Before JJ Watt raised more than $28 million for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, he consulted with a very important group: the women in his life.
“I texted my girlfriend, I texted my mom,” the 28-year-old Houston Texans’ defensive end told Good Morning America during an interview aired on Thursday. He sat in a Dallas hotel room on Aug. 27, as he watched the devastation of the massive storm on news channels.
“You feel helpless seeing water rush down streets that I drive down every day. I said, ‘How can I help?’ ” Watt said.
“So, I started to think, I said, ‘I have this incredible platform, all this social media, all these followers. Let’s see if I can raise a little bit of money to help these people out. Try to get some relief efforts going.’ I just looked straight into the cell phone camera, started up a campaign, hoping to raise $200,000. Now we’re over $27 million.”
He started his relief fund to provide food, water, and supplies to victims, and announced the effort in a Twitter video late last month. He urged the public to donate and soon surpassed his initial goal of raising $200,000.
“When million-dollar donations start to become the norm, it gets a little crazy,” he told GMA‘s Michael Strahan. When things look the bleakest, humanity steps up for each other. There’s over 160,000 people that have donated. There’s as big as a $5 million, there’s also as small as a $5 donation. It’s people giving what ever they can.”
The NFL player and his team have already hand-delivered supplied to victims and Watt said he plans to keep the fundraiser open until Sept. 15.
The storm touched down on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, dumping punishing rain on the Texas Coastal Bend.
In the week since Harvey made landfall, thousands of residents in Texas and Louisiana found refuge in shelters across the states. Floodwaters overtook entire neighborhoods, damaging at least 49,000 homes in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
In all, some 785,000 people were part of mandatory evacuations in Texas and Lousiana, and more than 200,000 homes are still without power. Officials are now allowing a portion of evacuees to return to their properties, and the process of rebuilding their homes, and their lives, begins.
At least 60 people have died as a result of the storm.