As the Jaguars play in their 11th season on the field, the Jaguars Foundation is in its 11th year of grant making and programs to support children in Jacksonville. When the Jaguars were named the 30th franchise in 1993, the Weavers' vision was to give back to the community in a substantial manner. Under the leadership of Delores Barr Weaver, Jaguars Foundation Chair and CEO, the Foundation was announced on September 14, 1994, and awarded its first grants in 1995 before the team played its first game. "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 its partners for making the annual million dollar commitment to support these important programs for youth and their families."
Today, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation continue that commitment, responding to needs in and around the Jacksonville community. In the eleven 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.
The Jaguars Foundation awarded $623,400 in grants to date in 2005 to 27 agencies; and expects that total to increase to more than $1 million by December 31st, making it the fifth year in a row that the Foundation's annual grant making will have exceeded one million dollars. the Foundation's grand total in grant giving since 1995 is over $8.7 million in the greater Jacksonville area, which includes Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, and St. John's counties. Peter Racine, the Foundation's Executive Director, reported that the Foundation's Board seeks to develop and sustain quality prevention programs in northeast Florida. "Kids need quality after-school, summer and other prevention programs to give them a chance to capitalize on opportunities for success in the future that we all want our children to have." Racine said.
The following were awarded grants by the Jaguars Foundation in the first cycle for 2005:
· Baker County Family YMCA – $24,000 for a middle and high school after-school, tutoring and arts program.
· Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida – $25,000 for the Woodland Acres Boys & Girls Club's after-school and summer youth programs.
· Clay County Dental Care – $25,000 to help start and operate the new Volunteer Dental Clinic for low-income children located in Green Cove Springs.
· Communities In Schools of Jacksonville – $74,000 over 2 years for continued support of multi-school site student drop-out prevention and literacy program.
· Communities In Schools of Nassau County – $25,000 for continued support of the "Prepare For Life" multi-school middle and high school site student drop-out prevention program.
· Community Connections of Jacksonville – $50,000 for continued support of the A. L. Lewis Community Center's after-school and summer youth programs.
· The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach – $20,000 for an after-school youth development and arts program for 4th and 5th grade students at Mayport Elementary School.
· DLC Nurse & Learn – $30,000 for continued support for low-income families needing preschool/extended day care for severely disabled infants and children.
· Duval County 4-H Foundation – $20,000 for continued support of their school-based multi-site 4-H Junior Master Gardening program.
· The Florida Ballet – $10,000 for dance instruction scholarships for low-income youth.
· Girl Scouts of Gateway Council – $40,000 over two years for Girl Scouting at 18 low-income housing sites in Duval County.
· Habitat for Humanity of the Jacksonville Beaches – $16,000 for continued support of the after-school program at Jordan Community Center in Atlantic Beach.
· JASMYN – $30,000 for the Safety Net Program for youth who are at-risk for school failure or family breakdown.
· Kids Bridge – $17,500 challenge grant for a nurturing parenting program within the Kids Bridge supervised visitation program.
· Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville – $5,000 for SAVE Program reading mentors program and other support for the special education students at Southside Middle School.
· MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation – $50,000 over two years for continued support of the after-school youth homework assistance, tennis, fitness, and mentoring program held at the Emmett Reed Center.
· Otis Smith Kids Foundation – $20,000 for continued support for the school-based multi-site after-school tutoring program for children.
· Police Athletic League, Jacksonville – $25,000 for educational tutoring and mentoring program at the Mallison Park Community Center.
· Theatreworks – $24,000 for continued support of school based multi-cultural theatre experience and creative writing after-school workshops for low-income children.
· Trinity Lutheran Church – $2,500 to transport low-income children to and from activities at the Children's Enrichment Workshops in Riverside.
· The Historic St. Johns County Police Athletic League – $24,000 for continued support of the after-school tutoring program and activities for Hastings, Florida middle and high school students.
· The Bridge of Northeast Florida – $50,000 for continued support of The Bridge Teen Center in Springfield.
