This Week in NFL Do-Goodery: Greg Olsen, Ezekiel Elliott, Jim Irsay

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Last week we brought back this feature spotlighting athlete activism for the first time in a couple of months and, WHY HAVEN’T WE BEEN DOING IT ALL ALONG? With so much ugliness in the world, we could all use some reports of altruism, especially when they come from some of our favorite NFL players and teams. Hopefully we can all be inspired to follow suit.

In our last roundup we spotlighted the Panthers for performing a bevy of community work, Lions WR Marvin Jones who handed out shoes to needy kids, and Ravens rookie LB Jaylon Ferguson who spent his draft night in Louisiana aiding with tornado relief. This week we being back in North Carolina… 

Greg Olsen Provides Massive Donation to Pediatric Cardiac Center

When Greg and Kara Olsen’s son, T.J., was born with a congenital heart defect, their lives changed forever. T.J. has undergone multiple surgeries and the Olsens and TJ live every day with the reality of this delicate and critical condition. The couple has devoted ample time and resources to understanding congenital heart defects and decided their calling was in helping other affected families.

In 2017, they made a sizable donation to the cardiac neuro-developmental clinic at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. And last week Olsen announced that he and Kara are donating a massive $2.5 million  to build the “Heartest Yard” pediatric cardiovascular and congenital heart outpatient clinic.

“While most know Greg Olsen as a Pro Bowl tight end for the Carolina Panthers, we at Levine Children’s know him and his wife, Kara, as visionary leaders and champions for pediatric congenital heart disease,” Dr. Stacy Nicholson, president of Levine Children’s, said in a press release.

Shortly after T.J. was born, the Olsens established Receptions for Research, a foundation intersecting Greg’s career with his son’s plight. In the years since, the Olsens have shown a deep and consistent dedication to raising money to provide resources through special events like a 5K and pledging money for every catch Olsen makes in season.

Jim Irsay, Colts Honor Chuck Pagano With Big Donation

Most fired NFL coaches have nothing todo with the team that dumped them. They move onto new pastures, and the team immediately shifts its direction. But not Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts. Pagano, now the defensive coordinator with the Bears, was in Indianapolis last week for his annual Chuckstrong fundraiser which raises money for cancer research at Indiana University. The fundraiser began in 2014 when Pagano, then the Colts head coach, was diagnosed with leukemia.

This year’s event raised a stunning amount, mostly on the heels of Jim Irsay’s $1 million donation. Irsay and the Colts heavily supported Pagano during his cancer battle, providing him with any necessary resources. The generosity laid the groundwork for a long-term relationship between Pagano and the Colts that long transcends football. The NFL’s key marketing slogan the past few years has been “Football is Family.” Irsay and Pagano embody that motto.

Ezekiel Elliott Pays For Funeral of Slain Teen Football Player

On May 4th, 14-year-old Jaylon McKenzie was leaving a party in Illinois when he was struck by a bullet and died.  McKenzie was a star running back, receiver and defensive back at Mason-Clark Middle School in East St. Louis, and was so gifted that he was recently featured in Sports Illustrated as one of the top young athletes who would one day rule sports. McKenzie was also a huge fan of Ezekiel Elliott, who hails from St. Louis. Elliott caught wind of the the tragic news and decided to pay for McKenzie’s funeral. Elliott’s mom, Dawn, will be in attendance.

“Him being a guy from the St. Louis area and me growing up there, I can only imagine what his family is going through and he had such a bright future,” Elliott told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week. “When I first read the story the first thing I did was call my Little League football coach and ask him if he knew the family and if he could reach out to them for me. I am just glad I can help the family in any way I can.”

 

More acts of goodness:

 

  • Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster hosted his first annual water balloon party and dodgeball tournament in Oakdale, Pennsylvania. Smith-Schuster purchased food and provided cash prizes to participants.

 

 

 

 

  • The Cincinnati Bengals donated $10,000  to St. Bernard-Elmwood Place’s Athletic Department.

 

  • Titans DBs Kevin Byard and Logan Ryan paid a large chunk of the funeral costs for the mother of football phenom Toni Harris. Harris’s mother unexpectedly passed away last week. Roger Goodell also contributed $5,000 toward funeral costs.

 

  • The NFL has launched Huddle for 100,  a campaign to inspire a million fans to volunteer in their communities for 100 minutes. The league is celebrating its 100th season

 

  • Redskins safety Landon Collins will be hosting his annual celebrity softball game in Rockland County, NY on June 8th. Proceeds from the event will go to St. Christopher’s, an organization that helps at risk youth. A birdie tells us that Landon brought in a professional women’s softball player last year, and she struck out Saquon Barkley three times!