Hue Jackson's emotions ran high on a special day for the Browns head coach, his foundation, the Salvation Army and all of those who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into combating human trafficking.
Jackson, his wife Michelle, and members of the Hue Jackson Foundation and the Salvation Army cut the ribbon Tuesday on a new residence for human trafficking survivors. Located on the third floor of the Salvation Army's downtown headquarters, the dedicated wing can host up to 12 adult female survivors, all of whom will have ongoing access to the following services provided by The Salvation Army: mental health counseling, medically-supervised drug and alcohol detoxification, rehabilitation and counseling, group therapy and 24-hour nursing care.
Nearly one year to the day of his foundation's launch, Jackson was beaming. He had so many people to thank at a checkpoint of sorts in his goal to empower human trafficking victims in one of the biggest cities in a state that ranks fourth in the nation in human trafficking.
"I think it's outstanding," Jackson said during an emotional address inside the Salvation Army's chapel. "Hopefully this will be a start of some place these ladies know they can come and be safe and get them whole to back to where they need to be.
"This is bigger than football to me."
The Hue Jackson Foundation provided $250,000 toward the project. A portion of those proceeds were raised in June, when more than 100 Browns employees joined Jackson for a jump in Lake Erie, making good on the pledge Jackson made a year earlier following his first season with the Browns.
Jackson and everyone else who spoke at Tuesday's ceremony made one thing clear: This is only the beginning in their collaborative goal. So far in 2018, law enforcement has identified 90 victims of human trafficking in the Cleveland area. Hundreds of others, though, remain embroiled in a situation that "leaves them with nothing but fear, shame and guilt," Jackson said.
"Human trafficking victims and their families lose more than than the rest of us will ever understand," Jackson said. "And it happens in plain sight
The Hue Jackson Foundation's goals go beyond Cleveland, as it soon hopes to distribute educational materials and videos to all 32 NFL teams -- coaches, player personnel, staff and players -- about the dangers of human trafficking and how to combat it.
Jackson, Dee Haslam, and over 100 Browns staff members jumped in Lake Erie Friday afternoon, raising $30,000 for the Hue Jackson Foundation, which supports efforts to combat human trafficking in Northeast Ohio.
"I think it's everywhere and I don't think people understand the signs of human trafficking," Jackson said. "The more education we can give to everybody, the more we will be able to understand the signs of human trafficking. The NFL is an unbelievable platform to do something that way and make a huge impact and a huge impact in human trafficking."
Tuesday marked a time to celebrate all that's been accomplished in one year, but Jackson made it clear there is so much more he wants to do in an area that elicits just as much passion as he gets from coaching.
"When I took this job, my family wanted to do something to make a difference in Cleveland," Jackson said. "It's been tremendous. I can't thank the Salvation Army and my staff enough to all the work that's been put into this to make it a reality today."