Prior to kickoff of the final home game of the 2021 season, Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara, presented a $2.7 million check to Immuno Heroes, money that will fund life-saving immunotherapy treatment to combat pediatric cancer.
Wilson then proceeded to go out and throw four touchdown passes to help lead the Seahawks to a dominant win over the Detroit Lions.
The afternoon was a near perfect way to encapsulate the type of impact Wilson makes both on the field in the community, and just part of the reason why Wilson this week was named the winner of the Bart Starr Award.
The Bart Starr Award, named for the Hall of Fame quarterback who was the MVP of the Packers Super Bowl I & II victories, is given each year to the player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.
The award, which is voted on by players, is presented each year at Athletes in Action's Super Bowl Breakfast. Seahawks Legend Steve Largent won the first Bart Starr Award following the 1988 season, and Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer won the award following the 2002 season.
This is not the first league-wide award won by both Largent and Wilson, with Wilson winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award last year, making him one of two Seahawks to win that prestigious award along with Largent, who also won that award after the 1988 season.
From his weekly visits—pre COVID-19 at least—to Seattle Children's Hospital that date back to his rookie season, to the more than $10 million Wilson and Ciara's Why Not You Foundation has donated, in partnership with Safeway and Albertsons, to fund cancer research and treatments dating back to 2014, to opening the Why Not You Academy, a high school that aims to "serve systemically underserved students by providing innovative and tailored learning experiences," Wilson spent his decade-long NFL career making as big of an impact off the field as on it, which is no small feat considering he is an eight-time Pro-Bowler and a Super Bowl champion.
"My dad always told me, it's the hashmark in between of significance that you can leave on a place," Wilson said Sunday when asked about his foundation's $2.7 million donation. "You always want to leave a place better, you always want to go to a place and make it better. You want to always encourage people and make people believe. That's why I went to the hospitals. My mom was an ER nurse and did so many different things. I've seen my dad pass away in a hospital room when the line went flat, so for me I understand what it's like to lose family members, to lose loved ones and all that… To be able to live life with (Ciara) and to be able to give back and give a little glimpse of hope, it's what life's really all about. I believe that God's given me so much ability but also so much opportunity to serve, and I just thank God every day I get to serve and to give back and to help. And that's what's been probably the coolest part of the journey is just to be able to make a difference for people and to see kids walk in with cancer and then to be able to help raise funds or to be able to encourage them, give them a word of 'Why not you?' or whatever it may be, give them that glimpse of hope."
"For me and Ciara, we've seen that happen over and over and over again, the success rate of (immunotherapy). We've seen kids walk out of the hospital room with no more cancer and no more problems. And we've also lost some too. But the belief and the hope that someone else is going to be encouraged, that just maybe if there's a small chance maybe they get to walk out of that hospital room, it's worth every second, every minute and every hour, every day to wake up with that kind of encouragement and love."
Russell Wilson's community service efforts have been numerous and varied, a big reason he has received the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and 2022 Bart Starr Award. Take a look at photos of Wilson in the community from throughout his time with the Seahawks.