NEW ORLEANS – While the coronavirus outbreak has largely ground America to a halt, hitting Louisiana especially hard, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his family are investing their personal wealth in an effort to get the state through a difficult stretch.
In an announcement on his social media platforms Thursday, Brees indicated he and his wife, Brittany Brees, are committing $5 million Louisiana in 2020 via food donations through their various business interests.
Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local… https://t.co/Qmxzxses6X— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) March 26, 2020
"Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let's all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together."
A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:31am PDT
"The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time," Brees said in an Instagram post Thursday morning. "After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need.
"Let's all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together."
The Brees family pledge quickly made the rounds online, eliciting digital kudos and thank yous from within the state and across the country.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards took to Twitter to thank Brees' for his support in this time of crisis, tweeting, "Thank you, @drewbrees. On behalf of the Great State of Louisiana, we are all grateful for your family's support and generosity through this trying time. We are one Louisiana and we will get through this, together."
In a March 21 tweet, Brees announced he was "assessing the need" in New Orleans before deciding how to proceed with his relief efforts. As of Thursday afternoon, 2,305 people in Louisiana had tested positive for coronavirus and 83 people died.
As of March 23, an analysis by the New Orleans Advocate -- Times-Picayune showed Orleans Parish had the sixth highest rate of known coronavirus cases of any county in the United States.
"Everyone is affected in one way or another," Brees tweeted. "Let's all band together to help and support each other. Brittany (and) I will be making an announcement soon as to the ongoing relief efforts."
Just last month, Brees announced his intent to put off retirement and return for his 20th NFL season, the last 14 of which have been spent in New Orleans. Last week, he signed a two-year, $50 million contract extension that would bring his career earnings near $300 million, the most in NFL history.
The Saints quarterback is no stranger to philanthropy.
He founded the Brees Dream Foundation in 2003 with the stated mission of "improving the quality of life for cancer patients, and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need."
According to the foundation's website, it has contributed more than $33 million to charitable causes around the world.
Brees originally signed with the Saints in March 2006, signing a six-year pact in a city and region that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina just six months earlier.
During a speaking engagement before the start of the 2018 season, Brees recalled his free agency visit with Saints coach Sean Payton, who had himself just recently arrived in the city.
Payton drove Brees to the North Shore of Lake Ponchartrain, where the storm did not hit as hard. But they got lost in New Orleans' Lakeview neighborhood on the way back, and at one point their path was blocked by a tugboat in the street.
The coach remarked to Brees the scene might as well have marked the end of Brees' time in New Orleans before it started. Instead, Brees signed with the Saints and became a symbol of the city's revival. In a 2008 interview with ESPN, Brees said he and Brittany thought of being a part of rebuilding the city as "a calling."
He led the Saints to their first Super Bowl title in 2009, earning Most Valuable Player honors in the game, and was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 2010. Wearing a Saints uniform, he has broken virtually all of the NFL's major career passing records.
But he has also taken a less symbolic, more hands-on approach. Through his foundation, he partnered with Operation Kids in 2007, raising $2 million -- of which the Brees family contributed $250,000 -- to help rebuild schools, parks, playgrounds and athletic facilities in the New Orleans area.