This week, Greg Olsen announced his retirement from the NFL after an incredible 14-year career. One of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends in NFL history, Greg played nine seasons for the Carolina Panthers from 2011-2019, earning three Pro Bowl nods and two AP All-Pro Second Team designations. 

A beloved player in the Carolina community, Greg’s talents on the field can easily be matched by his dedication outside the stadium. Since 2012, Greg has been scoring touchdowns for pediatric patients at Levine Children’s Hospital through The HEARTest Yard initiative, which supports children with congenital heart defects. For him and his wife, Kara, the cause is personal as their son T.J. was born with a severe congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Born with his twin sister Talbot in October 2012, T.J. underwent the first of what would become three open-heart surgeries and a few other heart procedures over the next twoandahalf years. 

“From our first meeting at Levine Children’s Hospital, we immediately knew that this was the place for us,” shared Greg. “From that day until today as we sit here, the care that we’ve gotten from the medical team, from the support system, and from the administrators has been world-class. We don’t only feel thankful for the doctors and nurses who actually touched our child – we just feel very thankful for the entire network, for the entire support system that this hospital and this healthcare system brought to our family at a time of need; a time of crisis. That’s been a big inspiration. That’s a very key part to why we feel as passionate as we do about supporting and giving back to not only this community, but specifically this children’s hospital. It has a special place in our hearts – it always will. We’re always going to try to find every possible way to impact the families that will come down the road.” 

Kara and Greg Olsen’s gift of $2.5 million in 2019—the largest commitment to date from Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation to Levine Children’s—established The HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center, which opened in December 2020. The 25,000 square-foot pediatric cardiovascular and congenital heart outpatient clinic is located in the Medical Center Plaza building adjacent to Levine Children’s Hospital. The clinic features a dedicated fetal echocardiography lab, 25 patient rooms, and additional technology and advancements to meet patient needs. The clinic also features a separate space for adults with congenital heart disease, enabling the Levine Children’s and Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute to provide specialized and personalized care for patients –  from before birth through adulthood. 

On behalf of everyone at Atrium Health Foundation who has had the pleasure to work with Greg (who is a dedicated member of our Foundation board), and on behalf of the patients whose lives have been impacted by the Olsen family’s compassion and generosity, we wish Greg a happy retirement. We know he will “Keep Pounding” to improve the lives of patients at Levine Children’s for many years to come. 

Pictured January 29, 2021: Greg Olsen visits The HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center for the first time since its opening in December 2020.