I recently got the opportunity to speak with Mr. Ickey Woods about The Jovante Woods Foundation and a little bit about his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. It is an honor and pleasure to get to share with you now, the interview that Mr. Woods so generously granted myself and Stripe Hype.
Stripe Hype: Tell us a little bit about the Jovante Woods Foundation.
"Ickey Woods: I lost my 16 year old son to asthma four years ago. He had been dealing with asthma since he was two and we, as parents, thought we knew a lot about asthma. It turned out that we didn’t know as much as we thought. When we started doing so research, we found out that it was the fastest growing disease with the least amount of research money being spent. We wanted to help find a cure and a better way to treat people with asthma. We found out that eleven people a day die from asthma and there was really nobody out there doing anything about it. We wanted to raise money for research and educate people about the seriousness of asthma, so we formed the Jovante Woods Foundation.Our three main goals are to raise money for asthma research, education about organ and tissue donation, since our son chose to save four lives by checking yes on his driving permit application, and education. Our goal is not only to educate about the seriousness of asthma but my son was a straight “A” student, so we give out a scholarship to deserving young men and young women, who not only excel athletically but academically as well, it is called the Jovante Woods 3.8 To Be Great Scholarship, which we gave out six scholarships this year. We have donated over $100,000 to Cincinnati Children’s Asthma Division and $30,000 going off to college this year."
SH: You held your fourth annual Fairways for Airways Celebrity Golf Classic this year. Tell us how that came about and how it went this year?
"IW: The golf outing started about four years ago. We started it with the American Lung Association and we were able to break out on our own this year. It was a great thing for us as far as getting ourselves out there and we were able to raise over $50,000 this year. We sold out and hopefully we will sell out again next year. We had a lot of fun this year and had celebrities come in from out of town, Yancy Thigpen, “Bruh-man” Reginald Ballard from The Martin Show, and Art Still. We also had a lot of in town celebrities, Barney Bussey, Joe Kelly, James Brooks, Anthony Munoz, and Jim Breech. It was great to have my guys there to back me up and do a great thing as far as raising money for the cause."
SH: Going back to the 3.8 To Be Great Scholarship, How did that scholarship come about and how important is it to continue to recognize the students, who are not only successful in the field, but also in the classroom?
"IW: It came about with my son being a straight “A” student and we wanted to do something to not only honor his school and his work in school, but we wanted to carry it on and reward kids who not only excel athletically but academically, and committed themselves to the classroom to get good grades. We wanted to reward them with a chance to further their education. We have been able to do that through the scholarship program, and we have been able to help roughly 26 students go off to college and be a part of their learning experience."
SH: How did the partnership come about with LifeCenter Organ Donor Network, I know your son did a great thing by becoming an organ donor and saved lives, what do they do in order to put the word out about organ donation?
"IW: When someone checks yes on their drivers license or permit, and a life threatening situation happens, in our case, the hospital pronounced our son brain dead and we had decided to take him off life support system. They took us to a room and we met the people from LifeCenter and they told us that Javonte had check yes on his driver permit, that he wanted to be an organ donor.I thought that they were coming in and saying they were getting ready to take his organs and I said a few choice words to them in the moment. They said, no Mr. Woods, we are not telling you were are taking his organs, we are just letting you know he checked yes on his driver permit to be an organ donor. That calmed me down a little bit and I talked with his mom, who told me that they had talked about it but she didn’t know he had checked yes, that he wanted to be an organ donor.We asked each other what we wanted to do and we decided that if he had checked yes, then he wanted to be an organ donor and we honored that. He was able to save four lives with his organs and help with his tissue. It was through that, that we were able to form this partnership with Donate Life, and so we go around to schools and encourage kids who are about to get their drivers permits to check yes to be an organ donor."
SH: With Bengals Nation being bigger than just Cincinnati, How can they get involved with the Jovante Woods Foundation? Do you have any upcoming events?
"IW: We always have upcoming events and people can check the website for those. We also have a memorabilia shop on our website, jovantewoodsfoundation.org, and what we have going on throughout the city. We are also not only doing things in Cincinnati, but also in my hometown in California, in Fresno, where the money there is going to Fresno’s Children’s Hospital.We are also hoping to do some things in Vegas, where I went to school (UNLV), so we want our foundation to be a national foundation, not just an Ohio foundation. We are striving to, in the next five year, be the face and voice of asthma, so when you think of asthma, you think Jovante J."
SH: Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you have asthma as well didn’t you?
"IW: Yes, yes I grew up with asthma. The misnomer with asthma is that people that have it at a younger age don’t deal with it much anymore, and think you can grow out it. You never grow out of it, it just goes dormant and you never know what might trigger an asthma attack. We try to encourage people, even though their symptoms have gone down and they are not using their inhaler as much, don’t stop using medicine because you never grow out of asthma, it just goes dormant."
SH: How did that affect your playing career with the Cincinnati Bengals?
"IW: I really didn’t deal with it much. There were a few times I had to use an inhaler but mine didn’t trigger as I got older, it just went dormant. Every now and again it flares up and I grab the inhaler and medicine but other than that it’s been pretty much under control on my end. We never take it for granted because you never may know what may trigger an attack, so you need to be ready."
SH: You got to announce the Bengals second round draft pick at this years NFL Draft in Chicago, what was that like for you?
"IW: For one, I am very honored and humbled that the Bengals asked me to announce their second round draft pick. It was great to go there to Chicago and get to talk to a few of guys, not only that I played with, but I watched growing up, and see some of the great players I admired while playing the game and to meet the younger guys coming into the league and getting to represent the shield.It was a great opportunity for me to go there and be in the spotlight again, with the commercial and had a great time. I got to announce Jake Fisher as our second round draft choice and I think the Bengals did excellent in the draft this year. Hopefully they can get over that playoff hump."
Thank you to Mr. Woods for his time and his efforts to bring a great cause to the forefront to help others in their families loss. Please visit the Jovante Woods Foundation website, jovantewoodsfoundation.org and see where they will be next and how you can help with Cincinnati and Fresno Children’s Hospitals Asthma Research Divisions in finding a cure. You might even find some memorabilia to add to your collection and help a great cause in the process.
*A special thanks to Chris Schafer of Catcrave.com for making the interview possible.