Your Community Partner: Gifts of the Heart

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Tackling Heart Disease One Wedding Gift at a Time

By: Hollie Deese

When Tennessee Titans player Justin Staples asked his college sweetheart to get married, her decision to say yes was about as easy as it was for them to ask their guests to make a special, personal donation to an organization dear to both of them.

“In a moment that people typically use for themselves, we saw it as an opportunity to do something for others,” Amber said in a release.

Instead of buying them wedding presents at their June 2016 Chicago wedding, guests were asked to make a contribution to the American Heart Association (AHA). Justin’s father died in 2010 from heart disease, and Amber’s grandfather died after a stroke in 2015. So in honor of the memory of their lost loved ones, the pair made their unique request.

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 12.49.57 PM“This wasn’t a generic donation for us, as it really hit close to home,” said Justin. “Both of our families have been affected by heart disease and stroke, and it really meant a lot to donate to their cause.”

Staples was signed to the Titans practice squad in September 2014 and most recently promoted to the active roster in December 2016.

Prior to playing professional football, Justin received a scholarship to play football at the University of Illinois in 2007 but was a redshirt freshman. Justin’s father, Lenson, had also played college football and advised his second oldest of nine children not to transfer.

“My father was able to invoke my competitive nature by reminding me that I had never quit on anything prior to what I was experiencing, which gave me a renewed motivation for that season,” Justin said.

And Amber still sees the incredible example his father set for Justin.
“Since we were freshman in college, Justin always spoke very highly of his father and talks about how much he looked up to him,” she said. “There was not a big decision made without Justin consulting with his father about it first. Justin truly leaned on his dad as his mentor and confidant; especially when it came to football.”Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 12.51.07 PM

The Staples also support the annual American Heart Association’s Greater Nashville Heart Walk to continue the fight against heart disease and stroke, the nation’s #1 and #5 killers. Funds raised at the Nashville Heart Walk contribute to American Heart Association research, education and community health programs.

“The American Heart Association is an organization that works to advance the studies of heart health and promote the preventative measures against heart disease,” Justin said. “No family should have to experience the pain of losing a loved one prematurely.”

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