LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Over the course of more than 15 seasons in the NFL, Jason Witten established himself as one of the best tight ends in the league, earning millions of dollars and awards, including the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
It's a remarkable life course that was far from decided in childhood.
"My mom went through a lot of domestic violence. Fortunately for me and my brothers, our grandparents stepped in," Witten said.
For his first 11 years, Witten and his mother were victims of domestic violence. It was only after an intervention from his grandparents that his future came into focus.
"My grandfather was that mental mentor in my life. He showed me what a man looked like," he said. "And he walked the walk. He didn't just talk the talk."
Witten doesn't just talk the talk either. He's throwing his weight and money behind SafeNest, which supports victims of domestic violence.
His $10,000 grant will help bring male mentors into the shelter, something SafeNest CEO Liz Ortenburger says can help kids understand domestic violence doesn't have to be their future.
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"One of the ways that you do that is you introduce those children to role models and people who have also grown up in difficult circumstances but have overcome," Ortenburger said.
"That creates planning and pathways within their brain and their mindset that says 'I recognize this is how my family grew up but it doesn't have to be that way for me,'" she explained.
Witten recognizes that there are many kids across Las Vegas who are experiencing domestic violence right now and that the pandemic has only made their situation worse. He hopes his story proves no matter how hopeless and trapped a child may feel, there is always hope.
"You can't do it by yourself. You have to have resources and people that believe in you and encourage you and help you see that tomorrow can be a brighter day," said Witten.
To learn more about SafeNest visit safenest.org, where an online chat is available for help. You can also call or text their 24/7 hotline at 702-646-4981.