Greg Olsen has been a bright spot for the Carolina Panthers this season, notably by providing the team its only touchdown last week against the Los Angeles Rams. But the Pro Bowl tight end has been busy off the field this season as well, helping out with various charitable causes.
His most recent venture is a weeks-long Xbox NFL Player Charity Challenge set to benefit a cause that’s close to his heart, the HEARTest Yard. It’s a nonprofit the Olsens set up in 2012 to assist families with children born with heart defects, like their son T.J., who was treated at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
On Tuesday, Olsen said he was glad to escape the election night frenzy to play Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller in Madden 17 at the Microsoft store in SouthPark. Olsen beat Miller 7-3 thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run from Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart.
Olsen, considered the underdog going into the tournament, admitted he doesn’t play a lot of Madden but has learned a bit from his 5 year-old son, Tate: “He’s really good. I had him give me some pointers today.”
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Olsen advances to the second game of the three-part tournament Nov. 29 at 8 p.m., again at the Microsoft store, where he’ll play Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. That event is also open to the public. The overall winner of the tournament gets $51,000 and Microsoft products for their charity.
Olsen tries to schedule nonprofit work during the offseason, but it’s not uncommon to see him out in the community these days for his charity work. Earlier this week, for example, Olsen hosted a tailgate and food drive to benefit Loaves & Fishes. Last month, he hosted a yoga class at OMB to benefit the HEARTest Yard.
The HEARTest Yard, which is part of Olsen’s Receptions for Research nonprofit, has raised at least $1.2 million for Levine, Olsen said. The fund donates up to $30,000 to families for in-home nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, among other services. The Olsens set up the fund after T.J. was born with a heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“Everyday we’re trying to find more ways to grow it and grow the awareness of pediatric cardiac disease and raise funds and all those things. In this community, we’re very fortunate to have this hospital and unfortunately, a lot of families need them,” Olsen said.
In week 13, when the Panthers play the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL is allowing players to wear cleats promoting a charitable cause. That’s when you’ll see Olsen donning a pair customized in red and blue, colors symbolizing congenital heart disease.
“It’s the same concept as the breast cancer awareness, where everyone wears pink. But this is a little more specific to each guy for one week. We’re definitely looking forward to it,” Olsen said.