Allyson Felix, the most decorated U.S. track and field athlete in history, holds a lot of impressive titles, but her favorite title might just be Mom. The 11-time Olympic medalist has returned for her last season for one purpose—to empower moms like her to reach their dreams through a new childcare initiative.
To ensure that no woman is held back in her pursuit of greatness, Felix has partnered with Athleta and the nonprofit group &Mother to provide free childcare to athletes, coaches and staff at the US Track and Field championships and select track and field events in the future. At the championships held June 23-26, free group childcare will be provided for infants, toddlers and school-age kids with activities ranging from playdough-making to board game fun.
“My final season is not about winning medals but giving back to the sport and future mom-athletes, and leaving it better for the next generation of women raising children to flourish in every aspect of their lives,” Felix said in an Instagram post announcing the initiative.
“I felt like I had to win all the medals, do all the things, before I could even think about starting a family, and that’s something that I don’t want my daughter to feel,” Felix told NPR’s Morning Edition.
A mom to 3-year-old Camryn Grace, Felix also opened up to TIME about her own struggles with childcare while competing and the stories of teammates who had to stop running to take care of their children.
Felix notes that she was fortunate enough to have her mother at most meets to take care of her daughter, she recognizes that might not be the case for everyone. “Who can bring a family member? To me, that’s like a huge barrier and burden and reason why women drop out and just say like, This is not going to happen. It’s one less thing to have on your plate. One less thing to think about,” Felix told TIME.
Aside from the free childcare offered at select track and field events, Felix, Athleta, and the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) have also opened up a third round of childcare grants for athletes. Each grant covers $10,000 in needed childcare expenses so athletes can train and compete without worry. To date, WSF and Athleta have awarded more than $200,000 to athlete moms.
While this may be Felix’s last season competing, the 36-year-old plans to continue running for fun, and to keep up with her daughter. Felix also plans to continue dedicating her time to improving the lives of mothers through black maternal health and affordable childcare initiatives.
You can read more about Felix’s childcare grants and the Power of She Fund here.