When Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright visited Kenya last year, he didn't know a return trip would take place only one year later.
But after Wright's vacation turned into an eye-opening experience when he saw the lack of clean water during a visit to Maasai Mara, he knew he not only wanted to help, but that he would be back. On Thursday, Wright, his wife, Natalie, and a large group of family and friends will fly to Kenya for a trip that is part vacation, part community service, and also a chance to see his vision come to light.
After seeing a young girl in Maasai Mara carrying dirty drinking water while there last year, he decided to partner with Healing Hands International to get two clean-water wells built in the village. Between the $25,000 donation Wright received for being named the Seahawks' 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, his own donations, and money donated by fans and local businesses, Wright was able to raise more than $75,000, which will pay for two wells with some money left over to provide future help in the area.
"It just hit my heart," Wright said of his last visit to Kenya. "I'm always trying to help people whenever I can, and I just learned about a situation I had no idea about, and it just touched me to do something."
By the time Wright and his party arrive—the group includes former Seahawks Mike Morgan and Tye Smith, as well as former NFL running back Vick Ballard, a teammate of Wright's at Mississippi State—one well should be completed, while another is still being built.
"You see where they get their water from, it's terrible what they have to do to get water, so this could be big for them," Wright said.
Wright's fundraising to build these wells, as well as his involvement in several other non-profit ventures, led to him earning his team's Man of the Year honors, and just as he saw from older teammates the importance of making a difference in the community, he now hopes to set an example for younger teammates.
"You just watch and learn from the older guys," Wright said. "I was looking at Cliff (Avril) doing his thing in Haiti. I saw Breno (Giacomini) and Marshawn (Lynch) go to Egypt, and I was like, man this is cool stuff… That's always been a goal of mine to be that guy in the community that everyone can look up to so I can help show my brothers that we can do a lot in the community and help people around us."
For his selection as the Seahawks' nominee for the 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright received a $50,000 donation from the United Way on Friday, December 14 for Wright to put toward a charity of his choice.