COLUMBUS, Ohio – As athletes and coaches around the country have rallied together to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, so too have current and former Ohio State Buckeyes and members of the athletic department. Below, based on news and social media reports, is a recap of some of those involved, their actions and immense impact.
Mike Conley provides assistance to five communities
NBA All-Star and current Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley gave $200,000 in June to organizations in five different communities, each of which he has a personal connection to. His donations were distributed to the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City; CodeCrew in Memphis; Community Shelter Board and the Columbus Urban League in Columbus; the Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation in Indianapolis and the New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas.
Conley’s contributions all addressed critical needs in those communities that included food security, remote learning and homelessness.
“Community has always been important to me and during the COVID-19 crisis, I’m reminded of the support and sacrifices of others,” Conley tweeted.
Kirk Hebstreit Partners with KIPP Columbus to assist families
Former football captain and current ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit partnered with KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Columbus to support local families experiencing hardship due to the coronavirus: he donated funds to pay their expenses (utility bills, rent, groceries, mortgage payments, insurances, etc.) for a three-month period.
KIPP Columbus is part of a national network of free, open-enrollment public schools that prepares students in underserved communities for success in college. Founded in 2008 with 50 students in the fifth grade, it has expanded to 2,000 students in fifth through 12th grades.
“Kirk wanted to do something that would make an immediate impact in the lives of families,” Hannah Powell, KIPP Columbus Executive Director, said. “And it wasn’t just about giving and making sure the money was there. He wanted to be a part of sharing this news with our families.”
In live, zoom or streaming video sessions with the families, Herbstreit spent time talking to them and sharing with them some good news during a very difficult time.
“Part of what I wanted to do, besides groceries, was try to make a real impact on you guys and try to help out because I know this is a tough time,” Herbstreit said in one of the videos. “So for the next three months, I want to take care of all of your bills.”
Herbstreit’s gift of $100,000 supported 60 students at the school and their families.
Sam Hubbard raises funds for his hometown
Sam Hubbard, a Cincinnati native who is entering his third season with his hometown Bengals, has partnered with the Freestone Foodbank and to date has raised over $86,000. That total will provide approximately 250,000 meals for those in need.
Hubbard told CincinnatiBengals.com that he got the idea thanks in part to his jersey number – 94 – after creating a GoFundMe page. He matched the first $9,400 raised, which took very little time – especially after Carlos Dunlap, his teammate on the defensive line, announced on social media that he’d match funds as well.
With the help of Bengals ownership, Hubbard’s effort resulted in more than $56,000 raised over the course of just three days. As of last Monday, it had reached $86,000.
“I’ve got the figures,” Hubbard said to CincinnatiBengals.com. “I just wanted to show I’m actually giving my own money; you can do it, too. I’m just trying to be a little bit of a leader that way. Give people the push they need to start donating. It’s amazing to see how they were giving $15, $25, whatever they could and it just adds up.”
Cardale Jones endorses company delivering PPE materials
National championship-winning quarterback Cardale Jones has becomes a spokesperson for a subscription based company that delivers important PPE products to customer’s doorstep. The supplies include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and cell phone covers.
The company, run by two Columbus, residents, offers four different subscriptions that range from a one-month supply to one year’s worth.
“During times like these, it’s important to keep you and your loved ones protected,” Jones tweeted.
Chris Spielman auction raises funds for COVID-19 relief
Chris Spielman took to Twitter and eBay in April and successfully met his goal of raising $40,000 by auctioning of personal gear and memorabilia. The largest single auction piece was his 1984 Big Ten championship ring, which sold for $12,000. His 1986 Big Ten championship ring went for $6,200.
His plan is to give away $1,000 over 40 weeks to those in need of financial assistance.
“What resonates with me is that God has given me an ability to do something and not just sit and do nothing,” Spielman said to The Dispatch. “I have to do something. I have the ability and means to help. So I’m not going to just sit and not do anything.”
Spielman’s other items were all tied to his NFL career, which included eight years with the Detroit Lions, two with the Buffalo Bills and a stint in the 1999 preseason with the Cleveland Browns.
Michael Thomas helps relieve medical debt; supports front line workers
Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints has gone above and beyond to help the New Orleans community. Earlier this month, he announced a partnership with RIP Medical Debt to relieve more than $2 million in medical bills for over 1,000 area residents.
That gift came just a month after Thomas partnered with Raising Cane’s and donated more than 3,000 meals for frontline workers from Louisiana-based Ochsner Health.
“I wanted to do my part and support our frontline health-care workers who are caring for so many in our community,” Thomas said to NewOrleansSaints.com. “I thought they would enjoy having some Cane’s during their shift. And I’m grateful to my friend, [Raising Canes Founder and CEO] Todd Graves, for joining me in letting our health-care workers know how much they are appreciated.”
Denzel Ward aids COVID-19 victims
One of Hubbard’s teammates while at Ohio State, Denzel Ward, is also doing his part to help those in need in another corner of the state of Ohio.
Ward, the No. 4 overall selection of the Cleveland Browns in 2017, helped 21 individuals and small businesses that need assistance by paying for their largest monthly expense.
Those in need of Ward’s assistance registered through his foundation – Make Them Know Your Name – and he personally called them to deliver the news. More than 1,000 applications were received in just 48 hours.
“This pandemic has touched me a lot, seeing people affected by this,” Ward told USA Today Sports. “It was so unexpected. It caught people by surprise. That’s why I wanted to take a load off their back.”
Smith, Day, Holtmann and Buckeye coaching staff support Mid-Ohio Foodbank
Three Ohio State athletics families – athletics director Gene Smith and his wife, Shelia, head football coach Ryan Day and his wife, Nina, and head basketball coach Chris Holtmann and his wife, Lori – joined together in donating $35,000 per month between April and August to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank’s Emergency Fund. The gift will total $175,000.
Ohio State’s assistant football coaches also joined in those efforts, combining to pledge an additional $47,000.
“Our program and players have made many visits to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank over the years and we all feel a responsibility to assist during this time of crisis,” associate head coach Larry Johnson said.