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Former Badger J. J. Watt Raises Millions for Harvey Victims

The Badger-turned-Texans linebacker started with a modest goal but is still bringing in millions of dollars and donations.

JJ Watt

Photo by David Stluka

We don’t need any more reasons to love J. J. Watt x’12, but he keeps giving us ones — this time, in the form of semi-trucks and very large checks.

On Sunday, August 27, Watt’s philanthropic venture, the JJ Watt Foundation, launched a Hurricane Harvey relief effort. The goal was relatively modest: to raise $200,000; the first $100,000 of which Watt would match. On Sunday afternoon, he put out a plea on his Twitter page to inspire people to help. “Everyone in Houston, stay safe,” he said, “We’re gonna help you out.” By Monday morning, Watt’s YouCaring page had raised more than $290,000.

But it didn’t stop there — just during the writing of this article, donations to Watt’s relief fund went from $13.8 to $14.6 million. Celebrities and athletes were among those to donate, including the Green Bay Packers, who made a $100,000 gift; musician Drake, who gave $200,000; Amy Adams Strunk, owner of the Tennessee Titans, gave $1 million; and Ellen DeGeneres, who teamed up with Walmart to give another $1 million.

As Watt’s unbelievable career sends him further and further into stardom, he’s never forgotten his small-town, Wisconsin roots. In addition to the star-studded donations, Watt also called upon his hometown of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, to gather supplies to be sent to Houston.

At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, the JJ Watt Foundation’s Facebook page announced a supply drive would be taking place at Pewaukee High School. Within four hours, the school’s cafeteria was filling up with donations. Watt expanded the drive to include locations in Janesville and in Madison. The Madison drive was in partnership with American Family Insurance. The requested items differed between the three locations — food items in Pewaukee, cleaning supplies in Janesville, and toiletries in Madison — so that the packing and distribution upon arrival in Houston would be as efficient as possible. “We are dividing and conquering!” the foundation replied in a Facebook comment.

Watt’s mother, Connie, told Milwaukee’s TMJ4, “He was trying to figure out how he could get the products in Texas. I said, ‘Let us fill the trucks up here in Wisconsin for you and then you just meet them down there when they're ready to arrive.’ ” Connie Watt also serves as the vice president of the JJ Watt Foundation.

On Friday, August 31, nine full semi-trucks left Pewaukee, en route to Houston. “I want these people to know that their money is going directly to the people of Houston,” J. J. Watt said in an interview. “I’ll keep you updated the whole time. Our first wave of thing is hopefully Sunday, delivering things to the people of Houston.”

For updates, visit the JJ Watt Foundation’s Facebook page or follow along on Watt’s Twitter.

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