BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- Benjamin Franklin, in a letter
following the adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America quoted The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock (1716): “…but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” (1789). Fast forward to February 2018 and there is another guarantee in this world: J.J. Watt as the National Football League’s Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimates that Hurricane Harvey inflicted $180 billion worth of damage in his state, which made landfall as a category four storm. Watt, Houston Texans’ defensive end, started with a campaign to raise $200,000 in hurricane relief funds. His crowdfunding campaign defied all limits and exceeded all expectations. As of 11am EST on September 4, 2018, Watt’s crusade has been shared at least 470k times (worldwide) across all social media platforms and has raised $18,783,825 from 175,972 donors.
Unlike other organizations, Watt pledges to work directly with and directly for the people. This morning, Watt gathered his teammates and hundreds of volunteers to load and send off part of his ‘Phase One’ relief. Speaking, without a microphone, without a podium, in a parking lot to a gathered crowd, Watt expressed his gratitude and detailed his plan:
I can’t say thank you enough to the people around the world, the people around America, the people of Texas, showing their compassion, showing their true colors, showing that when there’s a difficult time, when times get tough, humans step up to help other humans … I hope everybody in the world gets a chance to see this and to understand how much we appreciate it…. I wanted to just give you a quick update on what’s going on today: we have all the Texans players, families, volunteers here who are going to be helping out to distribute 10 semi-trucks worth of goods: water, food, clothing, cleaning supplies. We’re going to make sure that we get out into those areas that were hit hard. We have four stations set up, get directly into the city, get directly in to the people that need the help, hand out these goods because the most immediate needs are the ones we’re trying to take care of today. That’s phase one.
Most amazingly, not one dollar of the crowd-funds has been used yet.
Phase two, what’s going to happen with all the money, because actually, one of the most important things about today is not a single dollar has been spent yet. All 10 semi trucks were donated. All 10 trucks are filled with goods that were donated. These are all volunteers, so we havent even spent a single cent yet and we’re already going out and making a big impact. That’s a testimate to the community and the people.
Watt differentiates himself from other organizations by showing people exactly what he is doing, seemingly in real-time. He understands the gravity of his newfound responsibility and is committed to doing right by both his donors and his beneficiaries. He also plans to work hand-in-hand with local organizations, who definitely have their finger on the pulse: triaging affected areas, knowing exactly what supplies are needed per zone, and helping set up a distribution plan. Most commendable is the fact that, seemingly, every single cent donated to Watt’s campaign will go directly to those affected by Hurricane Harvey; not to administrative costs.
Once we do start spending that money, this is my plan, just to give you an idea of where we’re out now so you can understand me. I know people are trusting me with their money to make sure that I make the right decisions. I’m taking my time. I going to make sure I’m doing this thing right because this is a long-term project…. So I’ve talked to people from … the St. Bernard Project. I’ve talked to people that were in Katrina: learned from what they did right and also learned from their mistakes. The biggest thing everybody keeps telling me is: ‘take your time and make sure you do it right’. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do: I’m going to take my time, make sure that I work with local organizations, that we do it right here in the city so that that money goes straight to the people here of Houston who need it the most so we can help rebuild them.
J.J. Watt said everything that is being distributed today, 10 semi trucks worth, is just from donations. Haven’t touched the 17 million pic.twitter.com/i1ipbbgKhJ
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) September 3, 2017
“The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.” (NFL.com). Watt has been so instrumental in the recovery efforts in Texas that its citizens are backing a well-established petition on Change.Org to rename State Highway 99 to the “JJ Watt Parkway”. 99 is Watt’s jersey number.
— Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan) August 29, 2017
If Watt’s prowess on the gridiron, coupled with his immediate impact on the city of Houston and its surrounding areas doesn’t embody that qualification, I’m not sure what will. In that parking lot today, Watt delivered a message:”Houston, we’re all with you. You have a whole team, you have a whole city, you have a whole world behind you. I just want you to know that we’re with you”. Thank YOU, J.J. Watt, for being an inspiration, uniting people in this time of crisis.
👏🏽 to JJ Watt- uniting people of all creeds & economic status to aid fellow Americans who have lost everything in this natural disaster. 🇺🇸 https://t.co/ESWPvFVgPK
— Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan) August 31, 2017
From Watt’s crowdfunding page: “Hurricane Harvey has taken a catastrophic toll on our great city, while leaving many stranded and in need of assistance. We must come together and collectively help rebuild the aspects of our community members lives that were damaged or lost. Any donation that you can spare, no matter how large or small, is greatly appreciated. We will come out of this stronger than ever. We are Texans.”
— Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan) September 4, 2017
A few of Watt’s updates, via Twitter:
10 semi trucks.
Countless incredible volunteers.
Just the beginning. pic.twitter.com/xmN40M4hFA
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) September 4, 2017
This is what we’ll be distributing today pic.twitter.com/YVyOC4jRaj
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) September 3, 2017
Quick update of where we’re at right now… pic.twitter.com/a105oYRv3A
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) September 3, 2017