CHICAGO (CBS) — Five-time Pro Bowler Jared Allen is among the top ten sack leaders in NFL history, but he has just as much passion for his work off the field as he does for football.
CBS 2’s Ryan Baker caught up with Allen at his first Chicago fundraiser for his “Homes For Wounded Warriors” foundation.
“My grandfather was 23 years in the Marine Corp. My older brother was in the Guard. My little brother is currently in the Marine Corp, so I have a long line of military family and vets. I went on an USO tour in 2009 and when I came back I knew I had to do something to give back,” Allen said.
Lance Briggs, Brandon Marshall, and Kyle Long were among the Bears who turned out to support their teammate when Allen hosted his “Helping Heroes Gala.” The money raised will help to build a brand new home for a wounded veteran or to remodel an existing one to make it handicap-accessible.
“Home is my most secure place in my most vulnerable time, so if they have to come home to relearn how to think, walk and talk, the basic things we take for granted and they come home and their house is a hindrance to them, that’s a stress level they don’t need. I don’t think anyone deserves the American dream more than those of fight for it,” Allen said. “It started with one home and then it catapulted to two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. Hopefully it just keeps growing.”
U.S. Marine Sgt. Colin Faust, who served four years, was wounded when he was deployed to Afghanistan.
“I got hurt on October 15, 2010. I stepped on an IAD pressure plate. None of us – when we get severely hurt – none of us even knew that organizations like this exist. It’s like a huge life changer to donate and to provide wheelchair-accessible homes to people like me who are in wheelchair 100% time when I’m at home. I can’t stress enough of a life-changer and how comfortable I can be in a home that actually works for me,” he said.
“Colin is awesome. They all become my little brothers to me. We treat this like family. That’s why we had to do something. I couldn’t just write checks. It’s one thing to buy a house, but we like to create a home,” Allen said.
Allen is hands-on with all of the renovation projects. His foundation is getting ready to start on a ninth home this coming offseason.
“I just want to keep building houses and keep helping those in need until we don’t need to do it anymore. Then we can move on to do something else. As of right now, our goal is each year to better ourselves. Try to raise more money than the year before. Help one or two more soldiers than we did the year before. Every house is a little different. Every house is specific to what they want. It is so cool to give them the keys and just see them melt. It lights up your day and creates memories of a lifetime,” Allen said.
Faust’s house in Minnesota should be ready in January. Allen would like to find a Chicago-area veteran to help because he says it’s important for him to try to keep the money where he earns it. For more information on Jared Allen’s foundation go to his website, homesforwoundedwarriors.com.