Pau Gasol’s wife likes to give him a bit of a hard time. She says he’s too busy and always tries to stay busy no matter the circumstance.
“That’s just my personality,” Gasol said. “I don’t like sitting still, I don’t like taking breaks. I like being productive and I like making it count. Every day counts. Every day is precious.”
Despite being stuck at home in northern California as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the two-time NBA champion and six-time all-star remains active and is encouraging everyone to do the same. Gasol has taken to social media to support UNICEF’s digital learning and social distance initiative #UCanLearn, campaigning everyone, especially children, to take advantage of this time to focus on their mental and physical health.
Gasol has been utilizing his platform as a global basketball star to lead the fight against childhood obesity as well as malnutrition whether it’s through the Gasol Foundation he co-founded with his brother Marc or with UNICEF, where he’s been an ambassador since 2003 and was named Global Champion for Nutrition and Zero Childhood Obesity in July 2019.
“As usual every crisis hits the most vulnerable the hardest and we consider children to be one of the most vulnerable groups,” Gasol said. “They’re very resilient, they adjust to everything better and quicker than anyone, but we have to provide them with the tools and knowledge to do that.
“… Establish a routine and schedule kids can follow so they can be active and come out of this healthy or healthier even, so that this confinement doesn’t result in a spike or flare up in childhood obesity rates, which is what we want to prevent.”
More than 149 million children under the age of 5 are stunted as a result of malnutrition, according to UNICEF’s annual State of the World’s Children Report. On the other end of the spectrum, more than 40 million children are overweight, with that number expected to nearly double to 70 million by 2025 according to researchers.
While he’s unable to work with children and their families in person because of the pandemic, Gasol has made it a priority to still share the same values, encouragement and lessons on social media, including do-it-yourself nutritious breakfast recipes and routines before bed.
Not only is Gasol promoting #UCanLearn and his foundation’s #HealthyQuarantine initiatives, he and Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal have teamed up to support the Red Cross’ efforts to raise $12 million in support of those affected by COVID-19.
“There’s been a lot of great responses from society—from people showing solidarity and showing support getting through this crisis together,” Gasol said. “The only way we’re going to get through this is together.”
While the United States has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 with more than 759,000 confirmed cases and 40,000 deaths, Gasol’s native Spain—where his mother is a doctor and his father is a nurse—has the second-most confirmed cases at more than 198,000 with more than 20,000 deaths. In Madrid, an Olympic-sized ice rink in Palacio de Hielo (Ice Palace) was turned into a makeshift morgue. Gasol cites that more than 14 percent of healthcare workers in the country have been infected by the virus because they don’t have enough equipment to protect themselves.
Multiple employees at the Gasol Foundation presented mild symptoms and were forced to self-quarantine to prevent spreading the virus.
“It’s been really hard to see,” he said. “ … It’s been extremely difficult to be away from my family and friends.”
Yet despite being thousands of miles away, Gasol is doing his part to help those in need. He’s made it a priority to be more active on social media; not only is he promoting his fundraising efforts and initiatives, but he’s also hosting Instagram Live conversations with doctors, authors and athletes to help spread knowledge and awareness. He’s also penned pieces for Players’ Tribune, Forbes España and other outlets.
“I like feeling productive, I like having an impact, and I like utilizing what I have to do good, especially during times of need,” Gasol said. “You try to do things that are positive and fun but make them impactful.”