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Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin will use the $10 million given to online fundraising campaigns by well-wishers after his in-game collapse during “Monday Night Football” in January to fund his own nonprofit, the Chasing M’s Foundation.
After his heart stopped following a tackle, Hamlin’s road to recovery has been supported by millions of fans and dollars alike. Now, he says it’s time to give back to those more in need than himself.
“We have been very deliberate and intentional about taking our time to set my charity up properly,” Hamlin said in a statement. “I’m excited to begin sharing news about programs we are creating to impact a generation of youth and give back to others.”
ABC News reports so far, they’ve given more than $9 million to a GoFundMe campaign and nearly a million to a second online fundraiser set up by The Giving Back Fund, a nonprofit which helps athletes and celebrities manage their charitable giving, according to Kelley Denny, a spokesperson for Hamlin’s charity.
Hamlin’s marketing representative said in January that his family had arranged for The Giving Back Fund to act as a fiscal sponsor for the funds given to GoFundMe, which allowed Hamlin’s team to fundraise as a charitable entity. At the time, Hamlin’s team said the millions given to the GoFundMe would eventually be transferred to The Giving Back Fund, but they have not been.
Damar Hamlin defends his charity as The Giving Back Fund question gifted donations
Last week, the news outlet Sportico reported on turmoil within The Giving Back Fund in part sparked by the question of whether gifts to Hamlin’s GoFundMe are charitable donations. Marc Pollick, CEO of The Giving Back Fund, disputed the accuracy of Sportico’s reporting in a statement and said the organization’s leadership “has always operated ethically, appropriately, and legally.”
“My charity is not connected to the challenges being faced by the leadership of The Giving Back Fund,” Hamlin said in the statement, adding, “Donors will have full tax-exempt status.”
According to ABC News, Hamlin first started Chasing M’s Foundation in May 2020 when he was still a student playing with the University of Pittsburgh and applied last month for retroactive tax-exempt status, according to Denny. It was incorporated as a nonprofit in Pennsylvania.
GoFundMe confirmed that they continue to hold the funds given to Hamlin’s campaign and will do so until Hamlin requests that they be transferred. The company also said that fundraisers specify when they benefit charitable organizations.
Records filed with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State show that Hamlin applied on May 1 to update Chasing M’s articles of incorporation, including its mission.
Chasing M’s Foundation will support “the aspirations of youth and community members through sports, education” and other activities and “promote health and safety in sports through CPR & AED training.”
In April, Hamlin announced that he plans to return to the Bills and has been cleared to practice
Since being released from the hospital, Hamlin has teamed up with the American Heart Association for a campaign to teach a simple version of CPR. He’s also met President Biden at the White House and advocated for access to defibrillators in schools with Congressional leaders.
In his first public statements posted in a video to social media on Jan. 28, Hamlin thanked those who had given money to the fundraiser but added that, “I know that it isn’t enough just to be thankful. This is just the beginning of the impact that I wanted to have on the world and with God’s guidance I will continue to do wonderful and great things.”