New York Jets donating $1 million to aid relief efforts in Ukraine

NEW YORK -- Suzanne Johnson's thoughts often turn to her late parents when she sees the heartbreaking video clips and news reports out of Ukraine.

Sometimes it's too much to take. And she just desperately wants to help.

It all hits close to home for Johnson, the wife of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. Her mother, Marie, was born to Ukrainian immigrant parents, while her father, Stefan Ircha, was from Ternopil -- a town outside of battle-rocked Kyiv -- and emigrated by himself to the United States when he was 21.

"My mother passed away 10 years ago and my father two years ago, and he must be turning in his grave right now," Suzanne Johnson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"This would've killed him. It's just incredulous and it's really the only word I can think of for what's happening today."

The Jets announced Tuesday a $1 million donation to help aid the people of Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24. The donation will be split among several organizations over the next year, with each receiving $100,000.

"I wanted to do my part in helping and to bring awareness because this is a problem that's not going to go away," Johnson said.

"The money, they're going to need for a long time for rebuilding and for the aid. It's going to be there. So I just hope we could start something going. The world has been quite generous, and I just hope it continues to be that way."

Johnson was born in the United States and grew up in a Ukrainian neighborhood in New York. She has contributed to Ukrainian organizations for several years, and put her contacts to use when she and her husband were deciding how to help.

The first organization receiving a donation from the Jets is Plast Scouting USA, which was founded in 1911 in Ukraine and is focused on urgent needs in the country, such as first-aid kits and medical equipment and supplies.

"What we wanted to do was to find these organizations that have boots on the ground," Johnson said, "and have ways of getting the stuff to them right away."

In a statement provided by the Jets, Plast Scouting USA chairman Andrew Kozak thanked the team for its donation.

"The funds will be put to immediate use in the purchase of critical medical supplies to treat the many heavily wounded Ukrainians," Kozak said, "along with cutting edge medical technology such as portable, wireless ultrasound equipment."

In addition to a monetary donation, the Jets organized an opportunity for staff to donate medical supplies to help aid relief efforts. The organization will match all donated supplies in an extended effort to assist victims and their families.

"These donations will positively impact Ukrainian refugees and their families with essential supplies," Woody Johnson said in a statement. "The need for resources is continuously growing. Our thoughts continue to be with the innocent lives who have been affected and all those who are suffering."

Several sports organizations and individuals have also assisted in the aid and relief efforts over the past few months.

FIFA, soccer's governing body, donated $1 million to humanitarian efforts. Tennis star Roger Federer dedicated $500,000 to establish access to continued schooling for Ukrainian children. The four Grand Slam tennis tournaments and the sport's governing bodies jointly made a donation of $700,000 to aid humanitarian relief efforts. Washington Commanders owners Tanya and Dan Snyder donated $300,000 to response efforts.

"You see it in movies and you hear about it, but you don't see these things unfold on your television on the news channels," Suzanne Johnson said.

"But now the whole world is seeing it and it's just so crazy. The visual is what has really hit this country and brought it together to fight this fight, helping a peaceful nation in the year 2022 that just wants to live and prosper.

"They've destroyed the country and it'll take years to rebuild and it's just so senseless that I'm at a loss for words. It's heartbreaking."