Editor’s Note: The original story was redacted. The article below contains correct information. See this editorial for more information.
Hometown hero Joe Burrow is auctioning off a pair of cleats to benefit the Athens County Food Pantry and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.
The cleats are part of the NFL’s program My Cause My Cleats, where players auction off a pair of signed cleats in order to raise money for a cause that’s important to them.
For Burrow, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, that cause is the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund started by the Athens County Food Pantry.
“We got a request to have our logo and the logo of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, which is where our endowment is held, to have our logos put on the cleats for My Cause My Cleats,” Karin Bright, president of the Athens County Food Pantry, said. “It was quite an honor to us, and we were gratified by that opportunity.”
At the time of publication, the highest bid for Burrow’s cleats is $2,100. He promoted the auction on his Instagram and thanked Nikki Bean, a senior at Athens High School, whose design is featured on the pair of cleats.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to wear these cleats on the field, but I’m proud to support the Athens County Food Pantry and all of the incredible work they do,” Burrow wrote in the Instagram post. “I appreciate all of the students in the @athenscitysd who submitted design ideas, and a special thank you to Nikki Bean for her artwork that inspired the final concept. These autographed cleats will be available for auction with proceeds (benefiting) the food pantry.”
The Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund started after the outpour of support from Burrow fans following his 2019 Heisman Trophy speech. When Burrow raised awareness of poverty rates and overall food insecurity within Southeast Ohio and Athens, specifically, it inspired Athens High School alum Will Drabold to start a Facebook fundraiser for the food pantry. The approximate total from the fundraiser was $650,000.
“Money started flowing into the pantry from all over the country,” Bright said.
The Food Pantry then created an endowment fund with $350,000 from that fundraiser, and that amount was matched by the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio through funding from the state legislature. After talking with Burrow and his family, the food pantry was permitted to use Burrow’s name on the endowment, creating the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund.
“There have been other monies that have come into that; some of his corporate sponsors added monies into that,” Bright said. “When he was injured, believe it or not, people started donating to the fund in his honor. That kind of surprised everybody. It came out of nowhere. But everything about this whole story has kind of come out of nowhere.”
Burrow’s support for the pantry has been unwavering — even announcing the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund on a Good Morning America appearance.
Not only is Burrow’s auction touching to the Athens community, but it’s also warming the hearts of Ohio University students.
“I think it’s awesome that Joe Burrow is humble and sticking to his roots and giving back to the community that made him into the star he is,” Mallory Mullins, a junior studying health services administration, said in a message.
People all throughout Athens are humbled by Burrow’s impact.
“I think it’s very generous of him to donate to people in need,” Tyler Lewis, a sophomore studying management and strategic leadership, said in a message. “The money will go to good use in his home community.”
Members of the food pantry staff and those who benefit from the food pantry’s resources can’t help but express their joy and appreciation for Burrow’s use of his platform.
“We just want the public to know how grateful we are that he gave a voice to the work that we do — not necessarily by name for the Athens County Food Pantry in the beginning, but the whole issue of hunger and food insecurity,” Bright said. “We are eternally grateful that he put a very public spotlight on a very serious issue, both in Athens County Southeast Ohio and across the country. He has given voice to people who needed a voice in a very public way, and we are very, very, very proud to be linked with him.”