Retired Colorado Rockies first baseman and Hall-of-Fame hopeful Todd Helton has found a new way to give back to the fans: By helping to free people of millions of dollars in medical debt.
Helton and the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt announced an agreement Monday that will erase over $10 million in medical bills for Colorado residents. Starting later this month, those benefiting from this gift will begin receiving letters in the mail saying that some or all of their medical debts are now "paid in full." The debts are also being eliminated as a charitable act, meaning there will be no tax ramifications for recipients.
"My good friend, Ryan 'Jume' Jumonville recently took care of $100M in medical debt for the people in his home state of Florida," Helton said in a statement. "I was inspired and wanted to do something similar for the people of Colorado."
Jumonville — or "Jume" as Helton calls him — is a philanthropist who primarily focuses his efforts on child health care, but has also provided homes to single mothers and scholarships for children of fallen veterans, and has helped install water wells in parts of Africa. He's also participating in the Colorado debt relief initiative.
But this isn't the first time the two former University of Tennessee Volunteers have teamed up to give back. In 2004, Jumonville and Helton donated millions of dollars to help cover health care program costs for employees at their alma mater.
"Medical debt is not only a financial burden; it also creates enormous mental health strain on patients and their families," said RIP Medical Debt president and CEO Allison Sesso. "Medical debt prevents people from seeking further care and is a social determinant of health meaning having debt undermines one’s wellness. We’re grateful to Todd and Ryan for lifting up this critical issue and directly helping Coloradans who need it most."
Helton is a beloved figure throughout Colorado, having spent his entire 17-year career at first base with the Rockies until his retirement in 2013.
He made his debut with the team in 1997 and went on to become one of the franchise's most iconic players, winning three Gold Glove Awards, four Silver Slugger Awards, and five All-Star Game appearances. In August 2014, the Rockies retired Helton's historic number 17, making him the first player in the organization's 26-year history to receive this honor.
Helton — who's now 50 — said as he's gotten older, he has realized that life becomes more about helping others and making the world a better place.
"It’s not only gifting money, but it’s how you treat people and how you interact in society," he said. "Obviously, medical expenses are sky-high these days. For just a regular family to be able to afford it is almost preposterous. We found a way we can help, and I said count me in."
While Helton didn't meet the 75% vote requirement to be included in the MLB's Hall-of-Fame Class of 2023, he came significantly closer than he had the previous year. Just 12 more votes are needed next time for him to join Larry Walker as the only two Rockies in Cooperstown.
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