On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey blew through Houston and the surrounding areas to become the most costly hurricane in American history, both in lives and livelihoods. It killed 88 people and caused nearly $200 billion worth of property and economic damage.
In the aftermath, J.J. Watt, a player on the Houston Texans team, saw the intense need in his adopted hometown immediately. By September 1, 2017, he had put up a fundraiser on the site Youcaring (now absorbed by GoFundMe) with an initial goal of $200,000 dollars.
“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,” wrote Watt in the fundraiser’s initial pitch, which was accompanied by a video of the athlete making a heartfelt plea.
Within three weeks, more than 200,000 individual donors had amassed a donation of over $37 million.
On August 27, 2018, one year after Harvey, Watt, who had promised transparency to his donors, posted an update detailing the reach of the donated funds. Managed by Watt’s charity foundation, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, the money grew over the next year to more than $4.1 million, and was put to use rebuilding more than 600 homes and supporting Houston Food Bank and Feeding America, who together served over 26 million meals to those displaced and put in need by the hurricane. It also supported the rebuilding of 420 childcare centers to serve over 16,000 children, and got medicine to more than 10,000 patients in need.
The fund is not exhausted, either. The Foundation intends to continue building homes and assisting Houstonians with medical and food needs as long as they can, alongside nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Club.