I did not even have to go in search of this week’s ‘good person’ — he fell right into my lap. Okay, okay, no not literally. But he was a headliner today, so he wasn’t hard to find. As you all know, sports is not my strong suit, and football (American-style, with the ovoid pigskin, for my non-US amigos) is definitely not my forte. But yet, today’s good person is an excellent football player, I am told, but an even better human being. Allow me to introduce today’s good person doing good things, Justin James Watt, better known as JJ Watt.JJ Watt is star defense end for the Houston Texans and on Saturday it was announced that Mr. Watt will personally be paying for the funerals of all ten victims of the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting the day before, Friday, May 18th. That’s right – you heard me – he is paying for all ten funerals, 9 students and 1 teacher, who were shot and killed on that fateful day. Now, that in itself would have earned him a place in this post, but there is so much more that he gets the whole post.
Watt’s history of helping out after school shootings dates all the way back to 2012 and the Sandy Hook shooting where 27 were killed. Watt invited some of the children from Sandy Hook Elementary to meet him and participate in a day of football and much-needed fun at the Texans’ stadium.
“I just kind of wanted to give them as normal a day as possible, just running around, having fun, going out on the field. We were kicking field goals. They were trying to put it through the uprights. Just be kids. And to see them in a normal setting, having fun and big smiles on their faces was awesome.”
On Monday, Watt visited with survivors of the Santa Fe High School shooting at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center and cheered both the victims and the hospital staff!
Watt joined the Texans in 2011, and has been doing good things for the community almost since day #1. On July 2, 2011, the Berry family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. Watt met the children at a fund-raiser and grew close with them. He played wheelchair basketball with them and pantomimed rolling a wheelchair after sacking a quarterback in a 2012 game. The pantomime was an agreed upon signal between the Berry children and Watt as a post-sack celebration.
Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wrist bands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.
Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston last August? JJ Watt started a fund-raiser to help the victims of Harvey and kicked it off with $100,000 of his own money. He said he was hoping to get the fund up to $200,000 with donations from others. But guess what? Mr. Watt has some selling-power, for the fund blew past the $200,000 mark in a matter of hours and finally ended up at $37 million from more than 200,000 donors! And he took a personal interest in seeing that the funds were distributed where they were most needed, often working into the night with relief groups and organizers.
In addition to Watt’s mega contributions to humanity, he does a lot of little things, too. For example, there was the time he popped in to surprise his favorite teacher on the day of her retirement, thanking her profusely for all she’d done not only to inspire him, but all of the kids she’d taught during her 41 years as an educator.There is much negativity about sports super-heroes these days, their exorbitant salaries, arrogance and hedonistic lifestyles. It is heartwarming to come upon one like Mr. JJ Watt, who is truly a humanitarian, who is using both his money and his voice to do things to help people. Thank you, Mr. JJ Watt, for all the good you do and have done.
He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Two thumbs up to Mr. Justin James Watt!