CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers may not be having a winning season but one player remains a standout – on and off the field.
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is poised to break an NFL record – and he’s in the running for the prestigious NFL man of the year award for his contributions to the community.
“He is one happy boy,” Katherine Church says of her 7-month-old son Wyatt Church.
Wyatt really is. A big boy who gets a lot of kisses from big sister Carson.
“Because I love him,” she says.
Looking at him you’d never know that he has half a heart – at seven months, he has already had two open heart surgeries.
Dad Jared remembers when they first got the diagnosis.
“It was definitely a shock,” he said.
He spent the first month of his life at Levine Children’s Hospital.
Katherine says, “It’s tough, days in hospital are rough.”
The much needed help was courtesy of someone they’d long admired – Panthers Pro Bowler Greg Olsen created the Heartest Yard Foundation after his own son TJ was born with a half a heart – just like Wyatt.
“Just kind of neat to see we were Panthers fans anyway (who) knew who Greg Olsen was, so it was comforting in a sense to see someone going through same thing,” Jared says.
The Heartest Yard helps with a number of things – including providing in home nurse care for families.
“Greg Olsen gave Wyatt his nurses so Wyatt could feel better,” 4-year-old Carson says.
The foundation has already given away more than 1.2 million in care to families like Wyatt’s.
“It was amazing we are extremely grateful,” Jared says.
The Heartest Yard is just one of the reasons Olsen is a finalist for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award – given to an NFL player for his work in the community.
Olsen also raises money for breast cancer survivors in honor of his mother, a survivor herself.
Clearly Wyatt’s family is among thousands cheering for Olsen to win the award. He is currently ranked second among fan votes.
Jared says, “I couldn’t think of another player more deserving.”
Katherine agrees saying, “Without a doubt our man of the year.”
You can help Olsen’s campaign by going on Twitter and use the hashtag #OLSENWPMOYCHALLENGE.
Copyright 2016 WCNC