Every year, the Jason Taylor Foundation gathers celebrities across South Florida to give kids a chance to start their school year rocking the latest fashion trends. Together with Old Navy, former Dolphins superstar and Hall of Fame pass rusher Jason Taylor has been outfitting students with $300 dollars worth of clothing for 15 years. This year, however, adversity stood in their way.
The Miami Dolphins are currently facing a season where losing will be a common theme. It’s hard to imagine any players wanting to take time out of their day in the face of such hardship. Even worse, Hurricane Dorian threatened to come to South Florida, forcing Cool Gear for the School Year 2019 to be postponed until September 16. Under those circumstances, it makes sense that the overall turnout wouldn’t be as notable as years past.
However, that was anything but the case on Monday evening. The kids still came, the celebrities still contributed, and everything went as smoothly as one could imagine.
“Although the storm didn’t come here, it ended up turning, we had to simply reschedule it.” Jason Taylor said. “That’s the least of our concerns, that’s easy. Old Navy’s easy to work with, and they were all for it. They didn’t want their employees on the road either. So Dorian had very little effect on us. It had a very major effect on our neighbors. We’re still working with the foundation, somehow, someway, we’re gonna do one of these for people over there as well.”
That’s an admirable mission, especially considering the level of destruction suffered by the Bahamas at the hands of Dorian. The Jason Taylor Foundation is committed to improving the lives of kids all across South Florida. But it’s now abundantly clear that they aren’t limited to that area. Help is needed everywhere, and they will do what they can to provide.
This event doesn’t happen without an army, however. That’s where the celebrities come in, not the least of which is rising star Jerome Baker. In spite of Miami’s struggles on the field, the Dolphins linebacker and team captain went out of his way to arrive and offer his notoriety to the event. He and fellow captain Walt Aikens walked along with kids and helped them shop for whatever they needed.
“They had a little list, they had everything they wanted, so we were letting them free reign.” Aikens said. “Get whatever they want, they know how to swag it out these days.”
Other celebrity shoppers included several Dolphins alumni, such as O.J. McDuffie, Troy Drayton, Louis Oliver, Jeff Dellenbach, Channing Crowder and more. Their intentions are undoubtedly selfless, but Jerome Baker admitted that doing these events helps him reset and get back into a good place mentally. Given the defeats the Dolphins have suffered as of late, this was a welcome respite.
“It just shows you that football is football, ” He said. “Events like this show you that it’s more than football than just in-between the white lines. A chance to come out here and just to see kids’ faces, to see everybody smile … it kinda brings you back down to reality. Football’s gonna take care of itself. What’s really important is your family, your community, your friends, it’s definitely good.”
The Jason Taylor Foundation reaches far beyond the world of football. Even Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem attended as a celebrity shopper.
“I got a long relationship with Jason (Taylor) and I’m real supportive of anything he’s doing.” Haslem said. “He’s the same for me and anything I’m doing. It was great to have the opportunity to come out here, I’ve done it before, and it’s always fun. I got three boys, I’m used to shopping for kids, I know what the fashion is, what the style is, I know what they’re looking for so it gets easier every year.”
And every year, the impact of the Jason Taylor Foundation adds up. In 2019, 60 kids from across South Florida went home with new clothes. Over $18,000 was spent in an hour’s time. And over the course of this event’s 15 years, over $260,000 for over 900 kids.
“That’s what we’re about,” said Seth Levit, Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, as well as one of the hosts for The Fish Tank podcast. “That’s our mission, is to support these young people. That number makes us feel pretty good about the work we’ve been able to do.”
It speaks to the character of those involved that this event still goes off without a hitch. For get-togethers like this, scheduling is everything. But not even a storm like Dorian could keep it from ultimately succeeding. Now, 60 more kids are going to go back to school feeling great about how they look, allowing them to focus on what really matters.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung