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|Whitworth foundation focuses on children|
Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth may be known around the NFL for his bruising blocks, but many local residents will soon get to know him for his big heart.
Whitworth, a former West Monroe High School and LSU standout, has decided to establish a foundation to mentor local youth, provide financial assistance to children with life-threatening diseases and partner with local agencies to help families adopt children.
The Big Whit 77 Foundation will make its debut Friday, July 17, with its first-ever Big Whit Weekend. Events include a golf tournament with several NFL players, a free concert by Bengals tight-end Ben Utecht, an offensive lineman camp and dinner with Whitworth and his teammates.
Utecht, who recently released a Christian music album, will perform at the free concert Friday night at First Baptist Church in West Monroe.
The Big Whit Golf Classic is scheduled for Friday, July 17, at Southern Pines Golf Club in Calhoun.
The Big Whit Offensive Lineman Camp will be held Saturday, July 18, at West Monroe High School.
To wrap up the Big Whit weekend, a benefit dinner will be held where people can learn more about the foundation. It will begin a 6 p.m. at The Aubrey Hall in Monroe.
"I have always wanted to do a foundation because mentoring kids and being a part of their lives is my passion," Whitworth said. "This will help with the things I want to do … take care of some kids around here who are dealing with illnesses and be a part of families who want to adopt."
"I have always loved adoption," Whitworth explained. "My wife and I want to adopt. So I decided to take this foundation and focus on my three favorite areas."
Those three areas include Care for the Cure, which will directly assist families who have children with life-threatening diseases; Open Arms, which will financially assist families who want to adopt; and Whit's Warriors, which will entail a youth-mentoring program.
Whit's Warriors will focus on teaching youth "all the things it takes to be a balanced, successful person, and give them chances to earn scholarships or tuition money for the different things they want to pursue."
"I've just always had it in my heart to do these things, so we developed these programs and put the foundation together, got a board, and here we are," Whitworth said.
Whitworth says he has always had a passion for adoption and after reading several stories about adoption, he decided he wanted to become an adoptive parent.
"I read (former Colts head coach) Tony Dungy's book and learned about his life and what he and his wife have been able to do, and that really inspired me to go ahead and go after some of these things I wanted to do," Whitworth continued. "Some of the things he has done has just been unbelievable. I knew about his faith and knew he was a great person and coach, but I never knew he adopted so many children. They have four, five, maybe six adoptive children. They've adopted a kid almost every couple of years."
The Big Whit 77 Foundation's work will focus on northeast Louisiana only.
"This area will be the main focus for now," Whitworth said. "Basically we want to stay here and raise money in this area to go back to these kids in this area."
The Big Whit Weekend will be held every year around summertime, Whitworth said.
Once the weekend is over and proceeds have been tallied, Whitworth will match the amount raised with his own money.
"Whatever we raise, I'm going to match it, and we'll put it back into the foundation, so every cent from the entire weekend will go to the foundation and back into the community," he said.
Whitworth said some NFL players have similar foundations in the cities they play in, but he wanted to establish his foundation in the community that supported him throughout his career.
"For me, this always will be home, and I want to do something special for this place," he said. "The blessing that I had to be able to live here and be molded into the person I am today is something I want to provide to other kids. We want to mold other kids so they can grow up and be successful, too.
"My goal is not to teach kids how to be successful athletes. My goal is to teach kids how to be successful in life. I feel like if I can make a difference for some of these kids, then one day they will come back and make that same kind of difference in this community."
For more information about the foundation and upcoming events, visit the foundation's website at bigwhit77.com, or call 396-4094.