JJ Watt Provides One-Year Update on Hurricane Harvey Fundraiser

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.


Touched By the Santa Fe Shooting, JJ Watt Offers to Pay for Funerals

On Friday, May 18th, a teenage boy armed with his father’s guns killed 10 people and wounded an additional 10 at Santa Fe High School, located about 30 miles outside of Houston. Coming less than two weeks before the end of the school year, the shooting put a terrible cap on a very difficult year for the school’s 1,400 students. In September, Hurricane Harvey flooded the town and caused dozens of evacuations. In February, there was a shooting scare caused by a prank. And now this.

J.J. Watt, 28, was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2011, and ever since then has been a force for charity in the local area. His charitable organization, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, provides after-school athletic activities for students and holds an annual Charity Classic softball game in Sugar Land, Texas. He raised over $37 million for the community’s recovery after Hurricane Harvey, over a hundred times his initial goal of $200,000.

After the shooting, Watt tweeted a short, heartfelt reaction:

“Absolutely horrific,” he said.

A day later, on May 19th, the Texans confirmed that Watt would be paying for the funerals of all 10 shooting victims.

“On behalf of the Texans organization, we are saddened by the tragic events at Santa Fe High School this morning and extend our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families, and all those affected. We are grateful for the brave first responders, law enforcement officials, and medical personnel. The Texans family will continue to pray for our neighbors,” said the team in a released statement.

After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Watt invited a number of affected families to the team’s field to hang out, loading them up with signed merchandise. He’s also hosted events for children orphaned in car crashes and visited children’s hospitals dressed as Batman. While he hasn’t any children of his own, it’s clear that children and their struggles loom large in his mind.


J.J. Watt Raises More Than $27 Million for Hurricane Harvey Victims

J.J. Watt is 28 years old and at the peak of his football career as the Houston Texan’s star defender. And he’s here to help.

When he opened a Houston Flood Relief Fund on YouCaring on Sunday, August 27th, his initial goal of $200,000 was met and passed in a matter of hours, with donations coming from his teammates and fans. Soon enough, he raised $5 million, then $10 million, then $20 million. He rejoiced at hitting each new landmark.

“Absolutely incredible. The most difficult times bring out the best in humanity,” Watt said on Twitter at the $10 million mark.

By Wednesday, August 30, over 180,000 individual donors had raised that total to $27 million, which will go a long way to help the 50,000 people displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

Most donations have been what individuals could afford, averaging around the $20 mark, but a growing handful of celebrities have written checks with a lot of zeros. Ellen Degeneres engineered a million dollar donation from Walmart. Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show donated another million, and promoted the drive on his show Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, Charles Butt, the CEO of Texas supermarket chain H-E-B donated a huge $5 million.

YouCaring itself donated $50,000, and Amazon donated trucks and labor to transport more physical donations. Both money and tangible donations will focus on supplying food, water, and needed goods to those who have lost everything to the hurricane, and those still waiting to find out if they have homes to go back to.

Watt says that he’s found a great deal of strength and inspiration in the response to his call for funds.

“Every time we hit one of these landmarks I’m amazed. I think the worst times bring out the best in people and we’re seeing it in abundance right now,” he tweeted on Friday. And he’s right. Volunteers and donations have flocked to the stricken city and its surrounding towns. It will never be enough, but everything helps.

*Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group via Flickr Creative Commons.