Jets’ Fant helps tornado-ravaged Kentucky hometown

FLORHAM PARK, NJ (AP) – George Fant hopped in his car and drove to work early last Saturday morning, ignoring the heartbreak unfolding in his hometown.

When the New York Jets left tackle arrived at the team’s premises, quarterback Mike White asked him a question that stopped him dead.

“Hey, are your family okay?” “

Fant was born and raised in Bowling Green, Ky., And still lives in the city. He owns a house there and his parents live there, as do many of his family and friends. He played basketball and football in Western Kentucky – where White was a teammate – in the same place where he met his wife Chastity Gooch, also a basketball player.

So when he discovered the deadly tornadoes that ravaged the region from last Friday night and saw the agonizing photos and videos of the aftermath, Fant immediately became concerned.

“Oh, man, that was really scary,” Fant said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “As soon as I saw the photos, my stomach sagged. I did not know what to do.

He started feverishly calling and texting his family and friends, hoping to know they were okay.

“I had a few family members who suffered from the tornado and destroyed their homes,” Fant said. “But everyone ended up being safe on my side of the family so that was the best thing.”

Fant knew, however, that many others weren’t so lucky.

At least 90 have been confirmed dead in several states after more than 40 tornadoes hit a large area. Authorities said 76 people have died in Kentucky alone, including seven from the same family in Bowling Green.

“There are places and places where I grew up playing and hanging out at a friend’s house where their homes are gone,” Fant said. “There’s nothing there, just the foundation. There is a city where I grew up going to eat and go to different places, they are no longer there. These places are completely gone and this is just the foundation.

“So, man, that’s hard to see.”

Fant, who is listed as questionable to play in Miami on Sunday with a knee injury, has also been a silver lining in the Jets’ 3-10 season. After starting the year as a right tackle, he perfectly replaced injured left tackle Mekhi Becton while also making the Pro Bowl buzz.

“He was so consistent and he got better every week,” said coach Robert Saleh. “He totally deserves all the accolades he receives and he is really excited to be working with him to move forward.”

As Fant focused on football and his knee health this week, he felt an overwhelming urge to help his hometown from afar – at least until the football season ends in a few moments. weeks and be able to return to Bowling Green.

He and his wife started to think things over, deciding to use the Fant Foundation they founded together as a starting point. They contacted the Red Cross, the county school and the mayor’s office to see what they could do.

“We’re just trying to help heal the area,” Fant said. “I’m just trying to use my platform and use who I am to improve the city and help the city. There are parts of the city that will never be the same again.

The Fant Foundation collects donations through its various social media platforms, with 100% of the proceeds going to families in the Bowling Green area to help pay for the funeral costs of those who have lost family members in the storms; down payments for accommodation; gift cards; Clothes; Provisions; and toiletries.

“I just want to play my part and do what I can do,” Fant said. “This city has helped me to elevate myself. There are people there who took care of me when I was a kid and they didn’t have to. So this is an opportunity for me, my family and my foundation to show how much they mean to us and what we can do to help.

The Fant Foundation hosted a charity event with Saks Fifth Avenue last week in New York City to raise money for Fant’s youth football camps, financial literacy programs and other charitable activities. After the tornadoes passed through Kentucky shortly thereafter, Fant decided to take the money raised from this event and spend it on relief efforts.

Several Fant Jets teammates donated, and Fant said her foundation raised $ 20,000 in just over two days since asking for help through posts on Twitter and Instagram.

“It definitely puts everything in perspective,” Fant said. “Whenever people lose their lives and really when it’s children who are injured or who lose their lives because of a natural disaster like this, it’s honestly just one of those rude awakenings that anything can happen. anytime to anyone.

“You never want to see something like this happen, but all we can do is just comfort the families, help the families as much as we can, and bring us closer as a community and help each other. You just have to live each day as much as you can because you never know what can happen and when.

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