Saints Punter Tackles Charity
Being a punter can be a lonely endeavor.
Despite having 10 additional teammates on the field snapping, blocking, and covering the opposition’s returner, the punter is the focal point of the play. Located several yards behind the long snapper, alone on a football island, the punter analyzes the elements and the coverage team, deciding where to strategically place the punt to maximize his team’s success and avoid disaster.
Punting is a craft that lends itself to an introvert and requires the dedication to spend hours punting footballs, perfecting the spiral and placement of the ball, often alone.
That’s what initially drew New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead to begin pursuing punting as a teenager. Punting a soccer ball was ingrained in Morstead at a young age, from his days of playing goalie, and when he excelled in a Punt, Pass, and Kick competition in middle school, he discovered his knack for punting a football.
“Some people love hitting balls on the golf range, and I remember what it felt like to kick a punt that spiraled and how good of a feeling it was,” Morstead says. “I always was the type of kid who didn’t need someone to play with. I could go shoot free throws for hours. I could go punt footballs for hours by myself, and naturally, being an introvert, it suited me.”
All those hours paid off, as Morstead, in his 10th year with the Saints, has become an integral player in the franchise and a beloved member of the New Orleans community. The former Pro Bowler etched himself into Saints and NFL lore with his famous onside kick to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
Saints coach Sean Payton alerted Morstead at the beginning of halftime that the team would be running the surprise play, dubbed “Ambush,” giving the rookie a half hour to dwell on the impending gutsy call. “My blood pressure and heart rate spiked when he told me,” Morstead recalls. “We worked on it, but I’m not sure I ever thought we’d actually do it as a surprise in a game.”
In one of the most pressure-packed situations in all of sports, Morstead lined up to begin the second half and delivered. The kick caught the Indianapolis Colts off-guard, allowing the Saints to recover and take their first lead of the game on the ensuing drive. “I’m certainly glad we did it,” Morstead says. “It helped us win a Super Bowl. I don’t really remember the kick itself—I’ve seen it on TV about a hundred times, but I honestly kind of blacked out when it happened.”
Winning the Super Bowl is the perfect way to end any NFL season, let alone one’s rookie campaign. Morstead is one of the few remaining players from the franchise’s lone Super Bowl victory, and he has weathered the peaks and valleys of the subsequent seasons, which makes the current winning resurgence over the past two seasons even sweeter.
The winning is a product of one of the core values of the Saints: getting the right people in the building. It’s been a process, Morstead says, but during three straight 7-9 seasons, the Saints stuck to their values and principles while building a new team foundation, trusting a process that has ultimately proved successful.
After experiencing so much team success early in his career, Morstead is excited that the winning culture has come full-circle. Even though many fans and pundits are quick to compare this year’s squad to past successful Saints teams, Morstead points out that every single team has been uniquely different from the others. “There is definitely a special energy and an ‘it’ factor that I feel like this team has,” Morstead says. “Honestly, we had it last year as well, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
This season, the Saints offense has been roaring, scoring at a higher clip than nearly every team in the league. More offensive touchdowns equate to less punting for Morstead, who averaged over 58 punts per season his first nine years. Through 12 games this season, the Saints have punted only 28 times, the fewest in the NFL. With a lack of punting game-to-game, Morstead says he actually stays more engaged than usual.
“It’s counterintuitive—the more I punt, the less I do,” Morstead explains. “Part of that is, when you go into the game, the adrenaline you experience for one play can sit in your system for a while. So, I don’t have to do too much activity on the sidelines when I’m punting more.” Morstead needed all the adrenaline he could muster last year against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
On his first punt of the game, Morstead made a touchdown-saving tackle on Vikings return man Marcus Sherels, suffering a painful rib injury in the process. Battling through the pain, Morstead stayed in the game, launching three more successful punts. “Most guys have an opportunity to gut it out for their teammates throughout the season, and that was a rare opportunity for me to gut it out for my teammates,” Morstead says. “It was an honor to do it.”
