Louisiana State University quarterback Joe Burrow spoke out about the many children who go hungry his hometime of Athens, Ohio

By Georgia Slater
December 17, 2019 09:32 AM

Joe Burrow made headlines this week for winning Louisiana State University’s first Heisman trophy since 1959 — but the moment sparked something even more incredible.

While accepting his award Saturday, the 23-year-old quarterback used his time on the stage to spotlight those in need, sharing with viewers that much of his community back home in Athens, Ohio, remains in poverty.

Joe Burrow
Credit: Adam Hunger/Getty Images

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average,” Burrow shared during his acceptance speech. “There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. And I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens county that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here, too.”

What Burrow didn’t know was that his inspiring words would encourage Athens resident Will Drabold to start a fundraiser for the community, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in just one day, according to CNN.

On Sunday, Drabold shared Burrow’s sentiments with the creation of a Facebook fundraiser aimed to benefit the Athens County Food Pantry.

“Let’s answer Joey’s call to action by supporting a local nonprofit that serves food to more than 5,000 households in Athens County each year,” Drabold wrote on the fundraising page.

To date, the fundraiser has brought in $344,535 and counting — far surpassing its original goal of just $50,000. With so many donations coming in, Drabold raised the goal to $400,000 only two days after publishing the page.

Joe Burrow
Credit: Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The food pantry, which served over 400 families last month, responded on social media to the generous flood of support, which Drabold reposted to the donation page.

“For the fundraisers inspired by Joe Burrow, we are simply overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people!” read the statement. “Our board will be having in-depth conversations about the best ways to use these funds. This is very new to us. We have never received an outpouring of financial support of this magnitude. We seek to be careful and deliberate in making these decisions, as the opportunities to further address food insecurity and hunger are numerous and the possibilities are nearly endless.”

The post continued, “On behalf of the board and our clients, merely saying thank you for this amazing show of support for our work cannot accurately reflect the depth of our appreciation! But those are the words we have so THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!”

Drabold also shared on the Facebook fundraiser page that his wife, who is a special education teacher at Burrow’s former elementary school, has already noticed the impact that the football player’s words have had on the students.

He added: “Joey inspired a generation of children in Appalachian Ohio. Some of these kids don’t get toys for Christmas. Some get their food from the food pantry. You cannot beat the power of role models and inspiration in their lives. None of these kids, who are in the same classrooms Joey was, will ever forget this.”