Greg Lai, one of the top money managers in Southern California, would be the first one to tell you that when he was growing up, he was no athlete.

“It wasn’t really part of the culture,” says Lai, Principal and Lead Portfolio Manager at Affinity Investments in Newport Beach, California. “It wasn’t until I became a parent that I learned just what athletics can do for kids.”

Lai’s daughters are outstanding athletes, and Dad could not be happier.

“It’s not just about winning medals,” he says. “My daughters’ experience opened my eyes to the reality that high school sports bring out the best in kids. My daughters are healthier and stronger because they do sports. They are great at time management. They are more well-rounded as people.  

“They understand what it means to be part of a team. I had no idea that you got all those things from sports. I actually believe that they got into better colleges because of the fact that they were athletic and well-rounded.”

A sideline conversation with the father of a teammate of one of his daughters opened Lai’s eyes to the reality that high school sports are chronically underfunded in the United States—especially girls’ athletics.  This lack of funds even extends to our Olympic teams.

“Again, it’s not about gold medals,” says Lai, “or that the United States will win in the Olympics because high school sports get funded properly. Instead, the real payoff is that these girls grow up to be young women who make important contributions to society. They learn that they can believe in themselves through athletics. They end up becoming doctors, lawyers, business people—major contributors to society. All because they had the opportunity to compete on a playing field when they were in high school.”

Lai’s experiences with his daughters’ high school athletic career led him in a surprising direction. He now sponsors one of the athletes who will be competing in the next Summer Olympics.

Mia Manganello Kilburg won a bronze medal in Speed Skating at the recent 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and is now competing for a place on the US Summer Olympics Team in Cycling.

Mia Manganello. Photo by John Kaliba.

“Mechanically,” Lai says, “the two sports are very clearly related. So it makes sense that someone who can compete as a speed skater would be great at cycling. She would become the first US athlete to medal at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games.”

Most of the US Olympic teams, especially the women’s teams, lack appropriate funding and, in Lai’s words, “need all the help they can get.”

“I never imagined that out of all the charitable or philanthropic entities in the world, I would be supporting an Olympic athlete,” Lai says. “But when an American woman medals, she becomes a role model for millions of high school female athletes across the country.

And if they get involved with sports, they will have the opportunity to grow as did my daughters. Not just on the playing field, but also in terms of their characters and their whole lives.”

Lai encourages anyone who wants to better the lives of girls in our society to consider contributing to an Olympic team or an Olympic athlete.

“Nobody has more credibility to a high school athlete than an Olympic medalist,” Lai says. “By supporting one young Olympian’s dream, you can be igniting the dreams of millions of girls. I think that’s an outstanding return on a philanthropic investment!”