J.J. Watt Raised $41 Million For Hurricane Harvey Relief. Here’s How It’s Helping Houston.

"That's our city."

Last year, NFL player J.J. Watt — who plays for the Houston Texans — started a fundraiser to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey in his team's hometown. 

Watt started a YouCaring fundrai ser, pledging $100,000 of his own money and asking others to donate whatever they could.

"That's our city. It's very tough to watch your city get hit by such a bad storm, and not be there to help," he said in the video, directing fans to the page and adding, "You can donate something small, you can donate something big. Whatever you can donate, please donate to help these people out."

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"We will come out of this stronger than ever. We are Texans," Watt wrote at the time in the fundraiser's description. Watt began by setting the fundraising goal at $200,000, but in 24 hours, the page had already reached $500,000

Watt raised the goal to $1 million, then $5 million, then $6 million. Eventually, Watt's foundation raised and distributed $41,600,000, NBC News reports. 

Texans PR has since shared updates regarding the fundraiser and where efforts have gone. Through the Justin J. Watt Foundation, all funds have been distributed to eight nonprofits: All Hands and Hearts, which "efficiently and effectively addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters;" Americares, an organization that "saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential;" Boys & Girls Clubs, an organization on a mission "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens;" Baker Ripley, an organization that "connects low-income families and individuals to opportunity so they can achieve the life they've imagined;" Feeding America, an organization on a mission "to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger;" Habitat for Humanity, which "helps families build and improve places to call home;" Save the Children, a nonprofit giving "children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm;" and SBP, an organization that takes a "targeted approach to the wide-ranging task of disaster preparation and recovery." 

The funds have gone towards things such as cleaning up damage and debris, repairing and rebuilding more than 600 homes, distributing 26,000,000 meals, growing physical and mental health services, and more. 

The organization also shared a letter from Watt that explains how the funds have affected the Houston community and thanks those who've been a part of rebuilding it. Watt writes, in part:

"As I reflect on the events of Hurricane Harvey one year ago, the memories of destruction and devastation remain, but they are accompanied by memories of hope, selflessness, and the beauty of the human spirit. The actions of professional first responders and everyday citizens alike were an inspiration to the world and a shining example of the inherent good that lies within us all."

Watt continues:

"Every time that I am fortunate enough to witness someone step back into their home for the first time or a child run around on the playground again, I am reminded of the generosity of strangers that helped make it all possible."

But the work doesn't stop there: Watt and the Texans have also shared a plan for the next 12 months, which includes home restoration and disaster case management, continued assistance with physical and mental health services, rebuilding Boys & Girls Clubs centers in Harvey-affected areas, and more. 

In his letter, Watt concludes: 

"Thank you and never stop spreading the positivity!" #HoustonStrong." 

Cover image: Bob Levey / Getty Images

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