New Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper officially arrived in Charlotte shortly before the 2018 school year began.
And because he’s the son of a teacher, and the father of one, he had an idea about one of the first tasks he wanted to accomplish.
Tuesday, Tepper and his charitable foundation, in tandem with several of the Panthers players’ foundations and personal contributions, donated 12,000 backpacks to 17 schools in Charlotte.
Tepper introduced himself to a gymnasium full of screaming, happy children at Thomasboro Elementary on Tuesday morning. He ran down a center aisle and slapped hands with the kids who crowded each side. As he announced his intent to give every child a backpack, Tepper said, “You are the future.”
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“Every kid needs a lot of supplies,” he said after the event. “There is a shortage of supplies and teachers don’t have enough money for supplies. You guys know the situation in the Carolinas. ... So whatever we can do to help that out, it’s great.”
Tepper used to walk to his own Pittsburgh elementary school as a kid, carrying his lunch and any items for the day in a brown paper bag. In high school, he sometimes hitchhiked to get to school — “which is not a good thing to do, people,” he joked. “Don’t hitch rides.”
Tuesday’s event featured a partnership between Tepper’s foundation and the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation, the John M. Belk Endowment, the Cam Newton Foundation, the Torrey Smith Family Fund and personal contributions from Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen and kicker Graham Gano. In addition to the 17 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools served, a school in Kannapolis (Smith’s hometown) also received backpacks.
“Anytime the head of an organization as large as the Carolina Panthers is out in the community, it certainly gives a lot of credence to everything the players are trying to do in the community and supporting that,” Jansen said Tuesday afternoon.
“It helps when you have the leader of your organization doing the same thing, and encouraging guys to be involved. I imagine that the Carolinas will be better for the amount of energy, time and thought that goes into (the Panthers) being involved in the community and seeking to do good.”
Tepper also mentioned doing more to help alleviate the burden on teachers in both North and South Carolina in his introductory press conference in July. He said Tuesday he wants to increase the Panthers charitable events in both states.
“I tell you what,” he said about his future plans in that avenue. “You’re not going to see less.”