The Foundation, through its charitable ticket program, awards approximately 11,800 Jaguars home-game tickets annually with an in-kind value exceeding $420,000. The primary charitable-use ticket program is Honor Rows®. Economically and socially disadvantaged youth between the ages of nine and 17 can earn a seat to home games by setting and achieving ambitious but realistic goals for academic improvement, personal behavior, nutrition and physical fitness and community service. For the 2005 season, a total of 4,377 tickets have been awarded to youth, chaperones, agency staff and their volunteers to attend a Jaguars home game. This is the largest amount of tickets awarded in the history of the Honor Rows program. Other Foundation-sponsored charitable seating programs include Sailors Aweigh for Navy families with a parent on deployment; youth football associations for youth from low-income families; HabiJax volunteer recognition, sponsored by Friends of HabiJax; and families with children residing at Ronald McDonald House.
Initiatives to promote reading and literacy are a core interest at the Foundation. More than a third of the Foundation's grants (over $300,000) are awarded to programs with reading and literacy components. The Foundation's signature initiative in this area is The Jaguars Official Playbooks®, available at local public libraries in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. The libraries began distributing the 2005-2006 issue, featuring first-round draft pick #18 wide receiver Matt Jones on the cover, on September 12. This colorful booklet highlights books for all ages recommended by owners, players, coaches, cheerleaders and mascot. Playbooks are available throughout the season at any local public library in the five county area and online at jaguars.com. Both the booklet and the website feature games and contests for children.
In conjunction with Super Bowl XXXIX, the Jaguars Foundation spearheaded Jacksonville's Super Bowl – Super Book Celebration, an NFL and Jacksonville Host Committee Sanctioned event. In partnership with the national literacy non-profit FIRST BOOK, 100,000 books were distributed to low-income children so that they could have books in their own homes. Additionally, in a first for Super Bowl Host cities, through a grant from the Weaver Family Foundation, 39,000 books were shipped to Philadelphia and 39,000 books were shipped to Foxborough, the two Super Bowl XXXIX contender cities, and the Eagles and the Patriots distributed books to children in their communities. To date, the Jaguars Foundation has distributed more than 350,000 books to children.
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 Foundation's Straight Talk partner is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF), the official health plan and community relations partner of the Jaguars. In May 2005, local television stations broadcast the seventh town hall forum, "Teens & Sex…The Real Truth 2005" with a special focus for middle school students. Since some studies show that sexual activity has increased among the middle school age group, this program addressed issues that middle school students face today. These include peer pressure and the consequences of teen sex, which include pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. While abstinence is the Foundation's first choice for teens, comprehensive sex education is a must if they are to make good choices.
The show was hosted by local broadcast personality Jennifer Candelino and featured Jaguars offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam, ROAR cheerleader Sunny, local radio personalities DJ Dr. Doom and Jay Styles, a special musical guest, Madyson, and a special appearance by Jaguars co-owner and Foundation Chair/CEO, Delores Barr Weaver. A studio audience of local middle school students discussed questions with medical, legal and relationship panelists and special guests.
This year's show also included a piece featuring Jaguars players Kyle Brady, Donovin Darius, Maurice Williams and Joe Zelenka interviewed by student reporter Hiatt Woods. A new and exciting component of the show is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) Contest among Jacksonville area middle and high schools. This year there were six finalist entries from Baker County High School, Bartram Trail High School, Clay High School, Fleming Island High School, Hilliard Middle-High School, and Paxon School for Advanced Studies that were aired on the show so home viewers could vote for their favorite PSA on-line at straighttalk.jacksonville.com. Judged on production quality, message, creativity and on-line votes, Fleming Island High School was selected as this year's winner. The Foundation will continue to hold the PSA Contest with area middle and high school students in conjunction with its television show.
The Foundation also funds programs specifically addressing this issue. In partnership with the Weaver Family Foundation, more than $1,000,000 in Straight Talk grants has been awarded to date. The Jaguars Foundation continues to be a partner with the National Campaign for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy and the "National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy."
Partnering with the nation's largest healthcare philanthropy, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Jaguars Foundation has established an aggressive campaign to reduce the use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs by youth. Included in this campaign are public service announcements featuring Jaguars players communicating the message that smoking is neither "cool" nor conducive to athletic performance. This is also an integral part of the Honor Rows program since participants enrolled in the program must make and keep a pledge to abstain from tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.
