This is the cover story of the November 25 issue of Gameday Magazine which can be found at the Lincoln Financial Field Pro Shop as well as local ACME supermarkets.
When Zach Ertz visited Haiti with Mission of Hope in the spring of 2018, he came back home with a new perspective.
It was a trip he uncertainly declined to attend when quarterback and close friend Carson Wentz invited him in 2017. After Ertz saw photos and heard inspiring stories from his teammates, he knew he wouldn't miss his next opportunity.
So, Ertz traveled with Wentz and other teammates to Haiti in April. Simply put, he said the whole trip was "special."
Ertz volunteered in impoverished areas, providing new resources and feeling the gratitude of the local community. He saw kids play soccer with a water bottle on a dirt field littered with divots and potholes that "no American athlete would touch" and provided them with proper sporting equipment. He experienced a new level of togetherness and joy he hadn't felt before.
"You see a ton of people with no material items compared to what we have in the United States and you just see people that are experiencing joy, experiencing community, loving one another, and it really touched me," Zach says. "It really convinced my wife and me to start a foundation because we can do a ton of good here in the United States and it's something we're really excited about."
Zach and Julie began the Ertz Family Foundation with the mission of spreading hope and love to less fortunate individuals through youth sports, education, and family. The foundation was established in the summer of 2018 and has already made an impact in communities in Haiti, Northern California, and Philadelphia.
It began with a trip to Haiti and an enthusiasm from Zach that was obvious and contagious.
"Just the way that I was talking about it, the way that it impacted me, I think she could tell that it was a very special thing," Zach says. "Starting a foundation was something that had been on our hearts for a long time so that kind of put us over the edge."
The Ertzes know they have a unique opportunity with their foundation. Julie is a star midfielder for the U.S. Women's National Team. She was named the 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year and won the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015. Zach is a Pro Bowl tight end who caught the winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII. With their combined following, they can make a huge impact.
"We both understand the platforms that we have right now are very special," Zach says. "The platform we have now probably isn't something that we'll have forever so we feel like we can do a lot of good and doing it together is something that we really wanted to do.
"We didn't want it to be the Zach Ertz Foundation or the Julie Ertz Foundation. We wanted to do it as the family," he adds. "We want it to be all-encompassing, we want people to join our family, and hopefully change some people's lives."
So far, the Ertzes are off to a good start.
Eagles players traveled to Haiti with Mission of Hope in April. Take a look at all the photos from their trip.
The foundation began with a kickoff gala in the couple's home region of Northern California. The event raised $200,000 which surprised both Zach and Julie.
Of that money, $80,000 was donated to Mission of Hope – Haiti to fund college scholarships for more than a dozen orphaned high school graduates in Haiti. Another $50,000 went to the College Is Real program in Richmond, California. It enabled Kennedy High School, located in an underserved area of Richmond, to begin a college readiness program for first-generation students.
The Ertz Family Foundation began its work in the Philadelphia area with a $10,000 donation to Kensington High School after the football team lost all its equipment from a break-in. For these early events that established footholds in three communities, the NFLPA named Zach the Week 5 Community MVP and donated $10,000 to the foundation.
"We want to be something in Philly where people can lean on us when they're in need," Zach says. "When we do help someone, it's not like we're going 50 percent, we're trying to go 100 percent, not just with funding but attention, and that's why we like being in Philadelphia."
The foundation also has an ongoing fundraising initiative called Catches for the Community. Fans can sign up to offer a donation for each catch Ertz makes this season. Zach and Julie personally have pledged $100 per reception for the regular season. And there have been a lot of them.
Ertz ranks third in the NFL with 77 receptions. He became the first tight end in NFL history to have 75 or more catches through nine games and he leads all NFC tight ends in receiving yards with 804. He is also the first Eagle ever, regardless of position, to record 75 or more receptions with 750 or more receiving yards through nine games.
But to Zach and Julie, athletic achievements pale in comparison to what they want to accomplish in communities through youth sports, education, and family.
"Education and sports are pretty much the two main pillars," Zach says of the foundation. "We want to be a helping hand to people who are less fortunate than us and provide them with resources to get a great education or get really great coaching – just to even give them hope and for people to understand that there are people out there that truly care about them, that love them for who they are, and want to be a resource to help them get to where they want to go."
The Ertz Family Foundation is run as advertised – by the Ertz family. Zach and Julie are very hands-on with the foundation while Zach's mother, Lisa Ertz, who has worked previously for two foundations, serves as its director. Zach said it takes a village and "we've got a very good village."
A tight-knit, family-based group at the helm allows the foundation to have a clear mission. Zach said that faith and love for each other are "essential to our perspective on everyday life." The foundation operating under those values has made it more rewarding.
"It's definitely something that's helped our marriage, it's something that's fun to do together, and it's something that we're able to plan out together," Zach says. "Our relationship wasn't built on sports. Our relationship was built on loving one another first and sports come second."
The next step for the Ertz Family Foundation is the Philadelphia launch at a gala at Lincoln Financial Field on November 29.
Zach and Julie will host the event with proceeds going toward their City of Love Fund that will benefit Philadelphia-area charities. Zach and Julie have felt the love shown to them from the City of Philadelphia every day. With the good done by their new foundation, they hope to show that love back.
"We consider Philadelphia home now," Zach says. "Obviously, we grew up in the Bay Area, we met in the Bay Area, but Philadelphia is home. Philly has embraced me since I got here. And the thing about Philly I was really drawn to is how much of a family it is, how much people take care of their own in Philadelphia, and that's all we want to do."