The football field isn’t the only place Giovani Bernard makes an impact.
Bernard is playing out his second season in his home state of Florida for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But as the son of two Haitian immigrants, the running back’s family roots are very important to him.
So much so that he and his older brother, Yvenson, founded The Bernard Family Foundation to give back to their family’s native country. The foundation’s mission is to provide children in Haiti “a platform for success by providing opportunities for education, athletics and lessons in core values that will help support them throughout their lives.”
“Being a first-generation Haitian-American, I obviously have a lot of family that are Haitian. It’s something that’s very close to my heart and something that is part of who I am and why I’m here,” Giovani told NBC LX.
The foundation built a school in the community where Giovani’s mother, Josette Liuberis, was from. Josette died from thyroid cancer when Giovani was 7 years old. The school, which is named Le Jardin Vert de Josette (or “Josette’s green garden”), was created in 2014 to honor her.
“A lot of this is because of my mother,” Giovani said. “The school that we built and that we fund is in remembrance of my mother. She passed away when I was younger so I obviously just want to be able to make her proud by giving back to a community that she was from.”
Le Jardin Vert de Josette is situated on three acres of land in Tabarre. It initially supported 35 preschoolers but the student base has since expanded. The school itself has also been enhanced over the years, with money being raised to install solar panels for electricity and add a water filtration system to provide clean water.
“I just want to be able to help in any which way that I can and just provide a safe haven for those kids over there,” Giovani said.
Giovani was the first running back selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, going 37th overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Ten seasons and over 6,700 yards from scrimmage later, he’s still providing value to an NFL team.
Giovani had help along the way on his journey to becoming an NFL draft pick and 10-year pro. Now, he’s paying it forward through his community service.
“Being a football player is so secondary to a lot of things,” Giovani said. “I think, for me, I just want to be a good person. I want to be able to help in the community. Get out there, get my hands dirty and just help because I know with me growing up, I had a lot of people that helped me. So I just want to be able to pay that forward.”
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