Carson Wentz has been a star on the field in his two seasons as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, but like several special players throughout the league, he has firmly entrenched himself in the community as well. While some athletes choose to go about their business each day, and others may only focus on the field, Carson has devoted much of his time in helping those who may need the outreach, in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The Carson Wentz Audience of One Foundation (AO1) was created in July of 2017 with a mission statement that states its goal as “uplifting individuals and communities around the world by demonstrating God’s love for His people”. The “Audience of One” for the AO1 foundation serves to highlight the charity’s religious alignment to Carson Wentz’s personal religious beliefs. The AO1 Foundation acts as somewhat of a feeder for other charity programs in donating time and resources to programs that align with its core goals. Though the AO1 Foundation is primarily focused on helping underprivileged youth, the physically disabled, and veterans initially, it has started to expand beyond these focal points.
The AO1 Foundation’s main focus is helping underprivileged youth in the Greater Philadelphia area through food drive, helping shelters, and helping to provide them with educational opportunities. They have partnered with other organizations in Chester County such as Canine Partners for Life to provide service dogs to help those with physical and cognitive disabilities. For veterans, those with physical challenges or life-threatening illnesses, and other undeserved communities in the Midwest, the former North Dakota State University quarterback through AO1 also provides outdoor and hunting opportunities. AO1 includes a special youth camp, “Camp Conqueror”, for underserved communities with a curriculum that covers self-worth, outdoor skills, worship, and strengthening (or establishing) healthy relationships. Whereas athlete charities may get dismissed at times by the general public as tax write-offs, Wentz’s AO1 Foundation puts the effort in to truly make a difference in the communities it serves.
On Friday, June 1 2018, the AO1 Foundation held its first charity softball game as a fundraiser with the help of Carson’s fellow Eagles teammates and a plethora of sponsors at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. While Carson did not want to put a specific target goal out during the course of the event, it was a rousing success. Foundation merchandise such as the limited edition jerseys and AO1 shirts were available to purchase, and there was a silent auction full of special items. Ticket-buyers were able to bid electronically on signed game-day memorabilia, experience packages like being in one of the team’s dugout or on the field for the post-game fireworks show, and autographed jerseys from star players such as wide receiver Alshon Jeffery or safety Malcolm Jenkins. Additionally, there were donated items from local stars like Philadelphia Phillies first baseman/outfielder Rhys Hoskins, Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout (from Millville, NJ), and a bag of various Philadelphia 76ers items which included an autograph by 76ers legend Allen Iverson. Of course, with a Home Run Derby, a live draft, and the game itself, fans were in for a great experience even aside from the great cause.
Offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski started the festivities with nine home runs to win the Home Run Derby, before teams managed by Carson Wentz and linebacker Jordan Hicks were put together via a live draft. Special teams ace Chris Maragos served as an on-field emcee, as Carson selected star tight end Zach Ertz with the first pick of the draft, and Hicks made kicker Jake Elliot the second pick. After a combination of newer and tenured Eagles players were selected, Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles was selected as “Mr. Irrelevant”, to walk on the field to what was easily the biggest ovation early in the night. Throughout the night sponsors had “lucky section” giveaways, and the Phillie Phanatic and Swoop played their mascot roles to make the game as immersive as an actual Philadelphia Phillies game.
The game itself was a family friendly experience, and the players themselves were clearly having a blast. Whether it was stopping themselves from running into each other (so no one would make a catch in the outfield), Bryce Treggs robbing Mack Hollins of a home run with a leap at the “wall”, Jason Kelce diving for grounders, or Wisniewski calling his shot to start a chain of four straight home runs for Team Wentz, the players were as immersed as the fans. Newer additions like rookie tight end Dallas Goedert and recent free agents like tight end Richard Rodgers, defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, and wide receiver Mike Wallace also contributing to a high-scoring affair. Players like Fletcher Cox were hitting triples, and Nate Sudfeld was making leaping catches when he wasn’t belting out a home run. As Jason Peters suggested from the sidelines to emcee Chris Maragos though, Stefen Wisniewski may have been the MVP after continuing his dominance with three home runs, as Team Wentz beat Team Hicks 23-12 to take home the event’s trophy and bragging rights. Team Wentz was ultimately credited with 24 hits to Team Hicks’ 19, and both teams were generously only credited with four errors apiece.
During the softball game, Carson Wentz unveiled the results of a recent combined effort with Mission of Hope: Haiti, where the AO1 Foundation recently raised $260,000 to contribute to efforts in fundraising for the Haiti Sports Complex. Carson Wentz personally matched the $260,000 that was raised over recent weeks, and fans in attendance were shown the giant check for a combined $520,000 that would be contributed to the efforts. Aside from the development of the Sports Complex, there are plans in place for the AO1 Foundation to continue to work with local churches and villages on surrounding projects, and to make sure that every youth has the opportunity to use the venue. Even with all of this, the AO1 Foundation wasn’t finished with major announcements during the game.
Closer to the game’s end, Wentz unveiled a special “Thy Kingdom Crumb” food truck that will be patrolling the Greater Philadelphia Area and parts of southern New Jersey. Unlike standard food trucks, Carson stated the goal was to help bless the communities and to freely distribute the food to those who need it. This new initiative will be providing outreach that can be kept up with on social media, and includes having a presence at Lincoln Financial Field at upcoming Philadelphia Eagles home games as well. On a day where Carson Wentz’s team was initially down in his own charity event, he came out as a winner, as did the rest of the community.
What an incredible night! So excited to announce that last night’s Softball Game netted over $850,000! We cannot say thank you enough for all who came out to the park to watch the game and those who continue to support us from afar. Can’t wait for next year’s game! pic.twitter.com/b0JqTE3yS0
— AO1 Foundation (@AO1Foundation) June 2, 2018
Silent auction items included the chance for front row seats at next year’s planned event, and if next year’s game is anything like this year’s, it will be a special event that’s perfect for the whole family. Players were interacting with the crowd and several like running back Corey Clement and cornerback Ronald Darby made a point to try to sign anything they could to give fans an even better experience. The community was able to come together for a fun-filled evening, and the team was able to have an offseason bonding experience that let a lot of newer faces get acclimated to the city. Carson Wentz has only been a Philadelphia Eagle for two seasons, but he has entrenched himself as a pillar of the community and as a role model for everyone through the AO1 Foundation’s community work.