When Ron Jaworski was growing up outside of Buffalo, his family mantra was that everyone was in this life together, and giving back was what was expected.
“Hey, it snowed 190 inches a year. If you didn’t depend on your neighbor and he didn’t depend on you, you would have never gotten through that,” says the former Eagles Super Bowl quarterback and current multifaceted local businessman.
His biggest annual event is the Ron Jaworski Celebrity Golf Challenge, which regularly brings sports stars, past and present, to Harrah’s Resort this year on May 19 and 20. The monies raised from the Golf Challenge go to youth organizations, particularly those that combat childhood obesity, which has become, Jaworski says, his obsession of late. And that is much of the drive behind his foundation, Jaws Youth Playbook, which is committed to improving the health and wellness of at-risk kids throughout the Philadelphia area.
“There is no reason kids—no matter where they grow up or what they are interested in otherwise—should be sedentary and obese,” he says. “We have a responsibility to stop what is becoming an epidemic of obesity among children. The more kids exercise now, the more they will later in life, and that means an end to diabetes and heart problems, and other illnesses.”
One of Jaworski’s favorite youth groups is the North Philadelphia Aztecs, which includes a youth football team and their cheerleaders, based in the Hunting Park section of the city. Jaworski got connected with the Aztecs through his work with the United Way and the NFL.
“These are kids who are growing up in a tough section of the city, with a lot of temptations,” says Jaworski. “But when I visit or bring them to Lincoln Financial Field or an Arena Football League Philadelphia Soul game, they are so appreciative.”
Jaws Youth Playbook has given funds to help maintain the team and the cheerleaders, and build a new field. More than 200 kids from ages five to 15 are associated with the Aztecs each year.
“All year long, I try to get folks to donate their used sporting equipment. They don’t have to throw it all away; someone will appreciate getting to use it,” says Jaworski.
Kathryn Ott Lovell, the executive director of the nonprofit Fairmount Park Conservancy, which is coordinating the Hunting Park renovations, says Jaworski has been a Philly sports fan’s dream.
“He came out and saw the park, and he immediately asks how he can help,” says Lovell, noting that, at $1.3 million, the renovation of the field is no small item. Jaworski’s foundation gave grants and connected the group with others, like Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who donated money to help with the project.
“I have been impressed with the whole Jaworski family. You see what they are all about, and it renews your faith,” says Lovell. “He doesn’t have to help underprivileged communities, but he obviously wants to leave a legacy, and we hope to help him that way.”
Even though golf at a premier course like Atlantic City Country Club can seem far away from the fields at Hunting Park, Jaworski sees it as a big step toward his fundraising goal.
“For years I would simply write a check if someone asked, then forget about it,” he says. “But if you go to a golf tournament, you get a nice meal, maybe you play a round with a celebrity, and you have fun with your donation. Maybe you write a bigger check, and maybe you do it again. Everyone wins.”
Former Eagles star turned announcer Mike Quick is an annual participant, and he loves that Jaworski gives him the opportunity to give back.
“Jaws is all about paying it forward,” says Quick. “When you have been fortunate the way he has been and I have been, you have to look at these kids who have sparkles in their eyes the way we did when we were kids. That way, the game teaches you a whole lot more than just a game.”
Jaworski agrees. “I had a wonderful career and have been fortunate afterward. If I can help put smiles on kids’ faces like the Aztecs, then I feel even more fortunate.”