Being in the NFL gives players a unique opportunity to use their platform for good, and give back to organizations and charities of their choosing. Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is one such player who, through the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation, has remained committed to helping youth, military, and others in need regarding their health, education, and wellness by funding services and programs through donations and fundraising events.
Recently, Hurst and his family visited Top Dogg K9 Foundation (TDK9), a non-profit in metro Atlanta that trains and provides service dogs to veterans returning from duty.
Through his foundation, Hurst donated $20,000 to TDK9 which is the cost of training a service dog. With his donation, the service dog, which will be named “Hayden” in honor of Hurst, will be fully trained and will be paired with a military veteran in need. The organization is searching for a dog that features red hair, similar to Hurst’s.
Hurst was sent in the direction of TDK9 by former Falcons’ offensive lineman, Air Force veteran, and Air National Guardsman Ben Garland, who has been an advocate for the military and veteran communities during his NFL career.
“We can thank former Falcon and the NFL’s biggest veteran’s advocate Ben Garland for introducing Hayden to Top Dogg K9 Foundation,” Blake Rashad, TDK9’s Founder told The Atlanta Voice. “Ben is always reaching out to get involved with veteran initiatives, engaging Hayden to get involved in our annual Dog Walk for Mental Health, an event held each May to raise funds and awareness for veterans in need of service dogs. Hayden just gets it. He is open and sharing about the struggles he has had, understands what others are going through and jumped in completely with his heart and soul.”
TDK9 Foundation stands on the principle that Veterans Deserve Outstanding Generosity and Service (VDOGS). It supports this principle by rescuing, training and pairing suitable K9s with disabled veterans for a happier and healthy life.
In addition to supporting our military and veterans, Hurst and the Hayden Hurst Family Foundation have a strong emphasis on improving the mental health of today’s youth. Hurst has been open about his own mental health and substance use disorder recovery and is using his platform to help break the stigma around mental health issues.