Houston's Athletes Offer Beacon of Hope After Hurricane Harvey

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Photo: AP

NFL player Justin J. Watt, aka J.J. Watt, isn’t giving up on his city. The Houston Texans’ linebacker raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief when he announced a fundraiser back in August. His goal was just $200,000.

Now, he’s making sure these dollars go directly into the community.

Watt announced his plan for the money in a Twitter video Thursday.


First, $31.5 million will be divided among four partners: Americares, Feeding America, SBP, and Save the Children. Then, in 2018, the Justin J. Watt Foundation will reassess where to best put the rest of the money.

“While I understand the total recovery from Hurricane Harvey could require upwards of $200 billion, and this $37 million will not be able to help every single person as I so badly wish it could, I have made it my mission to ensure this money makes as large of an impact as possible,” Watt said in a statement, per the NFL.

Watt said the money will go toward rebuilding homes, restoring childcare centers and after-school programs, providing food, and supporting the community’s physical and mental health needs.

All four groups have “boots on the ground in here in Houston,” as Watt puts it in the video. They’ll be working on the recovery efforts for the next 18-24 months.


Celebrity figures have been making moves during this wild-ass hurricane season. There’s Beyoncè, who launched a campaign to distribute tampons, diapers, formula, wheelchairs, and more immediately after Hurricane Harvey hit her city August 25. Then, of course, she hopped on that reggaeton track (“Mi Gente” by J Balvin), speaking Spanish and all, to raise money for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

A number of other celebrities have donated, too, even deciding to give to Watt’s fund: Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jennifer Lopez, Ellen Degeneres, and Kevin Hart, to name a few.


While most attention has been on Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Houston still has a long way to go, too. Hurricane Harvey killed at least 88 people with the latest victim being Mexican immigrant Josue Zurita. He died Oct. 16 after catching an infection from a flesh-eating bacteria in the disaster’s floodwaters while helping rebuild homes.

A man walks past debris from damaged homes after Hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas. Photo: AP

And it appears that’s not all lingering in the water. Preliminary data the Virginia Polytechnic Institute released Wednesday shows almost 60 percent of water samples from 50 private wells in Harrison County, northeast of Houston and home to more than 66,000 people, contained traces of total coliform; 18 percent tested positive for E. coli. Total coliform is a group of bacteria found in soil, water, and feces. Like E. coli, it’s dangerous when ingested.

In the face of all this devastation, residents have had at least one source of inspiration: their sports teams. And they should be proud of Watt. He joined the Houston Texans in 2011 and has won a number of accolades since then, including three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, he’s out for the season after injuring his leg, but Houston’s got another team cheering for its recovery.


The Houston Astros have been impressive in the World Series so far. The team dedicated its Game 7 win against the New York Yankees to the city and its people who are still reeling from Harvey.

They have a home game Friday, and if it’s anything like their last, the city will have something more to celebrate.


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Yessenia Funes

Senior staff writer, Earther. The one who "pulls the race card" in the name of environmental justice. You dig?

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