Accepting the Saints head coaching job in Katrina-battered New Orleans in 2006 may not have been a decision Sean Payton arrived at easily. Subsequently establishing his own charitable foundation, he says, was.
"It came at a time when there was such a need and a demand post-Katrina," Payton says. "I think from our players and our organization there was just so much in demand — whether it was businesses, people, different groups needing help. With the position that we were in and the timing, it made a lot of sense."
The mission of Payton's Play It Forward Foundation is to improve the lives of families and children in the areas of health, education and social welfare in the Gulf region. Since it was founded in 2008, the foundation has raised nearly $1.5 million for dozens of organizations.
Celebrities including John Go- odman, Dr. Phil McGraw and Sammy Kershaw helped pack the Superdome for the foundation's major 2010 fundraiser, the Black & Gold Gala. Organizations benefiting from the event included Kingsley House, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Louisiana, the North Rampart Community Cen-ter and Feed The Children, which used its donation to fill 14 semi-trucks with food.
Payton says he feels compelled to use his celebrity to benefit others.
"When you're in a position such as the head coach ... I think that you do feel that obligation, and then with everything that had gone on [in New Orleans since Katrina], it was clear that it was the right thing to do," says Payton, a married father of two. "It was an avenue for us and a way for us to also instill some of those things in our children." — Adam Norris