On Friday, April 21, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril and the Cliff Avril Family Foundation paid a visit to the 12 homes Avril's 11.5 sacks from the 2016 NFL season is helping build in the country of Haiti.
Cliff Avril, the Seahawks' 2016 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, didn't come away a winner at this past February's 'NFL Honors' show — those accolades instead went to Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning — but the Seahawks defensive end's foundation, The Cliff Avril Family Foundation, still scored big as a result of his election.
Joined by his wife Tia and sons Xavier and Xander, Avril was presented with a $50,000 check made out to his foundation following Friday's training camp practice at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where United Way co-chairs Angela and Ethan Stowell were on hand to deliver the donation courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide, and United Way Worldwide that went to each of the 29 players who weren't selected as one of the three NFL Man of the Year Award finalists.
Avril, who will also receive an additional $50,000 donation in his name to Character Playbook — an interactive online course focused on youth character development, undertook a variety of community endeavors this past season. The 10-year veteran with Haitian roots pledged to build a home in Haiti for every sack he recorded in 2016. He ended up recording a career-high 11.5 sacks and rounded up to build 12 homes in the country that was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew last year.
"It goes a long ways, especially with some of the things that we're doing in Haiti," Avril said of how his Man of the Year funds can help. "I'm still in the process, we've been building a school, an elementary school out there for the past year and a half, so a check like that will definitely build a couple classrooms. It's great to be recognized for some of the things we're doing and it definitely goes a long way in a country like Haiti."
On his second day in Haiti, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril and the Cliff Avril Family Foundation helped open a school and also spent time visiting a local hospital, where they donated diabetes testing supplies.
Avril said he plans to carry on his sack-for-homes pledge in 2017 and went on to share what he hopes to accomplish in Haiti long-term.
"Continue to keep building homes, but also my main focus is the school that I'm building out there," he said. "I want to finish that school within the next year. Also the community that that school is in we have a garden, a big huge garden next to the school that's actually going to feed the kids at the school and the kids in the community. So there's a lot of different things that we're working on in Haiti that I want to continue to keep doing and keep helping."
Avril outlined how his approach to giving back has evolved over the years.
"When you first get in the League, you're 22 years old, 23 years old, you're trying to figure out what and how you can help," he said. "As I got older, as I started having kids, I have a family, and different things start to resonate with you a little bit. It just got to the point where man I just want to go back to Haiti and do some different things out there and help out some of these kids out there because that easily could have been me. I could have easily been one of those Haitian kids out there. So I'm just honored and blessed to be able to be in a situation to help."
The launch of his Cliff Avril Family Foundation in 2014 has also helped raise awareness for diabetes, a cause that has always been close to Avril's heart. His annual Dining to Make a Difference event brought home more than $350,000 last year, while his participation in the annual Nordstrom Beat The Bridge to Beat Diabetes event has raised thousands more.
"[Diabetes is] very important to me because my grandma she actually passed from diabetes and it's very prevalent in the Haitian community," Avril said. "My mom, my grandma, my aunties, pretty much all the women in my family have it, so it touches home for me and I just wanted to get involved and bring awareness to what's going on and helping JDRF, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, I want to help them continue to bring awareness and raise money to be able to hopefully find a cure for this."
For a third year in a row, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril and his Cliff Avril Family Foundation put together a team for Nordstrom's 35th annual Beat the Bridge to Beat Diabetes run/walk to help raise funds for those impacted by Type 1 diabetes.