Cowboys Legend Helps Launch United Way Campaign

Organizers say funds can help evacuees in longer term recovery

Dallas Cowboys legend Troy Aikman kicked off the United Way's digital fundraising campaign Tuesday. However, with the landfall of Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flooding that has followed, the fundraising effort has taken on a greater meaning. 

"I think all of us know people in that area and there's so much for the entire state to do and even in North Texas we're removed from it a little bit, but in a sense we're not because a lot of the evacuees are going to be coming to North Texas," Aikman said.

The United Way can help provide longer-term relief to those who find themselves in North Texas for a while.

"United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will be investing in programs that support some of the longer term needs in the weeks and months to come," Jennifer Sampson, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas CEO, said.  

"For the many residents of Houston and South Texas who will be moving to North Texas and are in the process of moving to North Texas right now who will need medical care, they will need financial stability, stable jobs child education for their children we're there to invest in those programs that help support the longer term recovery and longer term relief for those people and our community."

Aikman said the United Way will be there for evacuees if they need assistance in those areas and encourages donations that will go to those agencies who will be helping those evacuees.

"They're displaced, they need help -- a helping hand -- and that's why even this with the United Way and the capital campaign... it comes at a good time," Aikman said. "Because never have we needed it more because of what is happening in Houston."

Aikman's leadership role is unlike one the organization has had. Typically CEOs of major companies have taken the reins of the campaign, not a Hall of Fame quarterback.

"It is a lot," Aikman said. "I've always felt I'm in a position to help and having said that I don't need too many pats on the back because there will be a day when I say okay, you know, I've kind of done it, I kind of want to move through the rest of my life, but that's not the time right now."

Aikman is teaming up with Todd Wagner and Dallas-based Charity Network for a digital campaign that features options to buy unique experiences. The effort subbed #UniteWithTroy will feature chances to have cocktails with Aikman in select cities before NFL games and even a chance to meet Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. But the goal of the campaign is to have donations from all price ranges.

Wagner said an auction would feature higher priced items, while a prize site will allow people to donate smaller amounts with the chance to win a prize.

The strategy has been tried before with Wagner. Previously he offered three sets of passes of the last Hamilton productions featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda. He said those raised $8 Million for charity.

"They get 40,000 donors. They get to reach millenials in the way they want to be spoken to and I think the point of all of this is that philanthropy can be fun," Wagner said.

Aikman said for those concerned where their money will go, it stays in North Texas with the United Way.

"I have found and believe that here at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas that's the case and there are measurements that make sure we are helping those people we say we are able to help," Aikman said. 

United Way leadership said they hope Aikman's visibility and credibility in the community will help them surpass $58 million which was raised in last year's campaign.

For more information about the auction, click here.

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