CHARLOTTE – Tight end Greg Olsen has had a lot of memorable moments throughout his decorated NFL career.
But what he and his wife Kara are doing for the pediatric healthcare community is right up there at the top of the list.
The Olsens recently provided Levine Children's Hospital with a $2.5 million gift to help build a next-generation pediatric cardiovascular and congenital heart outpatient clinic. The HEARTest Yard Pediatric Cardiac Center is scheduled to open in 2021.
"Due to some unbelievable partnerships, our ability to fund-raise and obviously Kara and I contributing personally, we've been able to fund at a high level. As more money was raised, we continued to ask the hospital how we could expand," Olsen said. "This is where the path the led.
"We want to make sure we deliver on our end because we lived it – we have a unique perspective that can add a little insight to make this place the best it can be."
Olsen's son T.J. was born with a congenital heart disease, and Greg and Kara have been dedicated to helping other families affected by similar issues ever since.
The latest project is considered "a game changer" for children in the Carolinas.
"I think ahead to the day we stand in there and they open those doors for the first time," Olsen said. "Families will now bring their kids in trying times to a world-class facility that you know you played a small role in bringing to life.
"We're very fortunate that our platform and our story has resonated with a lot of people who want to join in our efforts."
According to the Atrium Health Foundation, 40,000 children are born with congenital heart disease every year, and conservatively, 90 percent will survive and 40 percent of the survivors will face neurodevelopmental challenges, such as speech or fine motor delays, anxiety, depression, academic performance delays or socialization challenges.
Support from the Olsens will provide access to neuropsychologists, education specialists, mental health professionals, dietitians and more innovative therapies for patients.
"While most know Greg Olsen as a Pro Bowl tight end for the Carolina Panthers, we at Levine Children's know him and his wife, Kara, as visionary leaders and champions for pediatric congenital heart disease," said Dr. Stacy Nicholson, president of Levine Children's.
It all started with the birth of T.J., now 7 years old, whose big-picture outlook remains very positive.
"What's come from his experience … out of something so negative, so many positives have come from it," Olsen said. "And he's getting old enough now to where he's starting to appreciate it and understand that's he's the focal point of our passion towards this project.
"It's really special."
Don't forget, Olsen is hosting his annual HEARTest Yard 5K on Saturday, with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting Levine Children's Hospital.