America's favorite sport, football, is on hiatus. During the NFL offseason, many players vacation, nurse injuries and physically prepare for the rigors of training camp. Fittingly, Redskins' wide receiver Pierre Garçon has been busy too, but it has not been all rest and relaxation. We caught up recently to discuss his latest projects and commitment to giving back. His own charity, the Pierre Garcon Helping Hands Foundation was launched in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to aid disaster relief. He also supports a number of Washington-area charities year around, making a tremendous impact.
1. You were recently in Haiti, what was that trip like?
Garçon: I try to go at least once a year. Being Haitian and having family there, it's never far from my mind. During the last trip, we were able to donate new kitchen supplies to a Port au Prince school that teaches and feeds many local children. In Haiti, most kitchens and cooking facilities still use charcoal for cooking, but the smoke causes respiratory and eye problems. It has become one of the leading reasons for shorter life spans, and effects women and children the most. Education on the health issues caused by charcoal smoke inhalation is a part of the solution, but they also need help with alternatives like cookstoves, ventilation of cooking areas and having access to better equipment. We were really happy to be able to do that.
2. From what you can tell, what are still immediate needs for the people of Haiti?
Garçon: Development of the city infrastructure is an ongoing process. They are working on creating safe housing, building out suburban communities and transitioning residents out of congested emergency housing areas. There is still a lot that can be done, so I always encourage people to visit and experience Haiti for themselves. I believe they will love the country, the people and once there will gain a better sense for how they might personally want to get involved. Organizations doing great work on the ground that visitors can connect with are Lifeline Christian Mission and Project Medishare.
3. You also work with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, how did you get involved?
Garçon: I always just assumed Boys & Girls Clubs had access to funding. When my friend John Thompson explained how hard each club has to work on fundraising to maintain their after-school and meal programs, I knew I wanted to help. Partnering with the Greater Washington chapter, we organized the annual All White Charity Event. The first year we raised $30,000 for club programs and a few weeks ago at the second event, we raised close to $100,000. I'm grateful to all the donors, my teammates and other D.C. athletes who come out each year to show support and help raise money for children in our area. Next June will mark our third annual event and we hope to raise even more. Programs like the Boys & Girls Club helped me, so I know how important they are.
4. What would you say to the person who thinks you need to be a professional athlete or wealthy to help others?
Garçon: As an athlete I have a platform that some may not, but what I'm offering most is my time, and we all have that. My advice would be to show up. Give your time, be present, do what you can and it will always be appreciated. You don't have to have a lot of money or status to help someone.
5. As one of the top receivers in the league, what do you want your legacy to be?
Garçon: I would like to be known as a man who worked hard, that appreciated every opportunity, making the most of each one but also paid it forward whenever possible. I enjoy seeing other people succeed, so any time I can be involved in something that will help, I want to be a part of that.
Garçon's hope for fans, friends and supporters alike, is to demonstrate by example that it is always a good time lend a helping hand.