Justin Hamilton Raising Money for VT Scholarships

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The Justin Hamilton Foundation and the Sports Addict Radio Network,
headquartered in Blacksburg, have joined together to create the Virginia Tech
Scholarship Trust Fund in memory of the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech
shootings. This effort has been named “The Sports Community
Challenge.” Justin Hamilton, former Virginia Tech football
player and current safety for the Cleveland Browns, got the effort started this
week with a personal pledge of $50,000.

The
purpose of the Challenge, according to Justin Hamilton Foundation manager
Autie Hines, is to raise at least $500,000. The Hamilton Foundation will raise the money, then
contribute it to the Virginia Tech Foundation, which will then “administer
the eligibility requirements, application process, etc. for applying for the
funds, and will then distribute the funds to the individuals’ colleges that they
will be attending. 100% of the funds we collect will be given to the Virginia
Tech Foundation for the sole purpose of scholarships,” Hines said. “We
want to raise as much as we can, but we’re setting a goal of $500,000.”

When the Challenge was first envisioned and announced earlier this week,
Hamilton’s goal was to raise enough money for 32 scholarships, one for each
victim. With a minimum requirement of $100,000 to fund a scholarship, the Justin
Hamilton Foundation was facing a fundraising goal of at least $3.2 million. They
planned on targeting each of the NFL’s 32 teams, as well as other sports
professionals.

The Foundation found out yesterday that raising that amount of money from NFL
teams wasn’t possible. “NFL teams have a limit (imposed by the NCAA) for donations to
universities of $5,000,” Hines said. “To ask an NFL team to give
$100,000, that can’t happen.”

Hence the Foundation’s new strategy: Target individual players (with the
blessing and encouragement of their team ownership and management) to contribute
towards the Foundation’s new goal. The driving force behind the effort is of course former Hokie football player
Justin Hamilton. Hamilton played a number of positions while at Virginia Tech,
including running back, wide receiver, and free safety. He was a long shot to
make the NFL, but he was drafted in the seventh round by the Browns in 2006 and
made their roster last year as a backup safety.

Like all members of the Hokie family, Hamilton was horrified by what happened
at Virginia Tech last week.

“At
first, I was like everybody else,” Hamilton said in an interview with
TechSideline.com. “I was in total shock. After the shock left and the
reality of what actually happened started to set in, I just started thinking,
‘Here I am in a position that I could probably help, yet all I’m doing is
watching CNN and calling all my friends down there. I can do something about
this. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.’ “

Hamilton’s first thought was to leverage his Justin Hamilton Foundation,
which was already in existence, to raise money for VT.

“It was late January, early February when I started the Justin Hamilton
Foundation,” Hamilton explained, “and it was originally begun for
youth in my area (Clintwood, VA), youth in the Blacksburg area and youth in the
Ohio area around Cleveland. It was established for heath and wellness, physical
fitness, and continuing education.”

In the wake of the shootings, Hamilton quickly decided to put his Foundation
to use for Virginia Tech. Earlier this week, Hamilton and the managers of his
Foundation, including Hines, participated in a conference call with officials of
the Virginia Tech Foundation and got things rolling. Throughout the week, as
they learned more about fundraising and restrictions on the NFL and Virginia
Tech, the original goals of the Sports Community Challenge grew and evolved into
the half-million dollar goal described here.

Hamilton, who made the NFL minimum salary of $275,000 last season, kicked
things off with a personal $50,000 pledge. “I’ve already written a check
for $10,000, and I’ll put in the other $40,000 over time, either from my salary
or through the Foundation.”

The
funds raised by The Sports Community
Challenge will be separate from Virginia Tech’s own Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.
Whereas the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund revenues can be used for assistance to
victims and their families, grief counseling, memorials, etc., money raised by
the Sports Challenge will go specifically towards scholarships honoring the
victims.

“We are trying to target every professional athlete that is part of the
Hokie Nation,” Hines said. “We’re trying to put together the database
to electronically communicate with them to encourage them to participate. One of
the collaborating partners in this effort is Sports
Addict Radio Network
in Blacksburg. Aaron Marks is the regional
director, and he is extending radio interviews to all Hokie players who make
contributions.

Hamilton’s efforts are already consuming his time. “Ever since I had
this idea, it’s taken up all of my free time. There hasn’t been a day that I
haven’t done an interview or talked to somebody concerning this. But I’m a young
guy, I’m single. I don’t have a lot of priorities. I would rather give my time
towards something that’s positive than to be doing something negative with my
life.”

To make a contribution, please visit The Justin Hamilton Foundation at justinhamiltonfoundation.org.

For more information on The Sports Community Challenge, contact:

  • John Heffernan: 434-825-8598, Game Breakers Sports Management, LLC
  • Aaron Marks: 434-960-0169, The Sports Addict Radio Network
  • Autie Hines: 866-520-4367, Foundation Management Strategies, LLC
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