As Greg Olsen and Thomas Davis prepare to retire on Thursday, we have already discussed the on field impact that Greg has had with the Carolina Panthers, but now it is time to talk about his legacy that extends well beyond the field. As you all are probably well versed in by now, the story of Greg Olsen’s son TJ is one of great medical triumph and a realization by Olsen that he can make a difference in the world using his status as a pro athlete. For those not familiar with the story, TJ was born with a very rare and serious congenital heart condition known as hypo-plastic left heart syndrome or HLHS, which you can read more about here.
In the end, after enduring this particularly trying hardship, Greg Olsen realized that his family was fortunate. That because of his wealth and access to care, he was able to get the best treatment available for TJ, no matter the cost, and no matter how far they need to travel. Realizing that his situation is a rarity, he wanted to do something to give back. So, he established a pair of foundations “The Heartest Yard” and “Receptions for Research” which have now grown and flourished into a full blown, 25,000 square foot care facility at Levine Children’s Hospital knows as the “HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center.”
The Olsen family has donated $2.5 million dollars to invest in the project from Greg’s foundations, and a unknown amount of funds directly from his earnings in the NFL. In total, it is known that the Olsen’s have both raised and donated of themselves over $5 million dollars to help provide care and assistance to families battling these very serious genetic conditions.
One of those families is actually that of a good friend of mine that dates back to my childhood. Him and his wife’s son, Fischer, was born with HLHS, precisely the exact same condition as TJ Olsen. Thanks to the HEARTest Yard foundation, he and his wife were given assistance with temporary housing and expenses (both medical and personal) to move to Charlotte so that Fischer could be born under the supervision of pulmonary specialists at Levine Children’s hospital, and then endure the three open heart surgeries necessary to correct the issue. Today, Fischer is a happy and healthy 10 month old baby, thanks in no small part to the assistance provided.
As a fan base, we have been very fortunate to have players making large impacts both on field and in the community the way Olsen and Davis have. I think it is fitting that both of these community magnates are going to celebrate their retirement together, and that both consider the Charlotte area their permanent homes. I’d like to see both of them not only in the Panthers Ring of Honor, but with statues outside or inside the stadium. They are both the stuff of legends.