The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation continue to be active and productive, in responding to needs in and around the Jacksonville community. In the seven years since these organizations came to Jacksonville, each has made significant contributions locally through donations, grants, in-kind support and numerous programs designed to specifically address the needs of First Coast residents.
The Jaguars Foundation awarded $1,088,000 million in grants in 2001 to 53 agencies. Since its first grants in March in 1995, the Foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $4.6 million to Jacksonville area programs to assist disadvantaged youth. The Foundation anticipates awarding over $1 million in grants in 2002.
The Foundation also annually awards more than 11,000 Jaguars home-game tickets with an in-kind value exceeding $420,000. The major ticket program is Honor Rows, whereby economically and socially disadvantaged youth earn a seat to home games by setting and achieving goals for community service, academic improvements, and personal behavior. In 2001, about 4,600 youth, chaperones agency staff, and their volunteers attended a Jaguars home game. Other Foundation-sponsored charitable seating programs include Sailors Aweigh for Navy families whose parent is on deployment; coach Tom Coughlin's Jay Fund; youth football associations; HabiJax, sponsored by friends of HabiJax; and Ronald McDonald House.
The 2001 edition of website playbooks.org was kicked off at the Highlands Branch Library in October 2001. In addition to a reading list recommended by players, coaches, and cheerleaders, there are interactive features for kids such as games. Children can submit a book review on-line and are eligible for the monthly drawing for prizes.
The Straight Talk program, under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver, continues its unique partnership with the local media to help reduce teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. The television stations will broadcast the fourth live town hall forum, "Teens & Sex…The Real Truth 2002." It will be simulcast on two television stations on May 23 and rebroadcast by the other five television stations from May 25-29. Straight Talk continues to inform and provide resources through its website, which can be entered through jaguars.com or jacksonville.com. The Foundation is in its third year of funding programs specifically addressing this issue, done in partnership with the Weaver Family Foundation. Straight Talk was featured on the nationally syndicated sports magazine television show "More Than A Game" in 2001. The Jaguars Foundation has also been named a partner with the National Campaign for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy for the first ever "National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy" on May 8.
The Foundation awarded a four-year scholarship to Honor Rows participant Angie Gibson, as part of the $500,000 endowed Nike/Jaguars Foundation Community Scholars Program at the University of North Florida. Gibson is the third recipient in this program that involves mentor assistance from honors students at UNF.
The Jaguars Foundation served to distribute in-kind support items that are donated, including computers and office equipment. Through the "Bicycle Fix-Up and Giveaway Program," at Christmas time, the Foundation, along with the Jaguars head athletic trainer Michael Ryan assisted in distributing reconditioned bicycles and new safety helmets to 100 children who did not have a bike and their families could not afford one. The Foundation also volunteers at the Jacksonville Housing Partnership's annual "Paint the Town", providing a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of a house selected for the program.
Partnering with the nation's largest healthcare philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Jaguars Foundation has established an aggressive campaign to reduce use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs by youth. Included in this campaign are public service announcements featuring Jaguars players, sending the message that smoking is neither "cool" nor conductive to athletic performance. This is also an integral part of the Honor Rows program. Every child makes a pledge to remain tobacco-, alcohol- and drug- free.
Also in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Jaguars Foundation was named in 2001 to serve as a national demonstration site as part of the Sports Philanthropy Project (SPP) to promote philanthropy and help develop foundations in other professional sports teams and leagues. Twenty-four teams are expected to visit Jacksonville over the next three years to learn more about the Foundation's programs and grantmaking.
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 totaling more than $7.2 million, which includes $400,000 of their $1 million commitment to The United Way of Northeast Florida. The balance of that commitment will be paid over the next three years.
Delores Barr Weaver, Owner/Partner of the Jaguars and Chair and CEO of the Jaguars Foundation, has co-chaired the HabiJax Golf Tournament since its inception in 1996. By the end of 2001, the tournament had built 25 houses, representing a total contribution to HabiJax in excess of $820,000. Beginning in 2002, Delores Weaver will chair the HabiJax Golf Tournament and is founder of Friends of HabiJax. Friends include major sponsors of the golf tournament, local businesses that participate in the Florida Sales Tax Refund Program, and individuals. To date, Friends has received more than $1.6 million to build 49 low-income houses in Jacksonville, and approval for an additional 21 houses has been received. Friends, in partnership with the golf tournament, expects to build 77 houses during the fiscal year of July 2001 to June 2002.
The Jaguars community relations department manages a broad scope of community support, including player involvement and celebrity appearances, 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. More than 2,500 local organizations are assisted annually through the department's programs and services.
In addition to the Jaguars' work, that of the Jaguars Foundation and the Weavers, tremendous contributions have been made by foundations established by Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Mark Brunell. The Jay Fund, established by Coughlin in 1996, assists local youth and their families who are affected by leukemia. A net total of $786,000 has been raised through The Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic, with those funds going directly to aid local families and to provide research in the area of pediatric leukemia.
The Mark Brunell Foundation is committed to enriching the lives of children who face chronic or life-threatening illnesses. Since 1997 his charity golf tournament has contributed more than $550,000 to Wolfson Children's Hospital, specifically for children receiving pediatric and neonatal intensive care. In November Wolfson's opened the Brunell Family Children's Neurodiagnostic Center that allows prolonged patient monitoring and a comprehensive array of neurological services. In addition to other foundation programs, Brunell supports Dreams Come True, the Ronald McDonald House and Jacksonville's Community Hospice, in particular their pediatric care programs.
Other Jaguars players are also actively involved in the community including tight end Kyle Brady (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), cornerback Fernando Bryant (Hubbard House/I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless), safety Donovin Darius (Communities-in-Schools/blood alliance), wide receivers Keenan McCardell (breast cancer research) and Jimmy Smith (asthma education programs), and running back Fred Taylor (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society/asthma awareness programs).
All of the programs described here, and all of the money raised and donated, has taken place in the eight years since the Jaguars came to Jacksonville. When the team was awarded on November 30, 1993, Wayne and Delores 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.