Through a partnership with the Sports Philanthropy Project, a joint venture between RWJF and the Jaguars Foundation, the Jaguars Foundation has served as a national demonstration site to promote philanthropy and to help develop foundations in other professional sports teams and leagues.
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 almost $15 million. In February, the Weavers made a second $1 million commitment to United Way which will be paid out over four years beginning this year. 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 for hurricane relief, which includes support for citizens from the hurricane-striken areas who have come to the First Coast.
Delores Barr Weaver, Jaguars Owner/Partner and Chair/CEO of the Jaguars Foundation, is the Chair of the HabiJax Golf Tournament and Founder of Friends of HabiJax. HabiJax is Jacksonville's affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and has built more houses than any Habitat affiliate across the country. Since its inception in 1996 through 2005, the golf tournament has sponsored 55 houses, representing a cash contribution to HabiJax in excess of $1.8 million. Friends of HabiJax, founded in 2001, is a partnership of local businesses including the Jaguars and the Weavers' two other companies, Liz Claiborne Shoes and Shoe Carnival. Friends, utilizing the Florida Sales Tax Refund Program, has contributed almost $5.5 million, representing 146 new houses. The golf tournament and Friends have sponsored a total of 201 new HabiJax houses for children and deserving families. The cash contribution since 1996 is in excess of $7.3 million. Delores says, "HabiJax builds houses, families build homes."
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 have been assisted in 2005 through the department's programs and services.
The 2005 season kicks off the second season of the "Plays for a Purpose" program. In 2004, the Jaguars Community Relations Department created this season-long player performance pledge program to help raise money for non-profit organizations in the Jacksonville community based on the players' on-field performance. At the end of the 2004 season, a grand total of $79,142 was raised. For the 2005 season, eight different position groups will again give hands-on support to local non-profit organizations. Quarterbacks lend their support to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; running backs support the First Coast Family Center; defensive backs support Family Counseling Services; the defensive line supports the Child Guidance Center; the linebackers support Teen Challenge; the wide receivers support Community Connections; the offensive line and tight ends support the Youth Crisis Center; and special teams support the Bridge of Northeast Florida.
Branching out from the national event held every year at the Super Bowl, Jacksonville is one of 11 NFL cities who have launched a local Taste of the NFL dinner to help raise money and awareness in the fight against hunger. The 2nd Annual Jacksonville Jaguars Taste of the NFL was successful in raising $94,371 to benefit the LSS Second Harvest Food Bank. The event featured some of Jacksonville's finest chefs. Eight Jaguars players and one Jaguars alumnus were also in attendance. The 3rd Annual Jaguars Taste of the NFL will be held on Thursday, November 17, 2005.
During 2005, Jaguars players, The ROAR cheerleaders, team mascot JAXSON de Ville, staff members and other team personalities will make more than 1,000 visits to local 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 1,300 Florida non- profit organizations annually by donating autographed team memorabilia for auctions and raffles.
The week leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX was a very busy time for Jaguars players. Many of them participated in over 35 NFL community outreach events during Super Bowl Week. From the NFL Super Bowl Youth Clinic to Commissioner
Paul Tagliabue's press conference, Jaguars players were involved in the league's showcase events.
Jaguars players are also actively involved in other programs in the community including, linebacker Akin Ayodele (The Official Playbooks® and Jacksonville Reads!), Tight end Kyle Brady (NFL YET Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Playbooks), punter Chris Hanson (CHILD Cancer Fund, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Playbooks), tight end/ long snapper Joe Zelenka (HabiJax, Military support, Ronald McDonald House Straight Talk, Playbooks), quarterback David Garrard (Breast Cancer Awareness and Playbooks), offensive tackle Maurice Williams (Prostate Cancer Education Council, All-Star youth football camp and Playbooks), strong safety Donovin Darius (Donovin Darius Children's Foundation, Operation Blessing, Gift of Life blood drive and Jaguars Foundation's programs – Honor Rows, Playbooks and Straight Talk).
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, 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.