On the morning of Aug. 26, Hurricane Harvey, a category four storm with peak winds of 130 miles per hour, struck south Texas. It was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, and, after inflicting nearly $200 billion in damages and taking 82 lives , it quickly became the most devastating and most costly hurricane in American history.
Wisconsin native, and current defensive lineman for the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt, was not going to sit by and watch his city undergo the same lasting impacts New Orleans saw with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so, just two days after the initial impact, he decided to launch a campaign.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) August 27, 2017
Initially, his goal was to raise 200,000 dollars. In less than two hours, he met that goal, so he raised to 500,000 dollars, but the outpouring of support directed towards his campaign didn't stop there. By Sept. 9, Watt, with the help of Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, and normal, everyday Americans willing to lend a hand, had raised $30 million for Houston.
And tomorrow is Gameday! https://t.co/SR6DmnNbyM
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) September 9, 2017
But soon after, Watt underwent a tragedy of his own. On Oct. 8 in a Sunday night game against the Chiefs in Houston, he fractured his left tibial plateau and his season came to a screeching halt.
It was supposed to be a bounce-back season for Watt, who missed all but three games in 2016 with a back injury, but instead, the now 28-year-old veteran who's played only eight games since 2015, would have to endure the same laborious return and rehabilitation process plaguing the city he calls home.
It took almost two months, but finally, Watt was able to gingerly walk under his own power after the surgery.
We walkin!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/PYg4MdZQBv
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) December 1, 2017
And the first thing he did was tour the Gulf Coast to see first hand what his campaign was able to accomplish.
Today was the first time since my injury that I had a chance to go out and see first-hand some of the work that is being done with the money that everyone so generously donated to the Harvey Relief Fund. I went and saw a few of the homes that are being rebuilt by SBP after being completely gutted from floor to ceiling (and even the roof). The people and their stories were both heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. From Mr. and Mrs. Leonard who have lived in their home for 40 years and had to be rescued by boat (twice!) after the flooding kept climbing higher and higher in their home, to Isela and her family who lost everything but have kept an incredible smile on their face and such an energetic spirit, to Miss Anne who is still in the process of getting her home from the mold damage but hasn’t let that stop her from loving and caring so deeply for those around her and her beloved pets (including a 19 year old chihuahua named Chi Chi and two cats, Andy and Mittens!). Each of these families went through so much devastation and heartbreak, yet remain so positive and energetic, it was truly inspiring to spend time with them today. The work that SBP is doing in rebuilding these houses and helping to get people back in their homes is incredible and thanks to your donations they will be building hundreds of homes over the next two years, each with a story like those great folks and each eager to get back into the comfort and safety of their own home. I also had a chance to visit the Houston Food Bank today, which services over 600 agencies in 18 counties in and around Houston, including mobile pantries that help reach numerous communities. Last year the Houston Food Bank provided over 83 Million meals and they estimated that in the wake of Harvey, their production tripled and it currently remains at double the standard rate and will remain so well into next year. Through Feeding America, your donations have helped to provide countless meals, not only in Houston but all throughout the gulf coast and other affected areas, as well as additional mobile pantries to get food out into the areas that need it. More updates from other sites to come soon!
"The people and their stories were both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time," Watt said on his Instagram. "Each of these families went through so much devastation and heartbreak, yet remain so positive and energetic, it was truly inspiring to spend time with them today."
More than rebuilding homes, Watt's donations have made an impact on the Houston Food Bank and Feeding America, who was struggling to keep up the high demand for meals.
"(The Houston Food Bank) estimated that in the wake of Harvey, their production tripled and it currently remains at double the standard rate and will remain so well into next year," Watt said. "Through Feeding America, your donations have helped to provide countless meals, not only in Houston but all throughout the gulf coast and other affected areas."
Texas and Wisconsin should be proud to call Watt one of their own.
With south Texas and Watt both on the mend, all that's left is for Watt —football wise — is to get back onto the field and terrorize offenses like he used to during his three seasons as Defensive Player of the Year.