The incredible fourth quarter finale to this year’s Super Bowl, complete with a bobbling catch and unlikely interception, made me wonder what’s become of a Christian brother with a knack for fourth quarter heroics: Tim Tebow.
Two years removed from NFL, the 27-year-old Tebow now serves as a commentator for the SEC Network and ESPN. He continues to work out in hopes of receiving that long-awaited call from a NFL team. (Many of his fans continue to hope some team will realize that all he does is win.)
But his acts of generosity are more inspiring to me than all of his football achievements.
This Valentine’s Day weekend, for example, the Tim Tebow Foundation will spend more than $600,000 to help 7,000 people with special needs enjoy a prom night. These Night to Shine events are taking place in 45 churches in 26 states, as well as in Uganda and Kenya. The goal, Tebow explained to People magazine, is to have “churches and hundreds of volunteers [come] together to show love and make a difference in more than 7,000 lives.”
I’ve learned that this kind of gracious generosity to unlikely recipients is nothing new for Tebow.
After winning a Heisman trophy and two national championships at the University of Florida, Tebow was signed by the Denver Broncos with the 29th pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He gave away much of his signing bonus to charity.
Then, at the age of 22—when many of his peers were in adultolescent limbo—he started the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF) to help use his celebrity to show God’s love to children around the world, with a mission to “bring faith, hope, and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
In his playing days Tebow’s foundation would give kids with life-threatening illnesses VIP sideline access and time with Tim on gamedays through their W15H program (a play on “WISH”—15 was Tebow’s number). He gave money to build Timmy’s Playrooms in children’s hospitals around the world. He gave to evangelism efforts in the Philippines.
What is Tebow’s motivation? “My parents instilled in me the importance of God’s Word, the salvation we have in his Son Jesus, and the responsibility we have to give back to others,” he says.
Over the last five years, the Tim Tebow Foundation has given away more than $5 million to mostly faith-based charities. Much of this comes from the donations of his fans, but Tebow’s time, talent, and treasure drive much of the foundation’s work. Further, his giving is done with professional competence—unlike the management of so many professional athletes’ charities. Even without the glamour and income of the NFL, Tebow’s giving is at an all-time high.
In addition to the Night to Shine events, last December the Tebow CURE Hospital opened in Davao City, Philippines (his country of birth). The hospital—a project five years in the making—was built in partnership with CURE International, a faith-based medical non-profit. According to the official press release, it is a “a five-story, 30-bed facility with three operating rooms specializing in pediatric orthopedic surgeries. Currently, 17 of the hospital’s 30 beds are available, and a team of 54 devoted staff members are ready to provide care to the underserved children of the Philippines.”
Finally, Tebow’s generosity continues to bless young people in North America with life-threatening illnesses. Last year, the foundation fulfilled a dream of a girl named Haley who was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at age 15. They made this touching video.
Tebow’s dream of returning to the NFL is unlikely to materialize, but his generosity is bringing glory to Jesus Christ and touching lives for eternity. Regardless of his day job, I hope Tebow continues to build on this lasting legacy.