Watt tar­gets $10M with fundraiser

Tex­ans stand­out’s ef­forts pay off in on­line do­na­tions

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Josh Peter

The fundrais­ing ef­fort by Houston Tex­ans star de­fen­sive end J.J. Watt is ex­pected to raise

$10 mil­lion for Hur­ri­cane Har­vey vic­tims af­ter sur­pass­ing $6 mil­lion Wed­nes­day and dwarf­ing the orig­i­nal goal of $200,000, ac­cord­ing to You­Car­ing, the on­line com­pany tak­ing do­na­tions and man­ag­ing the ef­fort.

Watt, a four-time all-pro end and three-time NFL de­fen­sive player of the year, started the cam­paign on You­Car­ing.com on Sun­day with a do­na­tion of

$100,000. Since then, Ten­nessee Ti­tans owner Amy Adams Strunk do­nated $1 mil­lion and NBA star Chris Paul do­nated $50,000, but the most of the money raised has come from 65,000 donors con­tribut­ing be­tween $20 and $100 apiece.

“This thing is gain­ing only more and more steam and mo­men­tum,” Dan Saper, CEO of You­Car­ing, told USA TO­DAY Sports. “Who knows? But we’re con­fi­dent we can get to $10 mil­lion. J.J.’s con­fi­dent he can get there.”

Saper said Watt’s fundrais­ing cam­paign is on pace to raise more money than any other crowd­fund­ing ef­fort, with the record be­ing about $8 mil­lion raised through Go­FundMe in 2016 for vic­tims of the mass shoot­ing at Pulse night­club in Or­lando.

When Watt posted his first tweet about his Hur­ri­cane Har­vey re­lief cam­paign, Saper said, You­Car­ing ’s web­site crashed.

“Our poor head of engi­neer­ing the other day, he was up un­til 2 a.m. shoring up the servers and back at it at 7 a.m.,” Saper said. “We had never ex­pe­ri­enced a surge of traf­fic of that mag­ni­tude be­fore.

“Our engi­neer­ing team has been work­ing to en­sure that it (the web­site) has been up, and it’s been largely up 99.9% of the time since then. So we’ve got through the woods on that ini­tial surge.”

Saper, not­ing that his staff of about 50 based in San Fran­cisco op­er­ates solely on op­tional tips, said the money raised by Watt’s ef­fort will be han­dled by the JJ Watt Foun­da­tion, a 501c3 non-profit.

“He’s now post­ing photos and his team is post­ing photos show­ing mas­sive cafe­te­rias filled with sup­plies that they’re pur­chas­ing, that this is real, they’re not just sit­ting on a pile of cash,” Saper said. “They’re tak­ing ac­tion im­me­di­ately and they’re go­ing to be de­liv­er­ing sup­plies in trucks as soon as they get in. So he’s been amaz­ing at this.”

Watt’s mother, Con­nie, and mem­bers of the Tex­ans staff have been com­mu­ni­cat­ing with YouCare.com on Watt’s be­half, ac­cord­ing to Saper. But Watt has been ac­tive on Twit­ter, post­ing up­dates when the cam­paign reached new mile­stones and Wed­nes­day set­ting the $10 mil­lion goal.

The cam­paign raised $500,000 within 24 hours, and the surge con­tin­ued with the fol­low­ing mile­stones: $1 mil­lion by Mon­day night, $3 mil­lion by mid­day Tuesday ( bol­stered by the Ti­tans’ $1 mil­lion do­na­tion) and $6 mil­lion by Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

BUTCH DILL, AP

The Tex­ans’ J.J. Watt signs au­to­graphs for fans hold­ing signs ref­er­enc­ing Hur­ri­cane Har­vey on Satur­day in New Or­leans.

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