Santonio Holmes and his New York Jets teammates came out for the 2nd Monday Night Party to help raise money for The Ascent School for individuals with autism and the Santonio Holmes III and Long Foundation for children suffering with sickle cell anemia. The event gave everyone young and old an opportunity to have fun and interact with players while giving back to the less fortunate. Individuals inflicted with autism and sickle cell anemia came out to celebrate and had a very good time. The atmosphere felt like a family party with all participants happy and laid back. The venue was decorated with Jets green and white to add a special football feel.
The current Jets players in attendance to help Santonio Holmes were Bart Scott, Kyle Wilson, Aaron Maybin, Dustin Keller, and John Conner. Jets players from the past also came out in a group that included Marty Lyons, Victor Green, and Jay Fielder. Kyle Wilson and Victor Green received a Santonio Holmes III and Long award for their help with the charity, with Victor Green receiving $500 of his own for the Victor B. Green Foundation. The players in attendance were all happy and eager to help their teammate while giving back to the community. Kyle Wilson said “Every time you can give back to a good cause and help today’s youth it is always a good thing.” John Conner added “It’s great to come out here and help my teammate for a good cause. Anytime you can do that it’s a great thing.”
The fine staff at The Ascent School displayed to the crowd the great things they accomplish and ended their video presentation with a J-e-t-s Jets Jets Jets chant which made the crowd stand up and cheer. Following the description of The Ascent School a young man named Jahquie Martin came up to talk about what it feels like to be inflicted with sickle cell anemia. His words touched everyone in attendance and it showed how much a person can go through in sixteen short years when they have sickle cell anemia. Following the speech Santonio Holmes got up to talk about his own experience with sickle cell anemia. Holmes mentioned how hard it was to miss school in the 2nd and 3rd grade from pain and constantly being sick. Even currently Santonio feels symptoms of sickle cell anemia while on the football field. He talked about how his son is going through the same turmoil which resulted in have blood transfusions and the removal of his spleen. His son’s disease has brought the family closer than ever and is achieving goals including joining a football team.
On top of collecting donations for admission, there was also a raffle that included great prizes such as signed helmets, signed jerseys, signed footballs, and bowties representing both charities. There was also a silent auction where the winner had the opportunity to get picked up in a limousine, have dinner and watch the Jets vs. Texans game in Santonio’s private skybox along with field passes. The auction raised $1,800 which helped Santonio’s total reach $125,000 since starting the charity his 3rd year in Pittsburgh. The former Super Bowl MVP actually sold the gloves he wore on the winning touchdown catch for $70,000 to help the foundation.
In a private interview Santonio went into further detail about many factors associated with his life, charity, and contributions. When asked how it felt to deal with The Ascent School Holmes responded by giving credit to his teammates by saying, “I honestly think it is a was great cause tonight, just having the guys show up. Having to do the first one by myself and not having many guys show up it kind of broke the spell a little bit. Having these guys come out really means that these guys care about everything that each and every one of these players care about because they didn’t have to come tonight. Tonight was a long day for us, you know as far as going to work and having to be at work all day and these guys driving an hour and a half or however long it took and for these guys to out here to come and support this cause to raise as much money as we can for sickle cell and for The Ascent School it speaks great volumes.”
How important is it for you to do these types of things just to help people out?
“It’s very important to me because no one really gave me an opportunity to be who I am today but God and having an opportunity I can give to others speaks a great deal because my son goes through it, I went through it, and nobody really helped us out. Now that I have an opportunity to help someone out I think it’s only the right thing to do. I’ve been going to Africa the past three years and helping out in some place that I have never seen before and a place that others in our country probably will never see as long as their alive. I want to give an opportunity to kids who are here in America the benefit of the doubt that professional football players really do care about those who are less fortunate and don’t have the opportunity that we do to make a better living with a family themselves. I really do care about everyone else who is less fortunate.”
How rewarding was it seeing a youth with sickle cell anemia get up talk about his disease?
“Just to stand behind him and see the shaking of his hands I felt every piece, every part of his speech. I felt his pain from the beginning to that end, that the things that we go through as kids and adults the suffering is kind of indescribable. We are one of a kind and for him to get up there and express himself to others and let them know how he feels the things that he’s been going through, having to deal with issues with his family really speaks highly of him that he wants to make in this world today. Given the opportunity he’s going to take full advantage of it.”
Why did you reveal so much personal information about your troubled past during your time at the Super Bowl?
“Just being on that little stage I know everyone wanted to see who I was as a person at that time not really knowing where I came from. An opportunity to play in the state of Florida for one I didn’t get the opportunity since high school. That was my second time every playing in the state of Florida and I wanted to showcase to the world who I was, a Florida kid who grew up going through a very troubled background and making a living for him and his family and still providing a way no matter what the outcome was. Just going through all the things I went through as a kid, my mom didn’t know all these things until it actually occurred. I felt comfort because I knew God had a plan for me and the plan was for me was to be the guy that I asked for I asked him to put me in a place where I would pick up a Super Bowl ring, I could play in a Super Bowl, I can help my team win a Super Bowl. I represent for a place that I grew up and let these kids know that there is still a chance and there is still a way to get out of everything they are going through and that was my whole reason for expressing my feelings to everybody because it put me in the biggest stage in the biggest place of my life as Super Bowl MVP at the end of the day. ”
There is a stigma that professional athletes aren’t the best role models. Today proved that wrong do you agree with that sentiment?
“No question because a lot of guys don’t know how to express themselves to others and don’t know when it’s the right time to express yourself. I think at that time being in the Super Bowl was probably the best time for me to express myself as a person because nobody knew what I came from, they didn’t know what I did in my life they just knew I was drafted as a first round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I showcased to the world that I was a troubled kid who overcame so many different obstacles in life to become the person I am today. I think that allowed a lot of kids today to put away the past that they went through struggling as kids and living in a better future.”
Santonio you are clearly a leader on the football field how do you transfer those traits into your foundation?
“I think most of it comes from being a father now. Knowing the background that I had as a kid and my father wasn’t there, my mom was thirty years old and I still hadn’t got an opportunity to spend one week with my father. It still speaks for my son who doesn’t get an opportunity to spend time with me but he knows that his father is out making a way making a better living and providing a better way for him and anybody else who is dealing with these issues without a father.”
What is the severity of your infliction with sickle cell anemia and how does it compare to Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ryan Clark?
“I think I overcame probably around high school when I stopped feeling the symptoms as much as I was as a kid. Even traveling to Denver the few times that I have I had trouble breathing throughout the time of being there, but I never thought about it I kind of pushed it aside and figured that most important thing right now is getting this W. Playing against this team and winning this game and I didn’t think about the symptoms or the things that could to myself. I was actually with Ryan Clark when that happened to him when he suffered the sickle cell attack and almost passed away himself. I actually felt every piece of the pain he could possibly go through at that time. I never even thought that it occur to me at that time I found out I had sickle cell I think when I was about twenty-five years old. Even knowing that I had some sort of symptoms as a kid I didn’t realize until I was probably twenty-five years old when they gave me the papers and told me that I had it.”
Will you be expanding your charity to the other 31 NFL teams or keeping it solely with the Jets?
“We haven’t really thought about what we are going to do, but I would like to become a spokesperson for Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. I’m going to team up with Ryan Clark and his foundation and the cure for sickle cell as well so I going to take pretty much big steps from this point on.”
Big steps are the only steps Santonio Holmes seems to take. Winning a National Championship, a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, and now having a foundation that can change the face of a disease that affects so many people all around the world. The next event will be a bowling event held on October 15th which is sure to help the foundation even further.