Hurricane Harvey: How JJ Watt recruited the sports world to help disaster victims

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J.J. Watt announced his fundraiser for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts on Aug. 27, since then he has raised more than $29 million.

Hurricane Harvey’s effects have been catastrophic to the city of Houston, and have triggered flash flooding in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Parts of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas have received 40-50 inches of rainfall.

After witnessing the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, Watt, an NFL player for the Houston Texans, went to Twitter to announce his fundraising page for Hurricane Harvey, declaring an initial goal of $200K. Within two hours, Watt announced that the goal had been met and then raised the goal to $500K, which was raised in under 24 hours. The goal has since been raised again and again, as million-dollar donations have started to become a regular thing.

Watt is considered one of the most popular athletes, not in just football, but in the entire sports community. Regardless of whether or not you watch the NFL, chances are that you’d heard the 28-year-old’s name and can associate his face. The 4x first-team All-Pro defensive end started the Justin J. Watt Foundation in 2010 to provide an opportunity for children to get involved in athletics in a safe environment.

Watt’s presence on social media played a huge role in raising donations. With over 4 million followers on Twitter, his tweet announcing his fundraiser was retweeted, or shared 22.6K times. The same video was posted to his Instagram account, which has since been viewed by over a half million people.

Zach Stecklein, a linebacker for St. Cloud State, mentioned how Watt was able to use social media capture the attention of not only his fans but other stars as well.

“Definitely a huge thing A lot of celebrities have donated and programs throughout the country.”

Stecklein went on to mention how social media allows athletes the opportunity to do more than the average person when it comes to getting the word out.

Jake Schley, a defensive lineman for the Huskies, added that Watt’s efforts are a good example of showing just how much athletes are able to do when they use their platform to speak up and help people out.

“All these people see what he’s doing and people are jumping on the bandwagon and donating and everything,” Schley said.

One of the reasons Watt has such a big platform is because of how many Americans watch sports.

“We put a lot of money and time and attention into sports, and a lot of people look up to those people,” Schley said. Watt’s relief efforts have proven that there is more to sports than playing a game.

In addition to raising nearly $30 million, Watt, and his teammates have hand-delivered supplies to victims. Watt and his foundation worked to fill 12 semi-trucks with supplies.

People from all over the country have driven down to southeast Texas with their boats to help. Attempts have been successful in saving thousands of victims, as well as pets left behind during evacuations.

For his outstanding efforts, The NFL Players Association honored Watt, naming him the NFLPA’s Community MVP on Friday. Watt is now a semifinalist for the Byron Whizzer White Award, given annually by the NFLPA to recognize charitable efforts. Notable past winners of the award include Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, and Drew Brees. As part of his honor, the NFLPA plans to contribute a $10,000 dollar donation to the Justin J. Watt Foundation.

At least 70 people have been pronounced dead due to Hurricane Harvey, with over an additional dozen missing. Over 500K vehicles have been destroyed as the cost of damages has been estimated to be as high as $200 billion.

To donate to the Houston Flood Relief Fund, go to

https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053

To donate to the Hurrican Irma Relief Fund, go to:

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-irma-relief-fund/