“I wanted to start a program where I can give back to kids that may not have the resources to play football or access to elite coaching.”

That mindset was the motivation for D.J. Wonnum, linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings, to work with his family to create the Wonnum Brothers Foundation (the Foundation). Founded in 2021 with his younger brother, Dylan, an offensive lineman for the University of South Carolina, the Foundation is dedicated to uplifting and empowering youth through sports and education.

Primarily focusing on young athletes who excel in football but may lack the financial means to access elite coaching and training, the Wonnum brothers host an annual camp for players to learn from professional players through hands-on training, teamwork exercises, and life skills coaching. Children from third to eighth grade in Georgia and the surrounding states flock to the camp, eager to play with skilled and professional football players.

D.J. and Dylan Wonnum at the Foundation’s Camp

Their father and CEO of the Foundation, Dennis, saw firsthand how competitive football could be when D.J. and Dylan were growing up, and he wanted to level the playing field.

“You can see the difference in training children get,” Dennis said, “even from neighborhood to neighborhood. When D.J. and Dylan were in high school, I realized how challenging it is for kids to compete for scholarships to attend top schools. I had to provide extra coaching for them to play against other athletes. Now, I’m trying to do the same with the younger generations.”

From playing football as a child to starting at the University of South Carolina to playing professionally for the NFL, D.J. has always known he wanted to create a program to share his knowledge and expertise to pay it forward to younger athletes.

“When I was growing up,” D.J. said, “I wondered why players who went on to play in the league never returned to give back to the communities that built them. I knew whether I made it in football or a different industry, I would come back and help younger kids who may not have access to resources or coaching.”

“There are many kids that want to play a sport and ‘make it,’” Dylan said. “Just because they may not have the means to do so shouldn’t stop them from getting a fair shot.”

To both brothers, every child—regardless of their financial means—deserves access and opportunities to be successful. And it’s been a team effort to try to accomplish that goal.

By working together as a family, the Wonnums capitalize on each other’s perspectives to gain knowledge; they believe they stand stronger together.

“From an educational standpoint,” Dennis said, “there’s a lot that parents may not know when putting their kids into a sport like football. I had a lot of questions myself, and for a long time, I hadn’t looked around to find the answers. We work together to make the Foundation possible, so families have answers to their questions.”

Dennis, Consuela, and D.J. Wonnum, Rob Rumley, and Dylan Wonnum

Besides joining as a family to build the Foundation, the Wonnums credit their partnerships at William Blair to the Foundation’s start and future plans.

Renee Marongwe, William Blair lead philanthropic advisor, has worked closely with the Wonnums to understand their goals and aspirations and position the Foundation for success.

“It’s been an honor to work with the family,” Marongwe said. “Together, we’ve been thinking about how to both build the infrastructure and articulate ‘what’s next.’ I’m thrilled we can leverage the firm’s resources and expertise to catalyze the Foundation’s growth and impact.”

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with the Wonnum family to assist in the start of the Foundation,” said William Blair Wealth Advisor and Managing Director Rob Rumley. “It’s inspirational to see families like the Wonnums reinvest in their communities and use their skillset to impact these young athletes’ futures.”

Besides focusing on the technical skills of football, the Foundation focuses on five other commitments for camp participants: athlete empowerment, mentorship excellence, community engagement, life after athletics, and family unity.

Currently, the Foundation is prepping for this year’s camp in June, as well as planning new initiatives.

“We’ve been brainstorming potential programs,” Vice President of the Foundation Andre Mandeldove said. “From an athletic entrepreneurship workshop to mental health sessions, there’s a lot we can implement and introduce into the camp.

“We use the game of football as a foundation to advance our communities' youth. The Wonnum Brothers Foundation believes in holistically developing athletes on—and off—the field.”