Tim Tebow is the most talked about athlete in America right now. With his 80-yard OT touchdown pass in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week and subsequent 9,420 tweets about him on Twitter per second, Tim Tebow makes news wherever he goes. What fans may not know is that besides football, Tebow’s other passion is helping people with disabilities and those who have lost hope due to illnesses like cancer “find a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” That is the mission of the Tim Tebow Foundation.
One of the outreach efforts of the Tim Tebow Foundation is a partnership with Dreams Come True in Jacksonville, FL. Together, they formed the “Wish 15” (W15H) program, which fulfills the dreams of those who have life-threatening conditions, whose wish it is to meet Tim Tebow. Each week Tebow selects someone who is suffering due to illness or their disability and flies that person and their family to the Broncos game. He puts them up in a hotel, buys them dinner, gets them pregame passes and visits with them before the kickoff and even after the game.
Remember that day when Tebow had just made the Twitter record-breaking, game-winning touchdown pass? He was spending the hour immediately after the game with 16-year-old Bailey Knaub from Loveland, CO. Bailey has had 73 surgeries so far for a rare disorder called Wegener’s granulomatosis, and she calls meeting Tebow “a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days.”
“He’d just played the game of his life,” Bailey’s mother tells Rick Reilly of ESPN.com, “and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, ‘Did you get anything to eat?’”
After another game, this time after losing in Buffalo against the Bills, Tebow walked in to visit with Jacob Rainey, a high school quarterback from Charlottesville, VA, who lost a leg after a freak accident during a scrimmage. “He walked in and took a big sigh and said, ‘Well, that didn’t go as planned,’” Rainey recalls to ESPN.com. He calls Tebow “genuine.”
Tebow himself addresses the comments he gets from some who think visiting with these guests before and after games can be a huge distraction. “Just the opposite,” he tells Rick Reilly, “It’s by far the best thing I do to get myself ready . . . I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”
The Tim Tebow Foundation is succeeding in making a difference, and it is not just about meeting Tim Tebow. The organization partners with CURE on an International Children’s Hospital Project, it creates playrooms in children’s hospitals around the world with Timmy’s Playrooms, and it continues to support hundreds of children who have been left homeless or abandoned in the Philippines each year with Uncle Dick’s Orphanage. (Tebow was born in the Philippines to missionary parents.)