CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers legend and current FOX Sports analyst Greg Olsen and his wife, Kara, continue to make an impact in the community of Charlotte and the surrounding areas by supporting families of children with congenital heart disease. That cause is one that is very personal to the Olsen's, after their son, TJ, was born with a severe congenital heart defect in 2012. Since then they've made it their mission to help other families get the support and care they need who are facing the same battle.
Olsen joined WCNC Charlotte to discuss a special event his foundation is planning at Steak 48 on Feb. 28 that will raise funds and awareness through the HEARTest Yard.
Q: "We are at Steak 48, and you're here to promote a really neat event that you're doing with your foundation for the first time. It's going to be here at the end of the month. So I'm gonna let you tell me about it."
A: "So February is Heart Month. It's Heart Awareness Month throughout the country and just as one of our new projects we were fortunate enough that the folks here at Steak 48, they actually approached us last summer about doing this event shortly after TJ got out of the hospital following his heart transplant. So just through COVID, and schedules and whatnot, we ended up settling on the end of February for Heart Month to kind of bring it to a close. They donated the entire restaurant, the food, the staff, and we have about 250 people coming. We have a 40 person wait limit, waitlist, the response to this event was incredible. And the folks here at Steak 48 have just been great partners."
Q: "You mentioned TJ and going through all of that again with him, what was that like for your family, and then to also to kind of come full circle and have him on the field at a Panthers game this season being the Keep Pounding Drummer?
A: "That was a special moment for us. You know, a few years ago we had one of our playoff games, probably back in like 2014, TJ was little and I was holding him and we have that picture hanging up. And it's him banging the drum. So now to come full circle and be a 9-year-old, you know, seven years later, after everything he's been through with his heart transplant the journey, and just the way that the community has rallied behind him, they've rallied behind our story and our foundation. It's why when we host new events, and we announce new events like this with new partners, they sell out and the response is just incredible. We're just constantly reminded how special this community is, and how thankful we are to be part of it, and how thankful we are for Levine Children's Hospital and the folks that it serves. So it's just really a unique place. And we're very fortunate to kind of be in the middle of all these really special people."
Q: You're still very much a part of the Charlotte community after your playing career, your foundation has raised over $4 million, but to be able to give back to those that have went through something that your family has went through, what does that mean to you and your family?
A: "It just brings us such purpose. It really puts a 'why' on everything that we've gone through, everything that TJ has gone through, you know, we've made it clear from the beginning that none of this is about us. None of this is necessarily about TJ or the Olsen family. We have a platform, we're very fortunate that we can kind of spread this message and we can share our journey with the rest of the country and say, you know, you're not alone, you're not the only people going through this. Then on the other side, aside from the hope that hopefully, we're giving these other families, we also have the ability to increase the elevation of medical care, not only here in Charlotte, but throughout the region and the access to that care. The standard of care is something that we work very closely with the doctors and the team at Levine Children's Hospital, they mean the world to us. So anything we can do to kind of fill in any gaps or filling any needs to continue to elevate the standard of care that they can offer this community and this region. That's what we're all about."
Q: "For those that already have their tickets to the event, what can they expect when they walk in?"
A: "Well, first of all, for anyone who hasn't eaten here at Steak 48, which I don't know if there's anyone left in Charlotte who hasn't eaten here you know, with or without the event, you're going to come and have a great dinner with great service and a great atmosphere and drinks and steaks and food. So that in and of itself having a great night out with your friends. All the ticket sales, the venue, the food, everything was completely donated. So we don't have to worry about covering any of those costs. We have a lot of guys, former teammates of mine, local celebrities, national celebrities, sponsor groups that we've worked with for a long time, we're just really, it just really should be a really intimate, a fun, you know, 200-250 people, just an intimate fun, very relaxed, just night out with your friends and knowing that all the money raised will all go back towards the HEARTest Yard program at Levine Children's Hospital and just continue to find new ways that we can, we can help these families coming down this difficult road."
Q: "For people who aren't coming to the event that want to be involved, or maybe give back how can they go and be a part of the HEARTest yard?
A: "Yeah, so they can go to www.r4r.org and all of our community events all have the ability to donate, learn about our projects, learn about the HEARTest YARD Congenital Heart Center up at Levine Children's Hospital that we opened at the end of 2020. Just all the different ways that we try to engage with the community not only with the Steak 48 event here in a few weeks but throughout the entire calendar year. We have golf outings, we have 5Ks, which will be coming up in May. Just some really fun community events that everyone is welcome -- the more the merrier. And again, just all understanding that at the end of the day, it all goes towards supporting the Levine Children's Hospital and our work there, and for that, we're very grateful."
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