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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Future for McNair foundation uncertain

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair trained thousands of kids at youth football camps and collected truckloads of donations for hurricane relief before he was killed, and it's unknown whether his foundation can continue similar charity work after his death.

Fans took solace in remembering McNair's constant involvement in communities in his home state of Mississippi and in Tennessee. But his foundation no longer has his financial backing as his family goes to court to settle his estate, which includes business dealings and real estate holdings in two states.

Don Weatherall, who helped McNair operate the foundation, said it's too soon to say whether the charity can continue with work that ranged from helping at-risk teens and Boys and Girls Clubs to providing for families devastated by natural disaster. Weatherall said he hopes the foundation will continue with the help of family members who had always been involved.

He'd be out there carrying boxes and working hard, just as hard as the next guy in line. I think that really earned him a lot of respect from people and made people want to help out even more.

-- Don Weatherall, who helped
Steve McNair run his foundation.

"[The camps] were always a nice time for the McNair family to get together," he said. "Mechelle would be helping out in the cafeteria, and his brother Fred ran all the camps. It was a family event."

Police say McNair's mistress, Sahel Kazemi, 20, shot McNair to death at his condo July 4 before killing herself.

Weatherall said McNair started holding a football camp in Mississippi in 1999, but it wasn't until 2001 that the Steve McNair Foundation was created and started to expand. More than 8,000 kids have come through the three camps each summer in recent years, he said.

The camp charged a fee, though at least 70 percent of the kids were sponsored by the foundation and attended for free, Weatherall said.

According to 2007 financial reports, the Hattiesburg, Miss.-based foundation raised more than $709,000 between 2003 and 2006.

During 2007, the foundation spent $99,000 on football camps for high school students and at-risk children in Tennessee and Mississippi. Another $37,000 was spent on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

In 2005, McNair teamed up with then-Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and filled a tractor-trailer with relief supplies bound for Mississippi. Later that year, Titans fans showed up in droves at the stadium, eventually filling 20 tractor-trailers and donating at least $80,000.

"He'd be out there carrying boxes and working hard, just as hard as the next guy in line," Weatherall said. "I think that really earned him a lot of respect from people and made people want to help out even more."

In the past, the foundation also made donations to the Boys and Girls Club in Covington County, Miss., and the Bethlehem Center in Nashville, which works with at-risk youth.

Anthony Law, a coach at White's Creek High School near Nashville, often worked at the camp and said McNair constantly was there.

"He didn't just give the camp and then let the foundation run it," he said. "He'd be there in the morning when the kids arrived and he'd be there for lunch. He was out on the field, throwing passes to kids."

McNair would often bring fellow Titans players like Vince Young, Keith Bullock, Eddie George and Jevon Kearse to the camps. Law said the foundation once bought 120 pairs of football shoes for kids who couldn't afford them.

McNair mentioned after he retired in 2008 that he wanted to spend even more time with the foundation, Weatherall said.

"For a lot of these guys it is easy to just write a check, but it's another thing for him to take a couple hours out of his day to actually see these kids," Weatherall said. "And sometimes that meant more to the kids than maybe a contribution into a fund."

Law said he expects one of McNair's sons will take over the foundation and run the camps.

"I don't see it folding," he said. "I just see it growing even bigger and carrying on with its mission."