The 15 to 1: Jermaine Kearse Foundation sponsored 20 Gold Star family members, which are survivors of fallen American service men and women, to participate in tours of the Washington Capitol campus in Olympia and meet Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers.
Growing up on a military base, Jermaine Kearse saw first-hand some of the challenges that face families and children of service men and women. Years later after becoming an NFL receiver, Kearse decided it was time to give back to kids in similar situations, which is why he launched his 15 to 1: Jermaine Kearse Foundation, which strives to "support and inspire youth in military families to work hard, persevere and believe in order to overcome adversity and find success through positive choices, experiences and opportunity."
Kearse's work in the community, and in particular with kids on Joint Base Lewis-McChord—the place Kearse called home for part of his childhood—led to him being nominated last fall for the "Salute to Service Award presented by USAA."
But while Kearse's future with the Seahawks is unclear thanks to his pending free agency, his commitment to serving local military families has not changed, which is why he spent his Monday in Olympia with about 20 Gold Star family members—family of fallen U.S. service men and women—who were on a tour of the Capitol Campus.
"(I want) to let them know that they're not alone, and I have their back," Kearse told The Olympian.
Jermaine Kearse returned to his hometown of Lakewood, Wash. for a "Championship Mindset" speaking engagement for 150 students at the Clover Park Technical College as a part of his 15 to 1 Foundation.
While Kearse didn't lose a family member to war, he can relate to kids coping with loss having lost his father, David, who died unexpectedly when Kearse was a senior in high school because of a blood clot in his lungs. And Kearse also remembers what it was like to live in fear when a loved one is deployed.
"Think about it, your parent gets deployed, and it's a constant guessing game—is my mom or dad going to come back?" Kearse said in November. "That's real life. This stuff we're doing here, this is cool, but when I think about that, what those kids are going through… You watch TV and you see stuff going on over there with ISIS and other stuff; I don't think people necessarily fully comprehend that that stuff is really happening. That's real life for these people. When you see it on TV, you don't fully comprehend that it's real life to these families."
During his visit, Kearse's foundation was recognized via a resolution by the House of Representatives for the service of military children.
"We're incredibly thankful to have his (Kearse's) partnership and to have the passion he has for military youth and children extended to us," Sarah Vargo, a support coordinator with the U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services told The Olympian. "This is something he is doing out of his own passion and love."
A day later, Kearse visited the Department of Veteran Affairs' Washington Soldier Home in Orting.
Jermaine Kearse and his 15 to 1 Foundation aim to inspire youth in military families to work hard, which includes his latest visit to the Veterans Farm in Orting, Wash. and helped distribute Volunteer Certificates of Appreciation to all those that have helped establish agricultural plots at the farm.