Vikings fans responded to Morstead’s gritty performance by donating over $220,000 to his charitable foundation, What You Give Will Grow. Overwhelmed by the generosity of the Vikings fans, Morstead turned right around and donated all the proceeds to Children’s Hospitals Minnesota for its Child Life program. That donation last winter was a highlight in a long line of philanthropic endeavors by Morstead’s foundation, which emphasizes helping children battling cancer.
Inspired by his friend James Ragan, who battled osteosarcoma, Morstead and his wife Lauren started WYGWG in 2014 to help the New Orleans community and encourage the giving spirit.
“James’s fight, his attitude, and his mentality in dealing with it and helping others who were going through the same thing were really inspiring, and it’s a way to keep his legacy and memory alive through the foundation,” Morstead says.
The name of the organization comes from a quote by Frank Gansz, Morstead’s mentor and special teams coach at Southern Methodist: “What you give will grow. What you keep, you lose.” Gansz passed away in 2009, the day after Morstead was drafted by the Saints, but the impact Gansz had on Morstead’s life propelled him to found WYGWG to continue to give back and help others. Since its inception, WYGWG has raised over $3.5 million for charitable causes with the help of an army of dedicated volunteers.
“I can’t believe we are at where we’re at,” Morstead says. “It’s been really fun to have the ability to be impactful in our community, which supports the team so much. I love being able to give back and positively impact the lives of the fans who cheer for us every week.”
Morstead encourages anyone interested in donating money or time to visit WYGWG.org to get plugged in and contribute to the positive impact the foundation is having on the community.
“Everybody that is involved feels they’re making an impact, and their small piece really does matter,” Morstead says. “It’s a really cool community of volunteers and support that we have, and it’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can continue to do more and more in the future.”
Photos by Romney Caruso
Alexander, Andrew. “Where Y’at.” Festival Food & Beverages Offered at French Quarter Fest | Where Y’at, 21 Dec. 2018, www.whereyat.com/punting-for-change-saints-punter-morstead-tackles-charity-and-sometimes-return-men.
4 Ways Gloria Hicks Has Sparked Funding
You may know Triumph Over Kid Cancer (TOKC) as the Corpus Christi-based non-profit inspired by the life of James Ragan that has raised over $3 million for pediatric cancer research.
Diagnosed with cancer at 13, James celebrated his 14th birthday with a Toga party at which guests were invited to donate money instead of buying presents. He raised 40,000 dollars that day, which began his efforts to fund innovative new treatments for childhood cancers, which hardly receive any government or pharmaceutical industry funding at all. That began the work of Triumph Over Kid Cancer.
Sadly, we lost James in 2014 at age 20, but other passionate supporters of the cause have carried on his work. One of organization’s leading benefactors has been Gloria Hicks, owner with her husband of Ed Hicks Family of Dealerships, Corpus Christi’s home for Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Infiniti.
Gloria Hicks got to know James even before his diagnosis in 2006 when her son Charlie became his golfing buddy. Since TOKC began, Gloria has given her heart, her time and her treasure to support its critical work.
Here are just a few of Gloria Hicks’ contributions.
- The Mercedes Benz Golf Tournament
A major fundraiser annually for Triumph Over Kid Cancer, the golf tournament is also a place at which TOKC is given the opportunity to reach out to those who might not know about its efforts in the field of pediatric cancer research. Gloria Hicks has designated Triumph Over Kid Cancer the official beneficiary of the event every year.
- New Dealerships, New Platform
The Ed Hicks Family of Dealerships has invited TOKC volunteers to the opening of every new dealership, allowing them to expand awareness and support for James’s vision. When a prominent family business gets behind a cause the way Gloria Hicks and her family does, it attracts many of the community’s leading citizens.
- Engaging Her Connections
Gloria Hicks served as an irreplaceable volunteer at fundraiser auctions. She leveraged her deep connections in the community to convince area businesses and individuals to donate incredible auction items. Much of the success of those auctions, which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research, is attributable to Gloria’s tireless work, dedication and talent for motivating people.
- Offering a Mercedes-Benz
In order to drive participation in our annual James A. Ragan Triumph Scramble golf tournament, Gloria Hicks’s company donates a hole-in-one prize package, including a Mercedes-Benz automobile, for any golfer who makes a hole-in-one during the tournament. This generous contribution is responsible for recruiting players in the sold-out event. In addition, Gloria’s personal support has inspired others to support the tournament.
