Zach Ertz's charity, Gilbert-based Athlete's Corner, feeds families for Thanksgiving

Dana Scott
Arizona Republic

Zach Ertz is driven by the adage "to give is to receive" when he plays football.

The Cardinals tight end massively impacts hunger relief as he scores touchdowns from his receptions.

Since Ertz was traded to the Cardinals from the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 15, his Ertz Family Foundation and its non-profit partner, Athlete’s Corner, have donated 5,000 meals per TD scored by the Cardinals via his Score For More campaign. They are up to 90,000 meal donations in Arizona, which are accepted through Feeding America's program that sends the meals to food banks.

There have been 1.34 million meals donated from the campaign since it began nearly a year ago in Philadelphia.

The 31-year-old Ertz, his Mesa-raised wife and National Women's Soccer League's Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz, and non-profit company Athlete's Corner donated about 600,000 meals before the couple moved away from the City of Brotherly Love to the Valley.

The Cardinals currently hold the league’s second-best 38 TDs behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (39). Ertz has scored five TDs this season, including three with the Cardinals.

"The Foundation all started because we felt the love from the community in Philadelphia and it was just a way that we could reciprocate that love," Ertz said last week. "And immediately when we got traded out here, and we had the response from the community out here, we said, 'Hey, we really want to get involved doing something.'"

Because the Cardinals are on their bye week, the Score For More donation amount from Zach’s TDs in the Cardinals game against the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday was doubled from 5,000 to 10,000 before Thanksgiving.

Zach had his best game as a Cardinal, producing two TDs, leading to 20,000 meals, out of the Cardinals three total against Seattle.

In addition, Score For More worked with Team USA’s women’s soccer team in the Olympics last summer. Julie, 29, was a member of Team USA and there were meal donations to various food banks across the nation for every goal scored. That drive produced 650,000 meals, which came from 50,000 per goal and that same amount per win.

The meals are donated to four food banks across the state, including United Food Bank Volunteer Center in Julie’s hometown Mesa, St. Mary’s Phoenix Food Bank, Tucson’s Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Yuma Community Food Bank.

United Food Bank provides meals covering approximately 20,000 square miles in Eastern Arizona. Tyson Nansel, the food bank's vice president of external affairs, said it won't see the impact of the donation until the NFL season ends in February.

"We're serving 2,000 families today at our Thanksgiving distribution," Nansel said on Monday. "Donations like that from Zach Ertz will help events like our Thanksgiving distribution, we're gonna have a holiday distribution in December which will be another big one serving 2,000 families or more, and then there's 250,000 families just in our service area in the East Valley and Eastern Arizona, where his donation will be able to help go toward feeding those families."

Where Ertz Family Foundation is going

Ertz's charity organization started in Philly, but its roots are in the northern California town of Alamo.

Zach's mother, Lisa Ertz, raised him and his three brothers as Catholics in her single parent home. They were always involved in sports.

They weren't as religious during her children's adolescence. That changed for them during Zach's college days at Stanford from 2009 to 2012, the year he was drafted by the Eagles.

"It was sort of living your life as a Christian but Zach really did it on his own and he took it to a whole new level and has really brought the rest of our family along with him," Lisa said. "Our faith is really the first touchpoint of our lives now."

Lisa said Zach became a faith leader in the Eagles locker room and led their Bible study.

He also ventured further into his volunteerism to serve God after he helped lead the Eagles to win the Super Bowl in February 2018.

“After he won the Super Bowl, he and Carson Wentz and the pastor who was pastoring over the team, a few others traveled to Haiti. It was really there that he realized his platform and his voice could really make a difference for kids in the Philly area, so they started their foundation in 2018.”

The Ertz Family Foundation was founded after he returned, which Lisa oversees from Philadelphia.

His partnership with Athlete's Corner was forged when founder Brennen Creer met Zach and Julie in late 2020 in their working relationship for Maxwell Football Club, which hands out annual college football awards. Brennen was a volunteer leading media relations and marketing for Maxwell.

The first project for Ertz Family Foundation and Athlete’s Corner was when they launched three public high school football combines titled Beyond The Field Senior Showcase. They hosted college scouts in the Philadelphia area last year during the pandemic after many senior players’ seasons were canceled. That helped those players’ recruitment with 50 scholarship offers.

Creer, 30, a native of Washington, has been working in the sports industry for the past six years since he launched sports app FireFan after he graduated from Utah Valley in 2016. He collaborated with over 100 pro athletes to build the app, which predicted the outcomes of sports games, and the app became popular downloaded in over 200 countries.

Creer lives with his wife, Katie, in her hometown Gilbert. Doubling as Phoenix-based customer service outsourcing solutions company Mammoth Tech’s Chief Marketing Officer, Creer launched Athlete’s Corner with former NBA player and Golden State Warriors television analyst Kelenna Azubuike in 2018. They recognized a void in the marketplace intersecting Christianity, family, sports and philanthropy.

"At first, it was like, 'I have all these relationships with these athletes. What business idea or product can I launch that we can monetize these athletes's influence and their platform of reach and everything?' And that quickly developed into, 'OK, instead of trying to launch something that can make a billion dollars, can we launch something that can change a billion lives?'"

Creer said Athlete’s Corner is the only non-profit company in the marketplace of its kind, holding 75 pro athlete partnerships such as Los Angeles Rams’ Jalen Ramsey, former NFL Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints’ Demario Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, Golden State Warriors, former NBA All-Star Allan Houston that creates content daily.

Now that Julie is back in her hometown area, Lisa believes her son and his wife are balancing their outreach in Philadelphia and Arizona.

Zach was named the NFL Player's Association's Community MVP for Week 9 on Nov. 9 for his Score For More campaign.

Lisa said the Foundation has raised $900,000 to erect a safehouse House of Hope in north Philadelphia. It's meant to save kids from gun violence and provide social services such as a food kitchen, security, internet, college readiness tutoring and mental trauma care.

"It’s 'how can we continue to serve Philadelphia,' but also he was wants to embrace his new city and be embraced by his new city."

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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