When the Jaguars were named the 30th franchise in 1993, the vision of Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver was to give back to the community in a substantial manner. Today, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation continue that commitment. In the twelve years since these organizations came to Jacksonville, each has made significant contributions locally through donations, grants, in-kind support and numerous programs designed specifically to address the needs of First Coast residents.
Under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver, Jaguars Foundation Chair and CEO, the Foundation awarded $596,150 in grants to 21 local youth-serving agencies in its first grant cycle of 2006. The grand total since 1995 is more than $9.5 million in the Jacksonville area (Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns counties). The Jaguars Foundation focuses on support of programs serving economically and socially disadvantaged youth and families. "Our dream of the Jaguars Foundation began even before Jacksonville was awarded the 30th NFL franchise in 1993," Weaver exclaimed. "I am proud of the Jaguars and the Jaguars Partners for making the annual million dollar commitment to support these important programs for youth and their families."
In recognition for the Foundation's work, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Sports Philanthropy Project named the Jaguars Foundation as the recipient of the 2006 Steve Patterson Sports Philanthropy Award for outstanding work in developing innovative youth programs. This prestigious national award is given annually to only one foundation across all professional sports leagues. The award was presented on September 18, 2006 at an on-field pre-game presentation before Monday Night Football.
In addition to cash grants, non-cash awards include 11,800 Jaguars home-game tickets for the 2006 football season, with an in-kind value exceeding $420,000. The primary program for these in-kind awards is Honor Rows®. In partnership with REEBOK and Alltel, economically and socially disadvantaged youth between the ages of 9 and 17 earn a seat to a home game. Participating youth set and achieve ambitious but realistic personal goals, such as academic improvement, nutrition/physical fitness and community service. This season, more than 4,200 tickets were awarded to youth and their chaperones. Other Foundation-sponsored charitable seating programs include Sailors Aweigh for Navy families with a parent on deployment; inner-city youth football associations; HabiJax volunteers; and families at Ronald McDonald House.
In September 2006, in partnership with PEPSI and Reebok, the Foundation published the 2006-07 edition of The Jaguars Official Playbooks®. This colorful booklet, featuring Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson on the cover, serves to promote reading. It highlights books for all ages featuring the team's owners, players, head coach, vice president of player personnel, cheerleaders and mascot JAXSON de Ville. Playbooks is available at public libraries in Jacksonville, and Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties. It can also be accessed on-line at jaguars.com.
During the season, the Foundation's Straight Talk™ program, under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver and in partnership with the Weaver Family Foundation, continued its grants to programs working to reduce teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Over one million dollars in Straight Talk grants have been made since 1999. In addition, in May 2006, in partnership with all local television stations and other media, the Foundation's Straight Talk television show, "Teens & Sex…The Real Truth 2006," was broadcast. The winning PSA by Paxon School for Advanced Studies students from the show was shown on the Stadium's video screens during a Jaguars home game. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF), the official health plan and community relations partner of the Jaguars, is the Foundation's Straight Talk partner.
Through the Weaver Family Foundation, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver have supported many local agencies and initiatives. Since 1995 they have made contributions to Jacksonville organizations in excess of $17.2 million. In February 2005, the Weavers made a second $1 million commitment to United Way which will be paid out over four years, 2005-2008. In addition, in the aftermath of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the Weavers matched the NFL's donation of $1 million with a donation of $1 million from the Weaver Family Foundation to United Way of America for hurricane relief, which includes support for citizens from the hurricane-struck areas who came to the First Coast.
Delores Barr Weaver is the Chair of the HabiJax Golf Tournament and Founder of FRIENDS of HabiJax. HabiJax, Jacksonville's affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, has built more houses than any Habitat affiliate across the country. Since its inception in 1996 through 2006, the golf tournament has sponsored 65 houses, representing a cash contribution to HabiJax in excess of $2.2 million. FRIENDS of HabiJax, founded in 2001, is a partnership of local businesses including the Jaguars and the Weavers' other two companies, Liz Claiborne Shoes and Shoe Carnival. Utilizing the Florida Sales Tax Refund Program and other gifts, FRIENDS have contributed more than $5.5 million, representing 148 new houses. Together, the golf tournament and FRIENDS have sponsored a total of 213 new HabiJax houses for children and deserving families. The cash contribution since 1996 is in excess of $7.7 million. Delores says, "HabiJax builds houses, families build homes."
The Jacksonville Jaguars Community Relations Department works as an instrument of worth by creating and implementing a broad scope of community support.
The Department manages player involvement and celebrity appearances including NFL outreach and recognition programs, youth football, an annual food drive, public service announcements, fan mail programs, and in-kind charitable donations of autographed team memorabilia, among other programs.
Since the start of the off-season in January through July, Jaguars players made more than 280 appearances. This number represents more than double the number of community outreach visits made during the 2005 off-season. Players involved included veterans and rookies alike, from quarterback Byron Leftwich to long-snapper Joe Zelenka and defensive end Bobby McCray, to this year's top draft choice, tight end Marcedes Lewis. Their appearances varied from school assemblies to hospital visits to taking a tour of the USS John F. Kennedy, docked at Mayport Naval Station.
During 2006, Jaguars players, The ROAR cheerleaders, team mascot JAXSON de Ville, staff members and other team personalities will make more than 1,100 visits to schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations and businesses throughout the region. The majority of appearances are motivational, educational and charity-related. The Jaguars also provide fund-raising assistance to more than 1,400 Florida non-profit organizations annually by donating autographed team memorabilia for auctions and raffles.
Branching out from the national event held every year at the Super Bowl, Jacksonville is one of a number of NFL cities that have launched a local Taste of the NFL dinner to help raise money and awareness in the fight against hunger. The 3rd Annual Jacksonville Jaguars Taste of the NFL, held in November 2005, raised nearly $118,000 to benefit the LSS Second Harvest Food Bank. The 4th Annual Jaguars Taste of the NFL will be held on November 16, 2006 at Alltel Stadium and will feature some of Jacksonville's finest chefs and several Jaguars players.
Jaguars players involved in the community this season include:
· Kyle Brady - NFL YET Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Taste of the NFL
· Donovin Darius - Donovin Darius Children's Foundation, Operation Blessing, Gift of Life Blood Drive, Jaguars Foundation programs: Honor Rows
· David Garrard - Breast Cancer Awareness
· Chris Hanson - CHILD Cancer Fund, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
· Reggie Hayward – Prostate Cancer Education Council
· John Henderson – Baptist Heart Hospital, 2006-07 Playbooks featured player
· Byron Leftwich - North Shore Elementary School and Northwestern Middle School
· Alvin Pearman - Children's Home Society
· Mike Peterson – Mike Peterson Foundation
· Paul Spicer – Community Rehabilitation Center, Justice Coalition
· Scott Starks - Clara White Mission
· Marcus Stroud – The Marcus Stroud Foundation, 2006-07 Playbooks featured player
· Ernest Wilford – First Tee of St. Johns County, Straight Talk, Taste of the NFL
· Maurice Williams - Prostate Cancer Education Council, All-Star youth football camp, and Dignity U Wear
· Joe Zelenka - HabiJax, Military support, Ronald McDonald House, Straight Talk, and Wolfson Children's Hospital
On November 30, 1993, when the team was awarded by the NFL, Delores and Wayne Weaver made a commitment that the Jaguars would be winners on the field of life as well as on the football field. These direct benefits to the Jacksonville community are living proof that the Jaguars are delivering on that promise.