T.J. Duckett Gives Back With Beard Growing, Starts 'Lunch With A Purpose' Project
T.J. Duckett has waited two years to shave off his beard. And he's doing it for charity.
Duckett, an American football running back, had been involved in philanthropic fundraising throughout his athletic career. However, when he was abruptly released from the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, he used the humbling experience to expand his efforts and focus on community outreach and giving back.
He started growing his current beard around 2009, the same year his career in professional football took an turn -- he was waived from the Seattle Seahawk's roster. He found himself rethinking his choices in life.
Duckett told HuffPost, "I lost a sense of who I was. But once I started to get rid of myself... I began to get a sense of self-worth. With football, and I think with any job, you get caught up in it and it starts to run your life -- consumes it. When it was taken away from me, I had to think, 'now what am I about?'"
He knew that he liked to help others. He's no stranger to charity -- after his mother died from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2000, he set up the TD Foundation to help women with cancer and their families.
He also had been participating in annual fundraising for St. Baldrick's Foundation since 2005, growing out a beard and directing anyone who noticed to a donation fund. He grew a beard throughout each football season and then would shave it off at an event, donating the funds he accumulated for the charity.
Duckett realized that those moments of giving back were more important to him than his past occupations.
"When I thought about those things, it was a process of finding myself. I thought, hey, I'm a human. I can make a big impact in this world."
So, he decided to take action. Currently, he's using his beard-growing expertise to support the Ingham Regional Healthcare Foundation near his home in Lansing, Mich. through a new charity group, Cuts for Cancer. He chose to support a local organization to emphasize another personal epiphany -- the importance of local community.
"I felt like it shouldn't just be about me -- it's all of us. It's about community."
With his fellow Cuts for Cancer members, Duckett plans on shedding years' worth of beard on March 22. The event will take place at Club Rush, a Lansing-area bar.
A bar may seem like an unlikely place for a philanthropic event, but he says that the support of the young adult crowd is inspiring.
"We get so much support from these college kids. It's crazy. All you have to do is talk to them in their environment and the kids appreciate it. The average 21-year-old guy isn't going to run a 5K at 5 o'clock in the morning. They want to go and hang out, so that's where you go to get them to donate!"
Aside from fundraising, Duckett also encourages community outreach through organizing. In February 2010, he created Lunch With A Purpose to help coordinate fellow do-gooders who want to give back within their communities during their lunch hours.
He actively participates with his Lunch With A Purpose volunteers and helps a wide variety of small organizations around his neighborhood -- from serving meals at shelters to moving boxes and supplies.
"When there's a group of us, we can knock out weeks worth of work in just an hour."
Regardless of method, Duckett is quick to encourage everyone to give back. After all, he says that raising funds for charity can be as simple as growing a beard.
"I know that a lot of people may not have time or money for it, but I say, well, just don't get a haircut or shave!"
To make a donation toward his Cuts for Cancer fund for the Ingham Regional Healthcare Foundation, follow the Impact links below. Otherwise, check out his Lunch With A Purpose website to learn how to make an impact with your work lunch hour.