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Philanthropy: This hits home: Mannings spur crusade for healthier Mississippi

Published on Thursday, January 15, 2015

By: Gary Pettus at 601-815-9266 or gpettus@umc.edu.

Published on January 15, 2015

Football legend Archie Manning rallied hundreds of UMMC supporters to help the people of his home state during this summer’s launch of the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi.

Accompanied by his wife Olivia, the patriarch of the state’s First Family of Football announced the campaign to boost UMMC’s commitment to improving Mississippians’ health on July 23.

The entire Manning family has loaned its name to the donor-supported program, which was unveiled at the event held on the Medical Center campus and attended by several state and local officials.

This new partnership between the Mannings and UMMC will raise money to attack heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension, cancer, dementia and other health-care challenges confronting the state.

“Olivia and I believe, with the support of people from Mississippi, we can help this medical center and this state do great things – even more than they’ve already done,” said Archie Manning, a Drew native who lives in New Orleans, where he quarterbacked the NFL’s Saints after his Ole Miss career.

“We know that people in Mississippi will help. All we got to do is kind of get them lined up.”

By establishing the fund, he said, he and Olivia hope to encourage others to face this challenge “for their own family and friends and for the people of Mississippi who need it the most.”

Among those on hand to endorse the campaign was Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, whose daughter was treated for cancer at Batson Hospital for Children when she was an infant.

“Now I have a vibrant 9-year-old who is doing amazing things and is cancer-free,” Yarber said. “So I want you to know, you and your family, Mr. Manning, that this is personal for me… I’m grateful for what you’re doing. … ” 

This month, UMMC commenced a public awareness campaign for this long-term project, which extends the philanthropic bond between the Mannings and UMMC.

“What the Mannings are magical at doing is bringing people together,” said Dr. Dan Jones, chancellor of the University of Mississippi.

“(T)hey will bring us together in purpose for making a difference . …”

The link between UMMC and the family includes An Evening with the Mannings presented by Bank Plus, a series of fund-raising events held between 2007 and 2011 that collected more than $2.9 million and funded the relocation and improvement of the pediatric clinics – renamed the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics.

Because of this connection, Dr. James Keeton, UMMC’s vice chancellor for health affairs, asked Eli Manning a year ago if he would help raise money for the expanding pediatric heart program.

“He said, ‘No,’ ” Keeton recalled.

“I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ He said, ‘No, I want my whole family involved.’

“And I said, ‘Oh, now we’re talking.’ ”

That family includes Olivia Manning, a Philadelphia native whose charitable work was honored in 2011 by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

“They are the most real people I’ve ever dealt with – totally committed to doing something for Mississippi and its health,” Keeton said.

The state consistently faces high rates for obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, infectious disease, low birth weight and other health issues that donations to the fund will try to find answers for.

Donations to the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi can be made online, on the fund’s web site at www.manningsforhealth.org, or they may be sent to Sara Merrick, Office of Development, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39216. For more information, call Meredith Aldridge at 601-815-7469.