When the Jaguars were named the 30th National Football League franchise in 1993, team owners Wayne and Delores Barr Weavers' vision 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, responding to needs in and around the Jacksonville community. Since these organizations came to Jacksonville, each has made significant contributions locally through donations, grants, in-kind support and numerous programs designed to address the needs of First Coast residents.
Under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver, Jaguars Foundation Chair and CEO, the Jaguars Foundation focuses on support of programs serving economically and socially disadvantaged youth and families in Jacksonville. The Foundation awarded $1,004,710 in grants to 42 local youth-serving agencies in 2009. The grand total since 1995 is more than $12.9 million in Jacksonville and the surrounding counties of Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns.
"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 Partners for making the annual million dollar commitment to the Jaguars Foundation to support these important programs for youth and their families, which is especially important for the agencies serving low-income families in these difficult economic times."
In addition to cash grants, non-cash awards were made of nearly 11,300 Jaguars home-game tickets during the 2009 football season, with an in-kind value exceeding $400,000. The largest non-cash award program (4,746 tickets) was for the Honor Rows® program, whereby economically and socially disadvantaged youth between the ages of nine and 17 earn a seat to home games. Participating youth from various non-profit organizations set and achieve ambitious but realistic personal goals including academic improvement, nutrition/physical fitness and community service. Other Foundation-sponsored charitable seating programs include Sailors Aweigh for United States Navy families with a parent on deployment, inner-city youth football associations, HabiJax volunteers, and families staying at Ronald McDonald House.
In addition to game-day tickets, the Jaguars organization also provided other in-kind donations in the community. The Jaguars Foundation distributed 500 pairs of athletic shoes donated by Reebok to area low-income children, teens and young adults. Jaguars owners Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver joined Jaguars players and members of The ROAR Cheerleaders in the Weaver Zone auditorium at The Bridge of Northeast Florida on Monday, February 1, 2010 to help distribute the shoes.
Delores Barr Weaver exclaimed, "Through the NFL/Jaguars Play 60 Challenge program in partnership with Baptist Health, we encourage children to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, 30 minutes during school and 30 minutes after school. Having good athletic shoes is important for these children to be physically active." Wayne Weaver added, "Reebok is a major partner with the NFL and being part of the 'NFL family' here in Jacksonville has allowed the Jaguars organization to access this generous donation."
Also, the Jaguars organization, on behalf of their fans, donated $25,000 to the Second Harvest Food Bank in December 2009 to provide holiday meals for needy families and senior citizens. Winn Dixie partnered in this gift by donating $10,000 and supplying the food at-cost. The Second Harvest Food Bank put together 2,000 holiday meal food boxes and a $10 Winn-Dixie gift card for the purchase a small turkey or other items. The distribution kickoff was held at the NFL – YET (Youth Education Town) Boys and Girls Club in Brentwood during Christmas week.
"We truly have the best fans and we are grateful for their continued support," expressed Delores Barr Weaver. "This year we decided to 'go green' and cut down on the cost of printing and mailing holiday cards; instead sending a holiday greeting video by e-mail to our ticket holders. In turn, on behalf of our great fans, we made this contribution to Second Harvest to serve the less fortunate." Wayne Weaver added, "We are thankful for Winn-Dixie's contribution which allows us to reach even more families. We appreciate the partnership we share with Winn-Dixie along with our fans."
The newest Foundation program is a youth anti-obesity initiative, NFL/Jaguars Play 60 Challenge, in partnership with Baptist Health/Wolfson Children's Hospital. Utilizing national resources from the NFL and American Heart Association, the third year of a pilot program with sixth-graders at area public middle schools encourages students to have at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day and 30 minutes after school. It also focuses on improving nutrition. Additionally, Baptist Health and the Jaguars Foundation have partnered in awarding youth anti-obesity grants to six local nonprofits totaling nearly $400,000.
Improving literacy continues to be an important part of the Foundation's mission. In partnership with Pepsi, the signature program to promote reading and encourage the use of the public library is the Foundation's publication of the 2009-10 edition of The Jaguars Official Playbooks®. The Playbooks are available during the season at local public libraries or year-round on-line at www.jaguars.com Along with the 2009-10 playbooks the libraries also distributed stickers highlighting members of the Jaguars, The ROAR, and mascot JAXSON de Ville. The colorful booklet, featuring activities for ages three through18 highlights books for all ages. The books are presented by the team's owners, players, head coach, The ROAR cheerleaders and mascot JAXSON de Ville.
The Foundation's Straight Talk™ program continued its partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, the Weaver Family Foundation and local media to reduce teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI's). Under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver, local media, including all network affiliates and the local independent station, collaborated together to produce and broadcast the Foundation's Straight Talk television show for youth and parents, "Teens & Sex…The Real Truth 2009" show aired in May 2009 was the 10th annual show in the 15th year of the Jaguars Foundation's Straight Talk program.
The show featured "flashbacks" from the past shows and programs, including current and former Jaguars players, local celebrities, and medical and legal experts. The show also included students from prior years who shared how Straight Talk has helped them in their lives and how what they learned has helped them be a support to their peers. The winning public service announcement (PSA) by Douglas Anderson School of the Arts students was shown on the stadium's video screens during the Jaguars' home game on August 22, 2009. The Foundation will air its eleventh annually televised teen forum in May 2010. Additionally, more than $2 million dollars in Straight Talk grants have been made since 1999 to prevention programs at non-profits to reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of STI's.
