Before evangelical sports icon Tim Tebow wowed on American football fields, he called the Philippines home.
The Denver Broncos quarterback now hopes his celebrity status will help build a children's hospital in his birth country. His Tim Tebow Foundation announced yesterday that it would team with CURE International and develop a surgical facility in the island nation's Davao City.
"The Philippines have always had a special place in my heart," Tebow said in a statement. "I'm excited to be a part of this hospital that will bring healing to thousands of children who would not otherwise have access to care."
Born to Robert and Pamela Tebow in 1987, Tebow was born in the Philippines' Makati City during his parents' Baptist missionary work there. Though he eventually emigrated to the United States and reached NFL stardom, his experiences overseas have caused the football star to help those less fortunate.
The Tim Tebow Foundation took shape out of this desire in 2010, and has since touched children around the world by constructing hospital playrooms, supporting orphans and aiding seriously-ill children. Mark Knecht, CURE's CFO, said his organization was thus a good fit for the Foundation as it sought to provide medical treatment to impoverished youth overseas.
"We share the same heart for kids and sharing the Gospel," he said of the partnership. "Even though medical infrastructure is available in many parts of the Philippines, these children and their families are so poor they can never hope to afford the type of care needed. Access to Tim's high profile platform will allow us to heal more kids and impact more lives than ever before."
Erik Dellenback, president and executive director of the Tim Tebow Foundation, said his group hoped to break ground on the new medical building in January 2012 and complete it by mid-2013. He said the "Tebow CURE Hospital" would have 30 patient beds and treat such maladies as club foot and bow legs on the island of Mindanao.
"These are simple surgeries we take for granted in the U.S.," Dellenback said. "The reality is that we hope to show people in the Philippines that there is faith, hope and love out there. We want to show them that the Western world cares about them and that they're not a deserted nation."
Knecht said the hospital wouldn't just heal disadvantaged patients but show them Christ's Gospel too. He said such a mission spoke to Tebow given his Christian upbringing. As an adult athlete, Tebow is renowned for praying on and off the field, sharing Bible verses with fans and openly discussing his faith.
"At CURE we talk about a 50/50 ministry where medical and spiritual care is equally important," Knecht said. "The medical care is our vehicle to share the Gospel with the patients and families we serve."
Dellenback said the project would cost an estimated $3 million to be raised by donors. His foundation and CURE, he said, believed they could treat up to a third of patients free of charge in charity operations. Tebow would take to social media next month, he added, and request a dollar from each of his online followers in an interactive internet fundraiser.
"Filipinos are excited someone like Tim cares about their country," Dellenback said. "When you bring the Gospel and its stories of hope somewhere like that, it's well-received. There is fertile ground over there for good news."