KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As Tennessee’s historic football season continues, Big Orange fans showed that the Volunteer spirit remains alive and well by helping raise thousands for the family of a UT-Martin football player after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ian.
Hurricane Ian made landfall as a high-end Category 4 storm in late September, killing over 100 people and causing millions in damage. UT-Martin shared a GoFundMe on Oct. 14 with a listed goal of $1 to help the family of redshirt freshman AJ Marquez, a native of Port Charlotte, Florida, to help them rebuild.
Roughly $3,000 was raised after several days of fundraising. Ahead of Tennessee’s homecoming game against the Skyhawks, the UT-Martin Athletics Twitter account asked Vol fans to lend a helping hand.
“Hey #VolTwitter, we know you guys are great fundraisers. Is there any chance you would help one of our own who’s family lost their home from Hurricane Ian?” they wrote on Oct. 19.
“What do ya say #VolNation?!” Tennessee Director of Athletics Danny White wrote when he shared the post a short time later. The fundraiser topped $50,000 two days later.
“If I could have a single-file line of everybody and have conversations with every single person that donated, I would. I would do a whole week doing that, thanking everybody I could,” Marquez told WATE. “They didn’t have to do those things. They didn’t have to out of their way to donate. They did it out of the kindness of their heart. You know, nowadays I think we’re in a pretty dark place in the world right now. People aren’t as good and this is a lot of light on the darkness in the world.”
Many donors included words of encouragement like, “Best wishes from a Vol fan for your family to get their life back,” and, “With love from Vol Nation!”
The total exceeded $85,000 on the morning of Oct. 24.
In March, Tennessee fans helped raise over $350,000 for the family of Tennessee basketball player Zakai Zeigler after a fire destroyed their home in Queens, New York.