Flint water crisis has Brandon Carr delivering for hometown

Flint water crisis eye-opening for NFL stars (3:17)

Ravens RB Justin Forsett and 49ers WR Torrey Smith explain how they got involved with the Flint water crisis and distributed goods during a recent visit. (3:17)

IRVING, Texas – Brandon Carr loves his hometown, Flint, Michigan. He remembers how vibrant it was, with the automotive industry dominating the city. He remembers Tuesday and Friday nights at the local high schools in the winter to watch basketball games.

“I’m a product of my environment,” the Dallas Cowboys’ cornerback said. “There are a lot of great memories and a lot of positive things about the Flint community. It pushed me. It molded me into the type of person I am today.”

And now he feels called to help Flint deal with a water crisis.

He has family that still lives there, including his father, brother, aunts and nieces. He has known about the issue since 2014, when he held his first football camp in in Flint, but the rest of the world has only recently heard about it.

Starting in 2014, Flint changed its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River. Without proper corrosive controls, lead from old pipes leached into the water, causing there to be elevated levels of lead that can bring about severe health issues.

While most of the focus in helping Flint has been on bringing drinkable water and filters to the area, Carr is focused on the long-term effects of being exposed to such high levels of lead.

Earlier this week, Carr donated $100,000 to create the Carr Cares Fund for Flint and another $10,000 to the Safe Water Safe Homes Fund that helps with the infrastructure problems.

Carr was home a few weeks ago and will be back in March. He will hold his football camp there later this summer as well.

“It’s my own backyard,” Carr said. “It’s affecting the children my foundation so eagerly tries to connect with, motivate and intrigue them to learn and be proficient readers. I’m all about our kids and health and this is jeopardizing the future of our community.”

His foundation, Carr Cares, has been in place since 2012 and helps youth with educational and physical fitness opportunities. He has opened two reading centers back home to help tutor and mentor students. His off-field work was recognized this year when he was named the Cowboys’ recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

But the water crisis has added significance.

“We’ve got a lot of bright spots with our youth,” Carr said. “Unfortunately they’re going through this process and crisis with the water and it takes away from the educational purposes because now people are fighting for survival and not worried about a lot of other things my foundation offers.

“This problem will be here until the pipes are cleaned up, and you don’t know how long it’s going to last. Generations are being born into this.”

The exposure to lead can lead to learning disabilities, speech problems and comprehension.

“As I read more and more and see the seriousness of the problem, at first I didn’t really know the long-term or short-term effects on children,” Carr said.

Carr has called on athletes from all sports to help with the water crisis beyond donating bottled water. He has spoken with Flint officials and wants to set up meetings with the NFL and the Cowboys to see if they can help.

“As Americans you would think you would get (water) without any hesitation of wondering where it came from and what’s in it,” Carr said. “It’s unfortunate that a community that supported me has to go through this crisis.”

And now he is giving more back to that community, financially and emotionally. This is more important than any tackle, interception or win.

“This is probably the most significant,” Carr said. “You’re talking about trying to save lives, save a community. I never would’ve imagined at age 29 trying to use a platform for this situation, but somebody’s got to do it. … I’m just worried about the long-term effects on the community and the children. I had a great upbringing. I’m a product of my environment being a product of Flint. People pushed me to do a lot of great things in my life and I want to give other kids this opportunity.”