Football, Faith, Family: The Tim Tebow Foundation is a Game Changer

Photo © Courtesy of Tim Tebow Foundation

By Raye Mocioiu

From the football field to the global sphere, Tim Tebow is a name that holds impressive weight. A two-time national champion, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round NFL draft pick, and a former professional baseball player, Tebow has a lengthy list of accomplishments. Even still, the football star is most passionate about his work with the Tim Tebow Foundation (TTF), which works to fight for those in need, bringing faith and hope in the darkest hours.

Since its inception, TTF has reached more than 90 countries to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Global Heroes sat down with the four-time New York Times best-selling author, speaker, and philanthropist to discuss the link between football, faith, and family, and how the TTF is impacting lives across the globe.

Global Heroes: Walk us through what led to the creation of the Tim Tebow Foundation. What inspired you to focus on bringing faith, hope, and love to those in need?

Tim Tebow (TT): When I was 15 years old, while on a mission trip, I met Sherwin, a boy in the jungles of the Philippines who was born with his feet on backwards. In his local village, Sherwin was believed to be cursed. His community viewed him as worthless—a throwaway. But in that moment, I knew he wasn’t a throwaway to God, and certainly not to me.

As we left Sherwin’s village, I knew I had a purpose beyond just trying to be the best athlete I could be. That day gave me a different perspective on what I was supposed to do and what I was called to do. I didn’t know how exactly, but I knew I would fight for children like Sherwin.

Throughout my time at the University of Florida, I gave back as much as possible at the University of Florida—helping to raise funds to support orphanages, encouraging patients in children’s hospitals, speaking in prisons, and more. When I started the Tim Tebow Foundation, the first thing we did was write the mission statement. I thought of Sherwin and every child worldwide who was viewed as insignificant. In the mission statement, we wrote, “To bring Faith, Hope and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”

Meeting Sherwin opened my eyes to see things and people in a way I had never seen before.

While I was set on becoming the Most Valuable Player, God was opening my eyes to show me that the MVPs I should be chasing the most were the Most Vulnerable People.

What are the main areas of focus for the Foundation? What drove the decision to focus on these areas?

TT: I believe that each of us has not only been saved from something but also for something. My interaction with Sherwin all those years ago was brief—just a few minutes. But that moment turned into a ministry. Over the past 20 years, there have been other moments where we have felt called, and God has reminded me—because I’ve needed it—many times of the calling I received that day. He’s repeatedly used stories, situations, and, most importantly, people to tug on my heart and remind me of His calling.

Whether it’s the moment my dad called me and shared that he had just rescued four young girls from the human trafficking industry, four young girls who were eventually sheltered at the first safe home TTF helped to establish. Or the moment when I saw my wife, Demi, holding abandoned babies in her arms—babies who had been rescued from trash cans and dumpsters but who were now safe at the TTF Promise House in South Africa.

© Courtesy of Tim Tebow Foundation

At TTF, we feel called to fight for the world’s Most Vulnerable People through four primary areas of focus: Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation, Orphan Care + Prevention, Profound Medical Needs, and Special Needs Ministry. TTF fulfills this calling through strategies and programs developed through prayer, research, and discernment that allow us to act upon transformational life ministry. Through our team and partnerships with like-minded organizations and ministries, law enforcement, and integral government entities around the globe, we expand, build, and catalyze life-changing ministry programs and projects.

Human trafficking and child exploitation are significant issues. How does the Tim Tebow Foundation address challenges in its anti-trafficking initiatives?

TT: The fight against human trafficking and child exploitation is daunting; there are so many challenges. But we know our faith is stronger, and that guides us.

Over the past year, there has been a lot of awareness and action around human trafficking, and for that, I am grateful. I believe human trafficking to be one of the greatest evils in the world that we face today. It’s hard to believe people are being bought and sold as if they were mere commodities, but it’s the truth.

Worse still is the epidemic of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), which is growing at an even faster rate than human trafficking. The evil of CSAM has been hiding in the darkness of our communities, our homes, and the internet for too long, and it’s past time we exposed it to the light.

With 85 million pieces of CSAM reported to the NCMEC CyberTipline in 2021 alone, we must come together to address this growing issue. While there are so many heroes working to identify and protect children who are being sexually exploited, they are simply overwhelmed, under-resourced, and outnumbered by offenders. Identifying one child is a labor-intensive process, as victim identification specialists need to piece together clues from the images that lead to a location, such as the country, city, and the specific area of the child. Only then can local law enforcement bring that child to safety and arrest the perpetrator.

We launched the unKNOWN campaign to invite others into the mission, prioritizing unity in bringing together law enforcement across the globe; training and equipping investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to take on this specialized work; and prevention so that we can keep pace with identifying victims.

With 42 safe homes and nine more in progress around the globe, we are deeply committed to supporting survivors’ long-term recovery through communities of care, providing them with tools for physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual healing.

© Courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation
© Courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation

Could you share a particularly impactful moment from the foundation's efforts in fighting against human trafficking and child exploitation?

TT: When a young girl who has been trafficked finally realizes that she is valuable—not because of her body but because of her inherent worth—that changes her life. But some stories hit you harder than others.

I remember being so frustrated and overwhelmed by evil when I was with a young girl who had experienced unbelievable trauma when she didn’t make enough money begging for her family. Her own mother, so angry at her, boiled out this young girl’s eye. She did this to make her daughter look worse, so she might make more money begging. But when she was put back on the street, she still didn’t make enough—so they sold her as a slave.

Thankfully, we were able to rescue her and bring her to a safe place. But her story shook me to my core. It’s hard to understand—this was done because that mother was struggling to such a degree that her child became worthless to her. She was willing to trade her child for a couple of dollars. I often think about that young, sweet girl and everything she’s been through and seeing her where she is now—enjoying her life, getting to go to school, and spending time with her friends. Stories like hers drive our hearts to reach one more, and one more.

© Courtesy of the Tim Tebow Foundation

What are the foundation's future goals and priorities for expanding its reach and impact?

TT: We will continue to fight for the world’s Most Vulnerable People in chaos and crisis. We had the chance to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of child sexual abuse victims. In this hearing, we requested Congress to prioritize these unknown children sitting in a global database by helping build a bigger rescue team. We need dedicated, specially trained victim identification analysts and hundreds of them. We must also invest in their training and give them the best tools available to rescue these children.

I truly believe we won’t gain ground in the fight against the exploitation of children or human trafficking until the offenders know there is an army of people standing against them. Prevention is critical to moving the needle in this fight. We must have conversations with our children to make offenders’ tactics ineffective. We need to advocate for legal change to protect more children globally.

Every single person has a chance to make an impact. Every single one of us can make a difference because we all have different backgrounds, different skill sets, different resources, and different opportunities to make an impact. When we come together, extraordinary things can happen.

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