“To say Mrs. Hicks is a generous and selfless woman doesn’t do her justice. She is a true champion for children with cancer,” says Mecklin Ragan, co-founder of TOKC and the sister of James Ragan. “Her efforts to help TOKC achieve our goal of bringing about an end to a world where children have to face the horrors of pediatric cancer is immeasurable.”
Thanks to the generous commitment of people like Gloria Hicks, Triumph Over Kid Cancer was able to launch The Children’s Sarcoma Initiative with M.D. Anderson in 2010 to fund novel cancer treatment ideas, and The Genomic Research and Sequencing Project for Pediatrics with M.D.Anderson in 2014. Currently they are funding a phase II drug trial, and have also pledged to raise $1 million for the Childhood Cancer Cell Therapy project at Texas Children’s Hospital.
You can help Triumph Over Kid Cancer win the war against childhood cancers and save the lives of millions of children alive today and those yet to be born. Visit TriumphOverKidCancer.org for more information or to make a donation.
Join TOKC this #GivingTuesday
November is traditionally the month of giving thanks and giving back to those who make a difference. In recent years, organizations from all over the globe have taken part in #GivingTuesday, a global campaign where communities recognize their favorite organizations or nonprofits that improve the livelihood of others by donating to their missions.
This year, we celebrate on November 27, 2018.
While we appreciate your support year-round, #GivingTuesday is the one day in the year when organizations like TOKC are given recognition and the necessary funding to continue life-changing work.
We proudly take part in #GivingTuesday, and all donations to TOKC go to help raise funds to improve the treatment and survivability of pediatric cancers.
Would you like to give to TOKC for this year’s #GivingTuesday? There are a few ways you can show your support.
- Online donations are an easy and direct way to give straight to TOKC and our mission. When you donate, you are helping support research such as a Phase II trial at M.D. Anderson for lung metastasis and a Childhood Cancer Cell Therapy at Texas Children’s Hospital. Each of these projects has the potential to create major breakthroughs in the treatment and cure of multiple orphan pediatric cancers. The funds received by each institution are matched by that institution.
- Additionally, you can also give back while shopping for gifts from the TOKC store! We have a range of different products for sale and all proceeds go directly to TOKC. Shopping at TOKC is also a great way to start prepping for holiday gifts for the whole family — even pets!
Your donations and support are what keeps our mission going. Thank you for considering TOKC in this year’s #GivingTuesday!
TOKC Gives Thanks
In honor of Thanksgiving being just around the corner, we want to reflect on last year’s amazing Driscoll Children’s Hospital Thanksgiving Dinner! From karaoke, dancing, photo booths and great food, our party goers had a blast celebrating Thanksgiving a little early with their families and doctors at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. This annual event is special to our organization because it’s a time solely dedicated to celebrating and giving thanks to our TOKC family. We love seeing all of the smiling faces at our events and look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come! Check out these video montages from last year’s event!
For a little sneak peak from this year’s 4th Annual Thanksgiving event, check out KIII TV and KZTV’s video coverage.
Stay tuned for more photos and videos from this year’s event, and Happy Thanksgiving!
James' Legacy Continues to Triumph
In 2006, James Ragan was an average junior high school student. An active athlete, James was a nationally ranked junior tennis player by the age of 13, when he first developed pain and swelling in his left knee.
A routine check-up with a medical specialist led to his diagnosis with Osteosarcoma, a deadly form of bone cancer. He left the 7th grade as a strong, healthy athlete only to return the following year frail and without hair as a result of intensive chemotherapy treatments.
Despite grueling surgeries and devastating treatments, James remained positive and kept moving forward.
When James and his older sister, Mecklin, learned there was no cure for his disease, nor research being done to find one, they decided to take this experience and influence change: they made it their mission to raise money to fund pediatric cancer research.
In 2007, one year after his diagnosis, James and Mecklin hosted a toga party with the theme, “Triumph Over Kid Cancer.” The event garnered $40,000 its inaugural year, which was donated to Driscoll Children’s Hospital and M.D. Anderson. This initiative led to the development of our foundation in 2010.
For the next four years, we continued our charitable efforts raising over $1 million dollars toward pediatric cancer research in partnership with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Throughout this time, James himself dealt with multiple surgeries and experimental treatments, that gradually eroded his health and quality of life. On February 17, 2014, shortly after meeting their first goal of $1.5 million dollars toward M.D. Anderson’s Children’s Sarcoma Initiative, James passed away.
Like thousands of other pediatric cancer children before him, we lost the promise he brought to the future. We proudly continue to carry on James’ legacy through our fundraising, supporting multiple research projects throughout the years. Most recently, we have begun 2 new pledge projects, matched dollar for dollar by their respective institutions:
- $1 million to fund a phase 2 drug trial at M.D. Anderson for a drug whose original research was funded by the Children’s Sarcoma Initiative.
- $1 million to fund a new immunotherapy drug being developed at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Each institution’s research projects have the potential to create major breakthroughs in the treatment and cure of multiple orphan pediatric cancer.
If you would like to help honor James’ legacy and contribute to this innovative research, learn more about our partnership opportunities by emailing TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org, calling 361-883-TOKC (8652) or by donating online here.
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, TOKC is shining a light on ways to make a difference for kids battling cancer. Below are four ways to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness this month:
One of the most crucial ways to show your support during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is to take action by donating. When you donate to TOKC, you help advance progressive research into pediatric cancers. All donations made to TOKC are matched dollar-for-dollar by MD Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital.
You can also shop directly from the TOKC website. We have a wide variety of products available that make great gifts for loved ones or for a pediatric cancer patient to help brighten their day. All proceeds of your purchase go directly back to our organization’s mission.
Many online shopping websites provide an option to give back while you shop, like Amazon’s AmazonSmile program, where a percentage of your purchase is donated to the nonprofit organization of choice.
Hosting fundraising events are another fun way to spread awareness and get others involved in the cause. You can partner with businesses in the community, host neighborhood competitions, or host a screening of the “Until 20” documentary at a local venue. Organizing an event is a great way to bring together your community for a compassionate cause. Some of the TOKC events taking place this month are:
- Local Broadcast of Until 20 – Friday, Sept. 7th, 8pm – 10pm
- Kendra Scott Gives Back Event – Saturday, Sept. 15th, 5pm – 8pm
- Crossing Over Basketball Fundraiser by Trevor Allison & Robbie Hilliard – Saturday, Sept. 22nd, 2pm – 10pm
If you have an event idea or want to host an event but need ideas, TOKC is here to help make this a success.
Volunteer your extra time in honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. You can make a child’s day by visiting their hospital and spending time with them. Many hospitals allow visitors to take gifts to the children to lift their spirits. Another way to volunteer is to help plan or work at a fundraising event. TOKC continually organizes events or hospital visits which volunteers can be a part of. We are thankful for everything our volunteers do and always have opportunities for new volunteers to get involved.
- M.D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital – Tuesday, Sept. 25th, 9:30am – 11:30am
- Texas Children’s Hospital – Wednesday, Sept. 26th, 9:30am – 11:30am
- Ochsner Hospital for Children – Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 9:30am – 11:30am
- Driscoll Children’s Hospital – Wednesday, Sept. 19th, 9:30am – 11:30am
Whether you choose to donate, shop for a cause, host an event or volunteer your time, your life will be changed when you give back. If you would like to find more ways to volunteer or host an event, contact us at 361-883-TOKC or emails us at TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org
Raising Awareness & Funds in Class
School is back in session, and whether you’re a teacher or student, you can get your classroom involved in fundraising activities to support local nonprofits like the Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation. Below are five ways to help raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer patients in the classroom
Host a waffle breakfast for students to fuel them for their day of learning. Last year, TOKC hosted an Annual DoThatOneThing! Waffle Breakfast and was a huge success, raising over $2,500 for pediatric cancer research. Have a station set up where students can make a donation for waffles and decorate them with toppings. For an added bonus, have a waffle decorating competition!
Selling candy is one of the easiest ways to fundraise for TOKC. You can purchase candy/chocolate in bulk at a store or through a company and resell it at your school. Other healthy alternatives to candy can range from popcorn to granola bars. All these snacks will be a guaranteed hit and are perfect to crave any lingering fits of hunger after lunch or recess.
Wear Orange Day
Offer students the chance to wear orange in place of their normal school dress code to show their support of TOKC. Students will often jump at the chance to take a break from the normal routine and brighten their day with some color. Students wanting to participate can bring a small donation for TOKC so they can rock orange clothes for the day.
Pie a Teacher
Liven up the school year by giving students the chance to pie their favorite teacher. If a certain amount of money is donated, students can pick a teacher to grace with pie in their face. To raise the stakes, offer the chance to pie multiple teachers and even the principal as the students pass multiple donation goals throughout the school year.
Set up a game day with outdoor and indoor activities. Students and teachers can purchase a ticket to participate and enjoy a fun afternoon. Offer small prizes to winners to raise the stakes of the games. No doubt that taking a break from the school day to do something fun will get students excited about participating.
However your class chooses to get involved, your donations go directly to advancing life-saving research and treatments for pediatric cancer. To make your fundraising go further, MD Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital will match donations benefiting TOKC dollar-for-dollar.
Some schools may need a school sanctioned program or organization such as TOKC’s DoThatOneThing! Councils to raise funds. If you would like assistance to help organize your summer fundraiser for TOKC or to establish a school sanctioned program, contact us at 361-883-TOKC or email us at TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org
5 Ways You Can Support Kids with Cancer
Summertime is finally here! This year, you and your family can turn your extra free time into fun-raisers for the Triumph Over Kid Cancer foundation! Below are five fun ways you can fundraise to support kids with cancer and help bring them joy this summer.
Lemonade stands, a summertime classic , are a great way to help raise funds for kids battling cancer. With a simple booth, lemonade of your choice and a sign showing support for TOKC, you are ready to quench the thirst of any lucky passersby. Help gather even more awareness for our cause by including information about our foundation on the cup or providing this brochure to customers!
Bake Sale or BBQ
Host your own bake sale like our supporters from the Kappa Psi, Epsilon Epsilon Chapter at Texas A&M University. From cookies to donuts, bake sales are an easy way to sweeten the lives of others, especially children battling pediatric cancer. Fancy yourself a pitmaster rather than a baker? Host a BBQ at a local park, selling food and drink tickets to park visitors.
A car wash is a classic way to help fundraise for TOKC during the summer heat. Work with local businesses on a busy street to use empty parking lot space for your car wash. Take your car wash up a notch by offering different levels of service for different donations. Advertise on social media with the location, suggested donation and hours. And don’t forget to check the weather for rain!
Water Balloon Fight
Cool off in the summer sun with a water balloon fight benefitting TOKC. Post flyers around the neighborhood and sell tickets to participate. You can even sell people their very own bucket of water balloons! Make it a competition between teams, a free-for-all or both! Step up the game by make an obstacle course with outdoor furniture.
Host a screening in a public park or work with a local business to create your own “drive-in” movie night. You can sell tickets for entry, popcorn and all the other memorable movie snacks. Choose a summer blockbuster or speak with TOKC about a free screening of “Until 20”, a documentary celebrating the life of our late co-founder, James Ragan.
However you choose to help this summer, your donations to Triumph Over Kid Cancer go directly to advancing life-saving research and treatments for pediatric cancer. If you would like assistance to help organizing your summer fundraiser for TOKC, contact us at 361-883-TOKC or email us at TOKC@TriumphOverKidCancer.org
How TOKC is Advancing Childhood Cancer
Shortly after our co-founder James Ragan was diagnosed with cancer, he celebrated his 14th birthday by having guests donate money instead of gifting presents. Little did we know that the 40,000 in donations given to M.D. Anderson and Driscoll Children’s Hospital was the start of the Triumph Over Kid Cancer Foundation. Now 11 years later, our foundation has raised over 3 million dollars for pediatric cancer research which supports the discovery of innovative new treatments.
During James’ battle with cancer he discovered how little funding was dedicated to pediatric cancer research – only 4% of federal funding – meaning many drugs used for treatment were decades old and nothing new was being done. In light of this finding, James took charge, hosting another toga party fundraiser and adding in a golf tournament, raising over $100,000 for an underfunded research project at M.D. Anderson.
As our foundation grew, so did our ability to close the gap in research funding for pediatric cancer. Our first major initiative was to raise $1.5 million to fund the Children’s Sarcoma initiative – a pool of money to fund new research projects focusing on pediatric cancer – which was matched by M.D. Anderson.
In 2014, we launched our second major initiative with M.D. Anderson, The Childhood Genomic Research and Sequencing Project (GRASP). GRASP provides funds for the only longitudinal whole genome sequencing project targeting pediatric cancers. This project is one of the most promising steps to providing key underlying knowledge and understanding into potential pathways to cures. In 2017, we completed our three-year pledge to raise $1.5 million with the help of our supporters.
Now in 2018, we are continuing to advance progressive research into pediatric cancers. Thanks to the success of earlier research through TOKC’s Children’s Sarcoma Initiative, we’ve pledged another $1 million to fund a phase II drug trial at M.D. Anderson. This research will evaluate if inhibiting EZH2 activity in osteosarcoma cells can prevent the development of metastatic disease, potentially bringing new life-saving treatment to patients with osteosarcoma.
Additionally, we’ve pledged $1 million to the Childhood Cancer Cell Therapy Program at Texas Children’s Hospital. This program aims to translate highly promising cell-based immunotherapy approaches for incurable and hard-to-treat pediatric malignancies into effective therapies.
With the help of our community of supporters, our foundation has the potential to fund research that will increase the survivability of kids with cancer. If you would like to help be part of this mission you can become a TOKC volunteer or donate to our foundation.
Celebrating our DTOT! Graduates
Graduation season is around the corner, and we cannot help but celebrate our graduating DoThatOneThing! Council members!
Despite busy school schedules, these high school seniors have selflessly spent countless hours fighting pediatric cancer and making a difference in the community. Whether they are gifting presents to patients at local hospitals or volunteering at our events, these kids express a level of kindness and generosity that changes lives.
Back in April at our annual DTOT! Council banquet, the students presented us with a check for $3,390. The triumph of their fundraising efforts puts our foundation one step closer to advancing innovative new treatments for pediatric cancer.
Now, we get the chance to recognize their academic success, presenting a total of 173 chords to graduating senior council members throughout the month of May. Our students reach across 9 different Corpus Christi high schools including: Foy H. Moody High School, Incarnate Word Academy, W. B. Ray High School, Veterans Memorial High School, Richard King High School, London ISD, Mary Carroll High School, H.M. King High School and Roy Miller High School.
Some of our DTOT! Council members were given scholarships as a special way to thank them for going above and beyond in their support of TOKC. The James A. Ragan Humanitarian Award and the James & Mecklin Ragan Award for Courage are meant to recognize and celebrate our students’ academic success and dedication to James’ vision.
TOKC is thankful for everything our DTOT! Council members helped accomplish. We congratulate them and know that they will continue to do that one thing wherever they go next!
The DTOT! Councils are generously sponsored by H-E-B Tournament of Champions.
Scholarship recipients are listed below. Asterisk indicates scholarships awarded by the Hicks, Layton and Ragan Families. All other scholarships were donated by H-E-B- Tournament of Champions.
The James A. Ragan Humanitarian Award
The James & Mecklin Ragan Award for Courage
Cord recipients are listed below:
Jeremiah Guy-Williams, President
Shelby Rivera, President
H.M. King High School
Raquel Longoria, President
Ava Constant, President
Gabby Ward, President
King High School
Lauren Solis, President
Landen Ross, President
Emily Clower, President
Derek Curtis, President
Jolea Cortez, President
Gilbert Trevino, President
Carlos Davila Jr
Chase Cortese, President
Juan De la Garza
Sam Susser, President
Sarah Marsh, President
Alicia Gomez, President
Antonio Noyola – Alaniz
Ashleigh Barrera, President
Michelle Nasser – S