Oprah gets an assist

BY TABARI DOUGLASS McCOY

A true professional athlete never stops learning.

Bengals left tackle John Jackson's continuing education is reflected in his numerous accolades on and off the field.

A two-time Pro Bowl alternate in 1994 and 1996 before arriving in Cincinnati this season, Jackson's career serves as a testament to what can be accomplished through constant study and perseverance. But where his love of knowledge is best seen is in his efforts off the field.

Along with wife Joan, Jackson is co-founder of the John & Joan Jackson Foundation, an organization focused on helping educate children in all walks of life.

Jackson's desire to see others achieve their dreams has served as part of his own education about himself and will continue into the new year. According to Jackson, that idea simply expanded into what has become the couples' foundation.

"We started out with me just calling up 100 friends and raising $10,000 to give to Habitat (for Humanity) and Boys and Girls Club (in Cincinnati)," Jackson said. "I've been blessed with so many good opportunities. I try to pay back as much as I can."

But, if not for an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997, it all may have simply remained a dream.

Jackson's wife told him about a segment called "Oprah's Angels," where Winfrey showcased people who donated spare change to help children throughout the country.

Jackson made up his mind to do something to help Winfrey's organization and in unprecedented fashion.

"I donated $5,000 in nickels and dimes," Jackson said. "It was just a way of giving back and (a) great opportunity to go on the show and meet her (because) I think she's a special person.

"She literally cried when I came out with the wheelbarrow and

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I was touched. That's the basis (of) how I got my foundation started," Jackson said. "I was always contemplating doing something (but) that kind of put me over the top."

It's the Jacksons' connection to their native Cincinnati that has played the biggest part in the foundation's work and development.

"I grew up in North Avondale and I used to belong to that same Boys and Girl Club, so it meant a lot to me to contribute something back to them," Jackson said. "We wanted to base it in Cincinnati because that's where we both had roots and we still want to contribute something back to the city."

The foundation works with several organizations in Cincinnati and abroad, including the Junior Seau Foundation in San Diego, The Poise Foundation in Pittsburgh and The Boys and Girls Club of America.

Locally, the couple's foundation has built a home for a family, donated $25,000 for computers for the Boys and Girls of Greater Cincinnati, and has given $18,000 to Cincinnati Public School seniors.

The Jacksons' payback has been great for not only themselves, but also those who are fortunate enough to be around them. Such as Albert Metz, executive director of the foundation.

Metz said, "They are truly involved with the organizations we give to on a daily basis," Metz said. "They do this not because someone else says they should, but because their hearts tell them to."

For more information, write to Albert Metz at the John & Joan Jackson Foundation at 1802 Carew Tower, 441 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. To contact the foundation via e-mail, send all inquires to JacksonFoundation@juno.com or call (513) 721-6521.

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