CLEVELAND — Former Browns cornerback TJ Carrie captured hearts on the field during his time in Cleveland. Off the field, he's ensuring that the hearts of youths across Northeast Ohio are properly taken care of.
Before Carrie came to the NFL, he had to undergo open heart surgery during his junior year in high school. With that experience top of mind, the TJ Carrie Foundation strives to provide "a social-emotionally supportive community for children and families living with heart conditions."
“When I first had my surgery, there wasn’t a lot of support systems around to give you guidance on what to expect or how to get through the process," Carrie recalls. "Can you play sports, can you even do physical activity?"
Because Carrie knows how hard it is to recover from open heart surgery, he wants to make sure that no family goes through that process alone. “This is a disease that affects a lot of families, but there are opportunities for us to help and allow them to feel supported while they go through this journey," he adds.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers got word of Carrie's foundation and his work with "heart warriors," they wanted to partner with him to bring more awareness to his cause.
“Every game, the Cavs do the 50/50 Raffle, and they donate a portion of the proceeds to a foundation and we were the foundation of choice, which is amazing! What those proceeds go to is for our annual Camp Carrie," Carrie explains.
The annual camp at Maumee Bay provides a fun and relaxing retreat for families battling cardiac heart disease. Carrie says without the love and support of coaches, friends, and family members, he doesn't know where he would be. Now, he just wants to be a blessing to kids dealing with what he went through.
“I look back and sometimes I just say wow, man we played nine years in the National Football League and I’m still here," he says. "I’m still healthy, loving this, and doing all the things I wanted to do and accomplish. Those things don’t just come from luck, God has really been on my side and so has my family throughout this journey.”
The 50/50 raffle for the TJ Carrie Foundation will take place during Saturday night's Cleveland Cavaliers game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Find out more about the TJ Carrie Foundation and its "Heart Warriors" here.