Houston Texans megastar J.J. Watt simply wanted to help. As Hurricane Harvey was decimating his beloved city, the NFL and pop culture phenom released a video, enlisting fans and followers for support. He challenged them to raise for $200,000 to his Justin J. Watt Foundation via a YouCaring drive, “because I know these recovery efforts are going to be massive,” he told viewers.
Watt couldn’t have expected the overwhelming response. In less than two hours, the goal was met; within 24 hours, he surpassed $500,000. Soon he was announcing increases almost daily. The Tennessee Titans — sending love to their former home — sent $1 million to Watt’s campaign alone.
The final number: a staggering $41.6 million — the largest crowdsourced fundraiser in world history, according to the foundation.
Soon, Watt was receiving global praise, and was bestowed with the NFL’s Walter Payton Award, which recognizes the player who best demonstrates a charitable and community spirit. As SportsMap editor Fred Faour noted, the award was a no-brainer.
But, questions quickly arose as to where the funds were being appropriated; Watt even publicly responded to one dubious fan.
Finally, there are answers. On August 27, Watt’s foundation released a statement outlining the progress of the contributions made to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund started by Watt “following the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey 12 months ago.”
All funds have been distributed to eight nonprofits: All Hands and Hearts, Americares, Boys & Girls Clubs, Baker Ripley, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, and SBP, according to the statement released by the foundation and the Houston Texans.
Additionally, the monies have so far been used on:
- The cleanup, repair and rebuilding of over 600 homes.
- The recovery and rebuilding of over 420 childcare centers and after-school programs, serving over 16,000 children.
- The distribution of over 26,000,000 meals to those affected.
- Physical and mental health services to over 6,500 individuals.
- Distribution of medicine to over 10,000 patients.
The statement also outlines a 12-month plan:
- Home restoration and disaster case management, including assistance with temporary housing, furniture, appliances, transportation, and more with Baker Ripley.
- Continued assistance with both physical and mental health services, including the distribution of medicine and implementation of mobile medical clinics with Americares.
- Additional support to handle the massive increase in demand following Harvey, covering 48 counties through the Houston Food Bank, Coastal Bend Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, and Southeast Texas Food Bank with Feeding America.
- Rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes, while also focusing on providing resiliency for future storms in Rockport, Aransas County, Refugio County and San Patricio County with All Hands & Hearts.
- Rebuilding and restoring damaged Boys & Girls Clubs centers in Harvey-affected areas, serving over 5,000 youth.
- Repairing and rebuilding Harvey-damaged homes with Habitat for Humanity.
In addition to details of the disbursement, Watt released a lengthy letter to fans and supporters of his cause.
“As I reflect on the events of Hurricane Harvey one year ago, the memories of destruction and devastation remain, but they are accompanied by memories of hope, selflessness and the beauty of the human spirit. The actions of professional first responders and everyday citizens alike were an inspiration to the world and a shining example of the inherent good that lies within us all. Those actions locally were then supported by the actions of hundreds of thousands from around the world showing their support and donating their money in order to help out in any way they could.
I was fortunate enough to witness that generosity first hand, as the fundraiser that I started with a simple goal of $200,000 turned into an unbelievable outpouring of support from people all around the globe.
When it was all said and done, after the late donations and checks that came in after the deadline were counted, the total amount that was donated and is now hard at work in the community was $41.6 million. In the past year, those funds have been used to repair and rebuild houses, allowing people to finally return and once again have a place to call ‘home’. Those funds have restored and rebuilt childcare centers so that parents can once again have a place to take their children where they know they will be safe, so that they can return to work and resume a sense of normalcy. Those funds have provided millions and millions of meals to people who weren’t sure where their next meal might be coming from after being devastated by the storm.
And those funds provided physical and mental health care to those who suffered from the events of that awful weekend one year ago. While a great deal has been accomplished in the past 12 months, there is still much work to be done. Moving forward, there will be more of the same, as we continue to work with our incredible nonprofit partners to provide as much help and support as we possibly can for those affected by Harvey. I cannot thank everyone enough for your support and generosity.
You have truly provided an unbelievable example of what the human spirit is capable of accomplishing. Every time that I am fortunate enough to witness someone step back into their home for the first time or a child run around on the playground again, I am reminded of the generosity of strangers that helped make it all possible. Thank you and never stop spreading the positivity! #HoustonStrong”