For Browns' Denzel Ward, helping less fortunate during coronavirus pandemic is personal

For Browns' Denzel Ward, helping less fortunate during coronavirus pandemic is personal

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Story Originally Published by USA Today (4/5/20)


The foundation that Denzel Ward established after reaching the NFL as a first-round pick with his hometown Cleveland Browns is dubbed Make Them Know Your Name (MTKYN). The term is a tribute to Ward’s late father, Paul, who repeated that inspirational mantra as his son emerged as a star athlete.

Given the tragedy of Paul’s death in 2016 of cardiac arrest, it’s fitting to see on MTKYN's website that it is a heart health foundation.

It’s also evident by Ward’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effects, that there are myriad ways to measure heart health.

Ward showed it in a different way when he announced plans last week to provide relief for 21 service workers and small business owners who have lost their livelihoods due to the crisis. He’s pledged to pay the biggest monthly expense – that’s mortgage, rent, groceries, medical bill, whatever – for 21 Clevelanders in need of assistance.

“This pandemic has touched me a lot, seeing people affected by this,” Ward told USA TODAY Sports. “It was so unexpected. It caught people by surprise. That’s why I wanted to take a load off their back.”

Ward settled on 21 because it matched his uniform number, but there is hardly a limit on people in dire straits — particularly those in occupations and with businesses vulnerable to economic fallout.

During the first two days after Ward’s offer to help, more than 1,000 applications were submitted through MTKYN’s website.

Ward, 22, and other members of his foundation’s team have split up the duty of meticulously reviewing the applications and processing the hardship.

"It’s humbling,” said Ward, who has made about $12 million in his career. “We’ll try to help as many people as we can.”

Ward’s sense of duty underscores a moral responsibility that you’d hope we all could support. The message blares on MTKYN’s website: “We’re all in this together.”

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