The Jaguars, as an organization, have dozens of charities and partners they work with throughout the year to help make the Jacksonville community a better place to live and learn. But no matter how much is raised, charitable contributions become an enormous task not even an NFL team can tackle.
Which is part of the reason why the Jaguars organization has stepped outside of the box by partnering with local charities via their Give and Go program, as well as encouraging past players that live within the area to continue to be ambassadors to the team and community.
One player they don’t have to worry about making a positive influence on the community is linebacker J.T. Thomas.
Thomas was drafted by the Chicago Bears out of West Virginia in 2011, before signing with the Jaguars at the start of the 2013 season. Since he’s been with the team, he’s made a name for himself on the field by replacing the injured fan-favorite Paul Posluszny seamlessly. But his off-the-field contributions have had just as big of an impact.
Thomas currently serves on the board for the HEAL Foundation in Jacksonville. HEAL, which stands for HEALing Every Autistic Life, aims to help not only the kids who suffer from autism, but also the families through special events and experiences to bring about more awareness to the disorder.
When asked about his motivation for getting involved with the charity, Thomas said, “My little brother Jared has autism, and that hits close to home for me. To know how families are affected by autism really drove me to become a part of something bigger than myself as far as bringing awareness to the community.”
The HEAL Foundation isn’t the only charitable contribution Thomas takes part in. He has his own J.T. Foundation that serves to enrich the lives of disabled children in the community through activities and sports. But perhaps the most inspiring ways he gives back are the occasions when a foundation isn’t involved at all.
In 2012, Thomas gained national attention when he accompanied the 8th grade dance of a disabled girl as her date. When asked his reasoning behind it, Thomas called the night special and said, “You have this girl who might have been at a real low point in her life without having a date to a dance. And to take her from that extreme low to that extreme high was definitely a feeling of joy on my end.“
Just a year later, Thomas wasn’t finished going the extra mile for children.
In 2013, while at a holiday event, Thomas met a 14-year-old boy suffering from epilepsy. His story and his family touched Thomas so much, he ended up giving the boy Super Bowl XLVI tickets and watched the game with him in the stands.
“We were at a holiday event for sick children and I met this young boy and his family and it just weighed on my heart,” Thomas said. “Watching the game with him was an amazing experience, and if I can do something small like that to make a young kid happy, I’m gonna do it every time.”
Thomas said both his foundation, as well as HEAL, are gearing up for the holidays with backpack giveaways and turkey dinner giveaways. But he remains firm in his stance that even if you don’t have the extra funds for a donation this holiday season, giving your time and energy can be just as valuable.
“When you give back with a selfless act, you’re not just giving back to one person, but an entire community. It doesn’t cost anything to be selfless.”
To learn more about the charities mentioned in this article, visit the following websites: