J.J. Watt started an online fundraiser Sunday to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey with a modest goal of $200,000. On Friday, the amount donated surpassed his updated goal of $15 million.
His new goal: $20 million.
Watt tweeted as the outpouring of support surpassed the $14 million mark, thanking those who donated for their generosity. He also said he will leave the fund open and see how high the total can go.
“The initial night, we broke the site, we couldn’t figure out how to get it back up and we somehow found the CEO’s phone number and called him at his house and got him out of bed,” Watt told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. “He helped us fix the site and it got rolling.”
Arnold Schwartzenegger, who said he contributed $100,000 to the effort. “You can set new goals,” Schwartzenegger said in the video, “because you are the champion and I admire you. … You are the best.”
The Houston Texans defensive end said he already has a plan of action to begin using the money to help those affected in flood-ravaged Houston.
“My first phase is what I’m doing is this weekend, my teammates and I have semi-trucks rolling in from out of town that we filled up,” Watt told CNN’s AC360. “We have about nine semi-trucks that are going to come to town. And we have those all filled with stocks, supplies, water, food, clothing, everything. So, we’re going to give that out this weekend.
“I’m not just here for the initial fundraiser,” Watt later added. “I’m here to make sure that we take care of you down the road.”
He made an initial $100,000 donation on Sunday when he started the relief effort, and he has been steadily raising the stated goal as donations have surpassed it. The fund has received $1 million donations from Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who partnered with Walmart on her gift.
Watt said he has been in consultation with others on how to best use the money, using Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a playbook for what to do and what not to do.
“I talked to some of the companies that helped out over there [in New Orleans] just to kind of get a glimpse of what went wrong, what went right, and how do you think we can do it best this time,” Watt told AC360. “And I’ve gotten some really good information and the best thing that people have told me so far is take your time to make sure you do it right.”
Others in the NFL also are raising money to help those in need in Houston.
The Dallas Cowboys raised more than $2 million during a 90-minute telethon broadcast live locally and on social media, with owner and general manager Jerry Jones making a $1 million donation to The Salvation Army’s effort to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The owners of the Texans and Baltimore Ravens each pledged $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston’s flood relief fund; the NFL Foundation matched the Texans’ offer. The owners of the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and New York Jets each announced $1 million donations to the American Red Cross.