An emotional Joe Burrow took to the stage at New York City's PlayStation Theater Saturday night to accept the 2019 Heisman Trophy.
The Louisiana State University quarterback won in a record-breaking landslide, bringing the honor back to the bayou for the first time in 60 years.
Thanking his fellow teammates, coaches and past Heisman winners were high on Burrow's list during his acceptance speech. But after pausing to collect himself, Burrow didn't forget to mention his hometown ties.
"Coming from southeast Ohio, it's a very, very impoverished area. The poverty rate is almost two times the national average," Burrow said. "There are 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."
Burrow's speech highlighted Athens County's food insecurity issues and in turn sparked an online fundraising campaign that has raised thousands of dollars for a local food pantry.
A Facebook fundraiser, started by Athens resident Will Drabold, has raised more than $210,000 as of Monday evening for the Athens County Food Pantry.
More than 5,800 people have donated to the campaign and more than 8,100 have shared it on social media.
Drabold said he launched the fundraiser Sunday after watching Burrow's speech with the hope of raising $1,000 for the pantry.
The Athens County Food Pantry served 5,702 individuals in 2018, about a third of them children, according to its website. One in three people in Athens County fall below the poverty line.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said it was awe-inspiring to see someone who doesn't forget where he's come from or the hurting people there. The impact of a campaign like this is huge, Hamler-Fugitt said.
You have free articles remaining.
Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast:
"An outpouring of support like this means those agencies will be sufficiently resourced for years to come," she said.
A donation of this size means that pantries are able to do more for those they serve, buy more nonfood items such as toiletries, and volunteers won't be counting pennies at the end of the month, Hamler-Fugitt said.
The Athens Food Pantry expressed its gratitude on Facebook.
"We are truly overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of support we have received to support our mission," the pantry wrote. "Many, many thanks to Joe Burrow for shining a light on food insecurity in our area and a very heartfelt thank you to everyone that has donated!"
Donations have flooded in from across the country, many commenting on their ties to the Athens High School Bulldogs, Buckeye Nation and LSU.
"The Tiger Nation is gonna make this go viral. It continues to grow exponentially. Merry Christmas and Geaux Tigers!" one man wrote.
Another wrote: "Wake up, Tiger Nation! Let's give Athens back some of the joy they gave us."
Drabold posted an update to the fundraiser Monday afternoon from his wife, who works as a special education teacher at The Plains Elementary School, where Burrow went to school. The students watched Burrow's Heisman speech today at school, and the fundraiser was announced to the kids.
"One of my wife's 3rd graders came up to my wife and said, 'I go to the food bank,' with her eyes beaming. She was proud to say that she did. She was proud!
"This is the whole point. This is why I felt motivated to start this after watching Joey's speech. Joey inspired a generation of children who come from nothing in Appalachian Ohio ... None of these kids, who are in the same classrooms Joey was, will ever forget this."
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com