Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt didn’t think his Hurricane Harvey relief fund would get this kind of traction. Watt initiated his relief fund with a $100,000 donation and left a link for others to donate whatever they could. His original goal was $200,000. Now, the fund has surpassed $15 million, showcasing the widespread support the fund has drawn.
Watt has had to raise his fundraising goal several times as the amount rose. From $1 million, to $1.5, $2, $3, $6 and so on. His YouCaring crowdfunding campaign has pulled in donations from over 90,000 individual donors. The fund received a considerable boost from Ellen DeGeneres, along with Walmart, who donated $1 million. More than $4 million was raised in the first 48 hours, and Watt kept followers updated on the goal through his popular social media channels. Another sizeable donation came from Amy Adams Strunk, owner of the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are a rival NFL franchise in the same division as the Texans, so Strunk’s donation shows that this relief effort extends beyond football.
What does Watt aim to do with the money? He wants to give it directly to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, with his first priority being safe drinking water. The Category 4 storm has caused historic flooding in the Houston area. It has become the largest tropical downpour in U.S. history. Tens of thousands of people have had to flee their homes in search of refuge. The city is facing millions of dollars in infrastructure repair and fortification. This fund will certainly go a long way in terms of helping to support the rebuild, not to mention the efforts of the Red Cross and other charitable organizations.
The fund has gained national recognition from news outlets like CNN, CNN International and CBS, with Watt giving interviews on each asking for help. Former President George H. W. Bush promoted the relief fund on Twitter, along with a wide host of celebrities. Patriots owner Robert Kraft pledged to match donations to the Red Cross. Watt’s own organization, the Texans, have assisted with donating to and promoting the fund. They have also decided to dedicate their upcoming season to the city. Watt has expressed interest in turning the Texans last preseason game in Dallas against the Cowboys as some sort of fundraising event.
The defensive lineman is no stranger to charitable relief efforts. His foundation, the J.J. Watt Foundation, is dedicated to assisting schools with funding after-school athletic programs. His foundation’s website is currently redirecting traffic to the Hurricane Harvey relief fund. Watt has pledged to put all the money raised to a tangible cause. He thanked all of his followers for the overwhelming amount of support. Watt described the city as resilient and believes they will make it out of this unfortunate situation. This relief fund will help out with recovery efforts, and it looks like it will continue growing as everyone tries to make sense of the aftermath.