Hamilton (Ohio) – Running backs usually take a handoff.
Yet Ickey Woods did the handing earlier this year, presenting the Lamar Hunt Trophy – emblematic of the American Football Conference championship - to his former boss, Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown. The thrilling 27-24 overtime win on the road at Kansas City (a final score Woods predicted) gave the Bengals their first trip to the Super Bowl since his rookie year in the NFL.
As the Bengals prepare to defend their AFC crown, who better to kick off the Fitton Center for Creative Arts’ 2022-2023 season?
Woods’ appearance marks the return of the region’s premiere luncheon speaker series - Celebrating Self - at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, in the Fitton Center’s Carruthers Signature Ballroom.
While the legendary running back still owns about 30 Bengals franchise records - including most rushing touchdowns by a rookie with 15 scores that made the Ickey Shuffle a nationwide sensation – Woods’ reach extends far beyond football.
He will share the personal and poignant story of losing his son to asthma and how he and his family turned pain into a purpose with the Jovante Woods Foundation.
“The severity and seriousness of his asthma problem was something we didn’t realize,” Woods said. “What we learned after is that it’s a particularly bad problem for African American families. There just isn’t a lot of information in that community. Our foundation is focused on educating people so other families don’t have to go through what we did.”
A promising athlete at Cincinnati’s Princeton High School, Jovante Woods was only 16 when he died.
“Out of my three boys, he probably was the one who had the best chance to play in college and maybe go to the league,” Ickey said. “It wasn’t just football; he also had a 3.8 GPA and was just a good kid all around.
“I didn’t know how wonderful he was until after he passed. He was loved. His mother and me, of course. His siblings. But not just his family. To see how many people came out to support us when he passed, how many people told me stories of how he helped them in practice or in class, it was both painful and gratifying to hear. I miss him every day.”
Jovante may be gone, but his legacy lives on. Not only has the foundation named for him donated more than $100,000 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma research, treatment and education, not only has it given away more than $20,000 in scholarship funds to high school students in pursuit of college degrees, but because he was an organ donor, Jovante himself helped four patients in need.
Ickey admitted that was a challenge for him.
“I didn’t understand at first,” he said. “You have to remember I was in shock. I was grieving. I was angry. And here come these doctors who wanted to cut up my boy. But they helped us to understand you can’t take it with you. I’m proud of the fact he knew that way before we did.
“That’s another way we’re trying to educate people. We’ve probably saved a few lives in the foundation. I’ve had a few kids who have told me they didn’t know anything about organ donation but signed up when they heard our story.”
The recent success of the Bengals helped amplify the story.
“I’m loving it,” Woods said of his return to national attention. “It brings us older guys back into the spotlight. It’s nice for the fans who have waited so long. They were loud in the Jungle. They were loud in Kansas City. They were loud in L.A. (for the Super Bowl).
“For me, though, being able to connect with this team and to see the fans here and around the country has been another opportunity to tell Jovante’s story and help grow the foundation.
“My ultimate goal is to have this become the face of asthma. We’re growing every year.”
Woods’ Celebrating Self appearance includes a buffet lunch provided by Fitton Center catering partner – Two Women in a Kitchen – and live music performed by local saxophonist Jake Daniels. Tickets are $19 for Fitton Center members, $25 for the general public.
For any questions, additional information or to arrange an interview, please contact Mark D. Motz, Fitton Center Marketing Manager, at email@example.com or call at either 513-863-8873, ext. 130 or 513-515-0957 (cell).
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
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