Joe Burrow’s foundation pays medical bills for families of 20 patients at Cincy Children’s

Burrow’s recently announced foundation is dedicated to addressing children’s mental and behavioral health.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) greets fans as he leaves the field after the...
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) greets fans as he leaves the field after the Bengals defeated the New Orleans Saints in during the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)(Butch Dill | AP)
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 4:42 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - When Joe Burrow and his family moved to Athens, Ohio, in 2005, the self-confident, outgoing second-grader was always friends with everyone.

His parents, Robin and Jimmy Burrow, recalled how their son, who grew up in southeast Ohio after Jimmy took a job as a defensive coordinator for Ohio University’s football, was acutely aware that kids came from different backgrounds.

But no matter whether someone was different because of their race and ethnicity or socioeconomic status, Joe saw everyone as equals, his mother told The Dispatch recently.

“Joe never chose friends based on where they came from or how much money their parents made,” his father said. “He was always aware of friends and classmates who went hungry. He saw it firsthand.”

That awareness has continued into adulthood. The star quarterback dedicated his 2019 Heisman Trophy acceptance speech to raising awareness about food insecurity in Athens County, which inspired a GoFundMe for the county food pantry and the eventual Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.

Now, less than a year after playing in his first Super Bowl, the face of the Cincinnati Bengals has launched a nonprofit.

On Oct. 4, he wrote on Instagram that “Everyone has a responsibility to do good.” And with that mantra, he established The Joe Burrow Foundation, which is dedicated to addressing food insecurity and children’s mental and behavioral health in Ohio (Cincinnati and Athens) as well as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the home of his alma mater, Louisiana State University (LSU).

Joe will serve as the foundation’s president while Jimmy and Robin have signed on as vice president and secretary/treasurer, respectively. They have also recruited an executive director and a board of 20-plus community advisors.

As the principal of Eastern Elementary School in rural Meigs County, Robin understands the systemic challenges plaguing Appalachian Ohio all too well. As the mother of an NFL player whose athletic prowess and pregame fashion style dominate headlines, she could not be more thrilled that her son is dedicating his energy to philanthropy.

“He realized he had this platform and genuinely believes everyone should do good,” she said. “As a mom, I’m just so proud of him for recognizing that responsibility to do good.”

First steps: Setting goals, paying for hospital bills

Sitting on the back patio of the Ohio University Inn last week, Robin and Jimmy mused about the future of the foundation.

With Joe in the middle of the NFL season, the Burrow trio are still figuring out how they want to run this family venture — between fundraising, seeking grant opportunities and allocating funds there’s a lot of work ahead. But in the first week since the nonprofit’s launch they secured more than $35,000 in donations.

“We’ve already had so many requests to consider for help,” Jimmy said.

“We gotta organize,” Robin added with a laugh.

The Burrows want to partner with local municipalities across southeast Ohio, Cincinnati and Baton Rouge to build out food pantries, connect with community partners and set up endowments.

Funding for those endeavors will partially come from Joe’s advertising contracts, which his team has previously negotiated with partners to set aside financial contributions for the Athens County Food Pantry and the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund. Now, some of that money will go toward the foundation, Robin said.

But the first order of business, they explained, will be paying outstanding medical bills for 20 families nominated by a mental health care provider whose children are in treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Addressing children’s mental health is a key tenet for Robin especially, who in addition to her job as an elementary school principal also serves as a board member on the Appalachian Children’s Coalition, an advocacy organization dedicating to serving kids in the region.

“We see this firsthand,” she said. “There are skyrocketing levels of anxiety, depression, and since the pandemic children are not able to focus or deal with conflict as well. We’re trying to build back this self-efficacy piece.”

‘Under a microscope’: What is Joe Burrow’s responsibility?

Even when he was a third-string quarterback at Ohio State University, early in his college career, Joe was fearless in speaking out for what he believed in, his parents said.

In January 2017, Joe took to Twitter to express his frustration over student-athletes inability to earn money for playing sports, years before the NCAA approved an interim name, image and likeness (NIL) policy.

“I mean, we were a little worried, back then. It was controversial,” Robin said.

Both Burrow parents know their son is under a sharp microscope, but fear of rocking the boat has never really bothered Joe, his father explained.

“Joe’s shown a willingness to speak out when it’s important,” Jimmy said. “He doesn’t push sand on Twitter every day. We may not always agree with his stance on things, but we agree with his passion.”

Joe’s passion has extended far beyond NIL advocacy to systemic challenges like food insecurity all the way to racial equity. Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Joe tweeted his support for the Black community and urged his followers to listen and learn.

Admittedly, there are people who say Joe Burrow should stick to playing football, Jimmy said. But the elder Burrow does not believe his son acting on his values conflicts with his ability to score touchdowns.

“These are not knee-jerk reactions,” Jimmy said. “Joe thinks speaking out will help others make decisions and inspire action.”

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