was a child, Aaron Judge knew he wanted to start a charity.
“I saw a lot of my favorite athletes always giving back to their communities or having their own foundations,” he says, ticking off a list of global superstars: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Derek Jeter. “I always thought that was pretty cool.”
After finishing his second full season with the Yankees, Judge launched the All Rise Foundation in January. It’s a way for New York's superstar slugger to reach the group he cares about the most: kids.
“That was the first thing that came to mind,” he says. “For me, it was about inspiring them to be better leaders, put them in a better position than they are now, and hopefully help out their future.”
Mentorship is important to Judge, the son of two teachers. So, too, is the idea of leadership—of “being a positive role model,” he says. That’s a role Judge fills amply in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Despite his age (27) and relative inexperience (2019 is just his fourth season in the big leagues), he has emerged as one of the team’s most respected voices—no small feat given the presence of wizened veterans like CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner. A lot of that is thanks to his production and key role in the middle of New York’s lineup, but it’s also a reflection of goals Judge set for himself.
“I was always drawn to it,” he says. “I wanted to be a leader and help people.”
Growing up in Linden, Calif., roughly an hour and a half east of San Francisco, Judge didn’t consider himself the kind of person to take charge of a room or be particularly vocal—perhaps a surprise given his imposing stature. “I was a shy kid,” he says. “I stuck to my lane, did my own thing.” But through programs like CASL—the California Association of Student Leaders—and a role on student council in high school, he found that he enjoyed the responsibilities of leadership. That’s part of his goal with All Rise: He wants to empower kids to take charge.
“I saw what benefits it had for me,” Judge says. “It gets kids out of the box—kids who are quiet and might have those good leadership qualities but can’t show them because they don’t know how or don’t know how to get involved.”
The plans for launching his foundation began to take shape once Judge made his major league debut in 2016. Talking with friends and family, he tried to figure out what causes he wanted to support and which groups he wanted to focus on. He knew early on that his charity would have some kind of youth focus, though he wanted to avoid being too specific. “I didn’t want to be boxed in to one thing,” he says. “One year, it could change to another thing. I might be inspired by something this year that I see with youth in schools, and the next year it might be after-school programs.”
The name, though, was much easier to figure out. Judge had bandied about a few options, none particularly catchy, but found a perfect match in the slogan that followed his towering home runs: All Rise.
Wanting to get settled as a major leaguer first and foremost, Judge held off on starting his charity, instead participating in the Yankees’ own initiatives like HOPE Week or taking part in events put on by Sabathia’s foundation, PitCCh In. Finally, during this past offseason, he felt like it was time to make his own mark. In November, he held a baseball and softball camp for 200 kids at his former high school in Linden, and on January 26, he held a dinner banquet in Stockton to make the foundation official. All Rise, whose executive director is his mother, Patty, has many goals in Judge’s mind, but for now, he’s focused on helping kids in his California community.
“Right now, we’re providing breakfasts and snacks for underprivileged kids at my local high school and elementary school,” he says. “We’re rewarding them for their good grades, and not only good grades but also kids who are improving their grades. Giving out scholarships, stuff like that.”
There’s more in the works, though Judge demurs as to specifics. Regardless of what the foundation does, he knows what the ultimate goal is: “I want to give kids the opportunity to be the best version of themselves they can be.” That was the message for the Little Leaguers he worked with in November. “Your attitude determines your altitude,” Judge says.
Through it all, Judge hopes to reach as many kids as he can, both in California and, eventually, New York. The measure of success for All Rise, though, won’t be in how many camps it holds, scholarships it gives out or money it raises.
“If there’s a kid that’s struggling in school and going down the wrong path, and they’re able to get into this program and we’re able to motivate them or inspire them to change their outlook or get a chance to go to college or work toward a job they want to go to, that’s changing a life,” Judge says. “That’s what it’s about.”