Through the Weaver Family Foundation and personally, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver have supported many local agencies and initiatives. Since 1995 they have made contributions to Jacksonville organizations in excess of $45 million.
FRIENDS of HabiJax, founded in 2001 by Delores Barr Weaver, is a partnership of local businesses including the Jaguars and the Weavers' other two companies, Liz Claiborne Shoes and Shoe Carnival. Together, FRIENDS has sponsored 154 houses representing a cash contribution to HabiJax in excess of $5.7 million. HabiJax is Jacksonville's affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Delores says, "HabiJax builds houses, families build homes."
In addition, since 2002 the Weavers and Jaguars have contributed over $1.3 million to various organizations in the five county area through the auction of seats in their suite, away game trips, the private use of the owners' suite for various football games and other miscellaneous fund raising opportunities.
In November of 2008, the United Way of America honored Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver with their highest award, the National United Way Tocqueville Society Award. The Weavers were recognized for their leadership, sustained service over a period of years, creativity in devising new and better ways of meeting the community's needs and tangible impact from their efforts.
The Jaguars Community Relations department works as an extension of the team to develop and implement resourceful and valuable programs that contribute directly to the Jacksonville-area community. As a highly visible organization, the Jaguars – including players, coaches and front office staff – acknowledge and accept their unique role and work to improve the welfare of people throughout the region. Among the causes and issues targeted by Jaguars programs are promoting physical fitness through the NFL/Jaguars Play 60 Challenge, literacy and education, health and wellness, and outreach programs with non-profit and community groups.
In 2009, Jaguars players made more than 500 appearances throughout our community. The majority of appearances are motivational, educational and charity-related and many involve the NFL Play 60 Challenge, a league-wide initiative to combat obesity. Players involved included veterans and rookies alike, from running back Maurice Jones-Drew and center Brad Meester, to the large number of members of the Rookie Club consisting of all rookie players on the roster and the practice squad. During 2009, the Jaguars players, coaches, The ROAR cheerleaders, team mascot JAXSON de Ville, staff members and other team personalities made approximately 1,300 visits to schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations and businesses throughout the region.
The Jaguars also provided fund-raising assistance to more than 1,400 Florida non-profit organizations in 2009 by donating autographed team memorabilia for auctions and raffles.
Some of those actively involved in the community include:
• Head Coach Jack Del Rio – The Jack Del Rio Foundation, Dance Trance "Dance for a Cause" events benefitting Seamark Ranch, Cathedral Arts Project, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and American Cancer Society ROCK Program; charity golf tournaments
• Tyron Brackenridge – The Bridge of Northeast Florida, MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
• Derek Cox – Clara White Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank, Hometown Huddle
• Justin Durant – Wolfson Children's Hospital
• Atiyyah Ellison – School visits, NFL 101, Jaguars Winn-Dixie Food Drive, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
• David Garrard – Breast Cancer Awareness, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, 2008-09 Playbooks featured player, ticket giveaways through David Garrard Foundation
• Quentin Groves – North Florida Institute, school visits
• Reggie Hayward – Children's Miracle Network
• John Henderson – Baptist Heart Hospital, 2006-07 Playbooks featured player
• Clint Ingram – Police Athletic League, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jaguars Winn-Dixie Food Drive, Special Olympics
• Brian Iwuh – Wolfson Children's Hospital
• Rashad Jennings – NFL Play 60, The United Way, Hometown Huddle, Big Brothers/Big Sisters
• Greg Jones – Thanksgiving and Christmas food giveaways, Community Connections
• Maurice Jones-Drew – I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, Thanksgiving meals, book bag giveaways, Maurice Jones-Drew Foundation, hospital visits, ticket giveaways, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
• Marcedes Lewis – Community Connections, Jacksonville Humane Society
• Vince Manuwai – Children's Home Society, Guardian Ad Litem, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
• Rashean Mathis – Real Sense Prosperity, YMCA Campaign (United Way initiative), Clara White Mission Bowling Tournament
• Brad Meester – Children's Miracle Network, Brad's Buddies, the Guardian ad Litem
• Reggie Nelson – Mary Lakes Invitational Bowl Against Breast Cancer, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation
• Uche Nwaneri – Gaming for a Cause which benefited daniel child services, school visits
• Montell Owens – NFL/Jaguars Play 60 Challenge spokesperson, City of Jacksonville Department of Parks and Recreation (World Wide Day of Play spokesperson), Hometown Huddle, military visits
• Adam Podlesh – American Red Cross
• Josh Scobee – CHILD Cancer Fund
• Daryl Smith – Wolfson Children's Hospital, Celebrity Chef for the Salvation Army, Children's Miracle Network
• Ernest Wilford - The Ernest Wilford Foundation, The Bridge of Northeast Florida, Special Olympics
• Scott Starks – Clara White Mission
A great football team is more than a collection of superb athletes – it is a partner with its community and is involved in solving problems, creating opportunities, and enriching the quality of life for youth and families through unique resources, teamwork and goodwill. All of the programs described here, and the money raised and donated, have taken place since the Jaguars came to Jacksonville 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.