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Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation was formed in 2003 with a specific mission: To provide immediate, as well as, long term resources and support to individuals sustaining catastrophic spinal cord injury through activities associated with high school football.

Started in Texas, Gridiron Heroes has taken steps towards helping others nationwide. Rest assured that Gridiron Heroes will be there for the next family who finds themselves in this life-changing situation.

VATA Fill the Helmet Drive

In June 2008, Eddie and Chris Canales attended the South Padre Athletic Training Seminar as exhibitors to help educate athletic trainers about their organization. After the seminar, a group of valley athletic trainers pitched an idea to collect donations at area high school football playoff games and, "fill a helmet", with the donations. This would give athletic trainers the opportunity to educate the community about this amazing organization and raise funds for assistance at the same time. The Valley Athletic Trainers Association Board of Directors agreed to support the idea and the Fill the Helmet Drive was born. 

It has always been our goal to take a pro-active approach to helping athletes who sustain catastrophic spinal cord injuries, and the drive is a complete group effort. Following the lead of the Fill the Helmet Drive Committee,  athletic trainers from across the Valley help to organize the event; ordering shirts for volunteers, getting approval from athletic directors, publicizing the event on radio and television, and organizing student athletic trainers as volunteers.

Valley athletic trainers and their student athletic trainers attend high school playoff games throughout the Rio Grande Valley each year asking fans to "Fill the Helmet" with their donations. Volunteers are visible before the game, during the first half, and during halftime, in and around the stands, collecting donations. With the support of valley high school football fans and communities, these volunteers raise between $5000 and $6000 every year. Students and staff at individual schools have organized raffles, kept a donation jar in their training room, and held drives during their homecoming parades and other school events to raise extra funds for the FTH Drive. 

In the 6 years since it was started, VATA's Fill the Helmet Drive has raised more than $40,000 dollars to benefit the work of the Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation. The FTH Committee looks forward to continue supporting this great organization.

How Do I Donate or Get Involved?
  • At area football playoff games

    • Licensed Athletic Trainers and student trainers from throughout the Rio Grande Valley will be at area playoff games to collect donations. So when you see someone walking around your team's playoff game, don't hesitate to reach for your wallet or checkbook and make a difference!

  • Donate online now!

    • Click on the link below and you will be directed to our Pay Pal site where you can make a donation directly to The Gridiron Heroes Spianl Cord Injury Foundation in a few simple steps. You donation through pay pal will reference that you donated through the VATA Fill the Helmet webpage. 

  • Start a Fill the Helmet Drive at your school

    • You can start a FTH Drive at your next athletic event or during your playoff season! For more information click the contact tab at the top of the page and send us your questions.



Please take a moment to make a donation. These funds will help make a difference in the life of a young athlete and their family.


Where Does My Money Go?

100% of donations are given to Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation

The Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation uses the money you donate to provide:

  • Travel:

    • to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and doctor appointments for injured athletes, as well as their families.

  • Durable goods:

    • Hospital beds, wheelchairs, portable ramps, wheelchair accessible vans, and materials to convert homes to become handicap accessible.

  • Support system:

    • The Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation provides a support system to caregivers and injured athletes. This gives them someone to talk to who understands the struggles they will face on a daily basis.

  • Therapy:

    • The Gridiron Heroes Spinal Cord Injury Foundation hopes to provide therapy that is not covered by insurance and will improve the quality of life to all injured athletes who wish to participate.