After Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in a Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2, viewers praying for his recovery contributed millions to a dormant GoFundMe he’d first established for a toy drive.
Contributions thus far are around $10 million and Hamlin says he will put the money back into his charity, The Chasing M’s Foundation, to provide programs for youth.
“We have been very deliberate and intentional about taking our time to set my charity up properly,” Hamlin said in a statement to the Associated Press. “I’m excited to begin sharing news about programs we are creating to impact a generation of youth and give back to others.”
The 25-year-old safety for the Buffalo Bills says he will resume playing football next season and is already working out with the team. Despite online conspiracy theories suggesting he was affected by vaccination, Hamllin confirmed that his on-field cardiac arrest came from commotio cordis, which happens when a sudden blow to the chest at a specific point in the heartbeat cycle can stop the heart. Although it happens rarely, it’s a leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.
Hamlin will use the Giving Back Fund to administer his charity’s windfall, despite some turmoil the organization appears to be in. A Sportico report from earlier this month alleges that its founder and CEO Marc Pollick has alienated employees with his abrasive management style and that it has faced organizational challenges handling the legal and financial minutiae of running a foundation.
“You have to remember, at the same time, [Hamlin’s] an athlete and is supposed to be doing his job. His job is not philanthropy,” Lora Golke, senior director of development & donor engagement at the Arizona Community Foundation told AP.
Pollick says his organization has always operated “ethically, appropriately, and legally.” They set up an additional charity for Hamlin, which took in a million dollars.
Hamlin has not yet transferred the money and GoFundMe will not do so until he instructs them to, per their rep. “My charity is not connected to the challenges being faced by the leadership of The Giving Back Fund,” Hamlin said in his statement. “Donors will have full tax-exempt status.”
That’s only a consideration for the estimated 11% of donors who itemize their taxes, AP says. Donations are still coming into the original GoFundMe which Hamlin started in 2020 while he was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. His original request was for $2,500 to fund a modest holiday toy drive in his hometown of McKeesport, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
On May 1, Hamlin filed to update Chasing M’s articles of incorporation. He said the charity will now assist “the aspirations of youth and community members through sports, education,” and “promote health and safety in sports through CPR & AED training.”
Here’s how Twitter reacted to Hamlin saying he’s returning to football.
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