Miami Dolphins outside linebacker and defensive end, Jason Taylor continues to have a successful football career in the NFL spanning over a decade. He’s played in the Pro Bowl, and was the 2007 NFL Man of the Year. In 2008 Taylor took his talents from the field to the dance floor to participate in season 6 of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars franchise. He not only took on the unfamiliar task of dancing, but excelled at it, becoming an instant fan favorite and nearly took home the champion’s Mirror Ball trophy.

Aside from achievements on the field, and dancing abilities, there is another layer of the Miami Dolphin that many people don’t know about, that’s Jason Taylor, the philanthropist.

In 2004 Taylor and his wife, Katina, started the Jason Taylor Foundation with the simple concept of giving back to young people. The Foundation’s mission is to develop and support programs that aid in the personal growth and empowerment of South Florida’s youth in need. The program’s focus is on health care, education and quality of life.

Improving the reading levels of young people is something that the foundation takes seriously. In 2009, the organization developed the Jason Taylor Reading Room, a multi-faceted, after-school program, which is free and open to the public and designed to address the increasing illiteracy rates among Miami’s inner-city youth.

The facility sits behind the Miami Dolphins stadium, and provides the location for 50 to 70 kids to gather on a daily basis. They convene for two hours to work with certified teachers and a personal case manager assigned to getting the students up to appropriate reading levels.

This year on Labor Day the Jason Taylor Foundation will hold its 7th annual Cool Gear for the School Year event. The event coincides with the concept that when students look good they feel good, and in turn will be confident and empowered to be better students. Taylor understands that when students have to endure not having presentable school clothes, they are unable to focus in the classroom.

The executive director of the Jason Taylor Foundation, Seth Levit says that many fans and community members see Taylor as successful NFL star and former contestant from ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, but are unaware that he grew up with humble beginnings.
The Cool Gear for the School Year event has a personal meaning for Taylor.

“Jason remembers growing up and wearing hand-me-downs and clothes from the Goodwill that didn’t fit right. Kids teased him and grew up self-conscious, so he is aware what many low-income students go through.”

Every year an Old Navy of the greater Miami area shuts down the store to the public to allow Taylor and his friends to do a little good. The foundation brings in 60 kids and give them each $300 dollar Old Navy gift cards to do their back to school shopping.

“For some of these kids it’s the first time they get to put on clothes that have a tag on them, and haven’t been worn by someone else first. Our hope is that they not only have fun that day, but that they ultimately go back to school with us having helped them eliminate a distraction that doesn’t need to be there, and ultimately they can be less self conscious and more attentive in the classroom,” said Levit.

The foundation pairs each student up with a celebrity from the Miami area to do their shopping. Some prominent athletes and musicians that have taken part in the event include Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Dan Marino, Tim Hardaway, Trina, Rick Ross and Trick Daddy.

When the Jason Taylor Foundation started out, there organization had hopes of creating a youth center that could serve as a hub for kids that need educational services and guidance. The reading services program has been a big step for the foundation. Levit says, as the foundation grows they hope to intensify the focus on the education and empowerment component of the programming.

“Jason believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed in life, but when that opportunity comes, they darn well better be ready for it. And he strives to make sure that these kids are ready for each and every opportunity.”

Through the Jason Taylor Foundation, the professional athlete is living forward, and continues to do so by changing and empowering the lives of young people.