Muhammad Ali's philanthropy recognized by those whose lives were - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Muhammad Ali's philanthropy recognized by those whose lives were changed

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- He wasn't just the greatest boxer: some say he was the greatest giver.

As we continue our in-depth coverage on the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, we're taking a look at his philanthropy -- how his giving touched the world.

Natasha Mundkur remembers a life's altering moment from age eight, like it was yesterday. 

"The kid threw a rock at my head and said, 'Go back to your country, and take your family with you!'" she recalled. 

She was part of the only Indian family in a rural Virginia community.

"I feel like if I didn't have him as a child, I don't know what I would have done," Mundkur said.

She says it wasn't the intolerance that shaped her, but a lesson soon after, provided by "The Greatest" -- Muhammad Ali.

"We got to watch his videos  and see how he used his words to fight injustice," Mundkur said. "It was through him that I found my own voice -- and that's something I will owe him for the rest of my life."

The 19-year-old will speak at Ali's memorial Friday as a former member of the Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students. The downtown museum represents one of the Champ's most enduring gifts of philanthropy and humanitarianism. There's also a Parkinson's disease research center in Phoenix bearing his name, as Ali donated and raised millions for treatments fighting for a cure. 

"His generosity has been a blessing for me personally," said one Parkinson's disease patient. 

Ali used his celebrity to feed the needy in third-world countries, taking part in PSAs, such as one in which he joined with Christina Agulara in the fight against hunger in Haiti. He gave generously to education, including two scholarships in his name at U of L. One is for students to study peacebuilding internationally. The other is for his son's former team. 

"Louisville baseball team has engraved 'Ali' on their hats now," said Asaad Ali, Muhammad Ali's son. "It's just so big now."

And then there are countless stories never told -- like Pastor Charles Elliott, who says Ali funded the Feed the People program in west Louisville for its first three years.

"He said, 'Take that check and feed them!'" Elliott recalled. 

The community kitchen was only supposed to be open twice a week, but Ali wanted people served every day. 

"Every time he'd do a fight, he'd always remember King Solomon," Elliott said of his church.

And in some ways to the family, Ali's passing also marks the last gift from the greatest. 

"He wants everyone to know that Islam is not about anger," said Asaad Ali. "It's not about violence. I hope this whole week will show people that, and how people come together as one."

There is no known figure on Ali's exact giving over the years, though at least 19 charities say they've benefited directly from his time, talent or treasure.

Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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