JOHNSTON, S.C. — Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Antonio Hamilton is giving back to his South Carolina hometown in a big way.
Hamilton, who grew up in Johnston, donated $30,000 to a first grader who needs a heart transplant, WDAF reported.
Lamere Johnson, 7, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before birth, the television station reported.
“I hate posting stuff like this, because I don’t do (it) for people to get attention or notoriety from, I don’t even know how the different news stations picked this up,” Hamilton said in a tweet. “I have been blessed and it was on my heart to give and with the help of all you guys we were able to do so and Lamere is going to get a new heart.”
Johnson has had three open-heart surgeries, including one when he was five days old, the North Augusta Star reported. His second procedure occurred when he was 6 months old, and his last one came when he was 3 years old, his mother, Contessa Culbreath, told the newspaper.
“They told me before they did all of the surgeries that in the future, he may need a heart transplant and this is where we are at now, seven years later he’s needing a heart transplant,” Culbreath told the Star.
Culbreath is all too familiar with the heart condition.
“I lost a daughter with the same heart condition as Lamere,” Culbreath told WRDW.
The Children’s Organ Transplant Association has been spearheading the donation drive. The goal was $65,000, but thanks to 246 donors, more than $68,000 has been raised as of late Saturday.
Johnson is currently on a waiting list at the Medical University of South Carolina for his heart transplant, which costs $500,000, the Star reported. Culbreath said the money being raised by COTA will be used for transplant-related expenses, bills -- since she will not be working -- and housing and travel expenses during the time Johnson receives his transplant.
“It’s amazing how the community has come together to help him to help us. Lamere’s just basking in the fame. He’s just enjoying it,” Culbreath told the newspaper. “His school has raised money, all of the schools in Edgefield County have raised money for him, they’ve donated to his COTA account, they’ve gotten other people to do fundraisers – it’s amazing.”
One fundraiser has been Hearts for Lamere, a service project created to get students involved, the Star reported. It was organized by Makinzie Corley, a pre-kindergarten assistant at Johnston Elementary School. The school is selling paper hearts for $1 each, and the response has been overwhelming, Corley said.
“Hearts for Lamere took off like a rocket to the sky,” Corley told the newspaper. “I mean, it has been truly unreal watching how quickly these blessings have been coming in.”
Johnson has been excited to learn he will get a new heart, WDRW reported.
“My name is Lamere. I’m getting a transplant soon so I can play football,” Johnson tells his friends. “I’m special.”
Hamilton, meanwhile, said all the proceeds from his jersey sales, T-shirts and posters were donated toward Johnson’s new heart, WDAF reported.