Lots of professional athletes say they want to give something back to the community some day. Jan Vertonghen has actually done it. In the quiet period between the end of the Premier League season and the start of this summer’s World Cup in Russia, the Tottenham Hotspur center back has publicly debuted his new charitable foundation with the goal to benefit children who are hospitalized and recovering from illness and disease.
The aim of the Jan Vertonghen Foundation is to create “a world that allows children to use their full potential. A world where children can play together, regardless of age, origin, sex, physical or mental limitations. A world where every child feels special.”
The Foundation will work with hospitals and communities in Belgium to create spaces where ill children can play, be creative, and have fun — spaces where they can, at least for a little while, forget about the fact that they are recovering from sickness or disease. These centers will not only include athletic activities, but also focus on art and creative expression, and will give out awards for children’s dedication. In addition, the foundation will also create spaces for all children, sick or not, to be active, encouraging play and exercise.
Vertonghen says on the foundation website that the idea for this foundation was inspired by a trip to a children’s hospital a few years ago.
“Years ago I visited the Amsterdam hospital VUmc. They built an amazing playground for patients on the two top floors, called VUmc Kinderstad. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what I saw there: all these gravely ill children who went back to being carefree children amidst the toys, the cuddly toys and the games. Right there and then I decided I would set up something similar one day.
“I now decided to launch the Jan Vertonghen Foundation around the time of my 100th international match, my 100th game for the Red Devils, for Belgium.
“For me the Foundation is a special way to appreciate how fortunate I have been, being a football player, and to give something in return for all the support I have received from Belgium during my football career. I am now a father of two healthy children myself and I cannot imagine a better goal than dedicating myself to children who are not so fortunate.”
The foundation’s debut took place at the newly minted Jan Vertonghen Federation Playground in Temse, a city north of Brussels. That playground includes not only outdoor areas for kids to be active, but also includes state-of-the-art electronics activities designed to engage modern kids.
This is a proud moment for Jan, and while the foundation is not directly tied to Tottenham Hotspur, this is something that all Spurs fans can rally around and support. This is Vertonghen’s legacy past football — something that will follow him not only past his Tottenham career, but will hopefully be an organization that will continue to help children long after Jan hangs up his boots.
You can learn more about the Jan Vertonghen Foundation and even find out how you can donate at the Foundation’s English language website.