It’s All About the Kids

It’s All About the Kids

Words by Mary Alayne B. Long

As the official charity of The Saban Family Foundation, Nick’s Kids Foundation is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children. These two childhood sweethearts who met in seventh grade science camp, Terry and Nick Saban, have always had a heart for giving back. They were both raised in Fairmont, West Virginia where Mrs. Terry’s father was a coal miner and Coach Saban’s father owned a gas station. Through the years they have worked together to build a life and a legacy that puts others, most especially children, first. Their foundation was established in 1998 as a way for the Sabans to honor Coach Saban’s father who was a long time Pop Warner youth football coach. His favorite quote, “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child” (Dr. James Dobson), provided a jumping off point for the formation of this organization and became their motto as the Sabans carried their philanthropic work with them from east Lansing, Michigan to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Miami, Florida and now to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 

I’ve been fortunate over the last couple of years to switch gears with the readers of Good Grit Magazine and it is an honor to be allowed to share with all of you so many of the charitable causes that are so very near and dear to my heart. I truly love every single one of the causes I’ve shared with you here on these pages but I feel I must tell you—this is one I care about deeply. My husband and I have been involved as core members for a number of years and that’s not only because we roll with the Tide (which of course we do), but more importantly because we both see the importance of doing all you can, where you are, with what you have. Nick’s Kids Foundation stands out for me in that way because of the broad reach they have and the multiple causes they support. The innumerable organizations they serve in and outside Tuscaloosa are all carefully chosen for the important work they do and it is easy to see how their generosity has touched the lives of so many different people from completely varied walks of life. And Nick’s Kids stands out in another way as well. How many nonprofits can honestly say that 90 cents of every dollar they raise goes directly into the hands of those they help?  They can. And that’s huge. 

With the work done by their volunteers and supporters, and of course with the pivotal role played by Mrs. Terry and Coach Saban, Nick’s Kids Foundation has been able to extend its reach to hundreds of deserving organizations over the last twenty-five years, and to date they have given away over $11 million. As of 2023, some of their larger completed projects include career tech classrooms at the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center, along with playgrounds at Tuscaloosa River Walk and The Alberta School of Performing Arts. At the Brewer-Porch Children’s Center they completely renovated the Short-Term Treatment and Evaluation Program building, and they also continue to support the YMCA of Tuscaloosa. Of course, some of their most known work can be found in the nineteen Habitat for Humanity homes they’ve built in honor of Alabama’s eighteen National Championship titles and one of their 2021 SEC Championships as well. They broke ground on the twentieth house (the Sugar Bowl House) in January of 2023. It is not uncommon to see Alabama football players showing up to help with each build and you can always count on the coaches’ wives to swoop in at the end and landscape each lawn to perfection. 

As a major donor for the Tuscaloosa All Inclusive Playground they contributed $200,000 to this special project, which is a part of the popular Sokol Park. Open since 2021, this two-and-a-half-acre playground is geared toward the special needs community and accommodates all children, including those with disabilities—even the children in wheelchairs. 

Their current project, The Saban Discovery Center, will combine the Children’s Hands-On Museum and the Tuscaloosa Children’s Theatre, allowing these two groups to be housed in one location. This will be a huge step forward for the arts community in Tuscaloosa and will combine STEAM programs while creating a unique and interactive learning experience for all the children it serves.

I’m a small town girl and understand the reality of growing up in a world where there don’t seem to be many choices for a future career. When you grow up seeing teachers, doctors, bankers, lawyers, nurses, farmers—and not much more—you don’t readily understand that there are so many more career choices you can work toward. And while each of those careers is admirable and important, early exposure to a broader range of ideas that let children know they can be anything from an engineer to an event planner, are so important. Mrs. Terry is very passionate about the work they’re doing and she is quick to share why this legacy project is so important to her.  “In my senior year of college, I took an elective class called, ‘What is happiness?’ The object of the class was to come to a consensus definition of the word happiness. It wasn't easy to get everyone to agree on a definition, but after many days of debating, we came up with this: ‘Happiness is freedom, and freedom is having choices.’ That's what an education gives you—more choices in life. The Saban Center will provide opportunities for our youth to be exposed to the many choices and occupations in the world of STEAM!” Nick’s Kids Foundation provided a $2 million grant for this project and The Saban family made a personal donation of $1 million as well. Each time Coach Saban receives a fee for his many public appearances or speaking engagements, he donates it straight to Nick’s Kids—even the money he received for that now infamous Aflac commercial. 

The Sabans don’t invest only their money in Nick’s Kids—they also give a lot of their time.

They host luncheons, golf tournaments, scrimmages, and other events that all work together to benefit the cause. The yearly Giveaway Luncheon is hosted each August in The Zone at Bryant Denny Stadium and it brings together donors and recipients as the many different grants are distributed to each of the beneficiaries, ranging from children and family organizations to educational causes. 

A  small intimate group of friends, the core members support the foundation annually and they will happily tell you why they choose to support this cause. I talked with a few of our friends in this group and their views are right in line with ours. 

When I asked Chase Wise why he and his wife Rebecca choose to be involved, he said, “We support Nick’s Kids because of the positive ways the foundation helps and educates children through various outlets. It is inspiring that Mrs. Terry and Coach would use their reach and influence to create such positive change in the lives of the youth in our communities.”  

Barbara Ashford told me, “When Leon and I first met Terry and Nick Saban sixteen years ago, the conversation quickly turned from football to Nick’s Kids Foundation and their passion for bringing it to Alabama. They are committed to seeing it flourish and I love the work they do for children in Alabama. They make such a positive difference in the lives of the children and their families. We love them.” 

Another friend, Patrick Drummond, shared why he and his wife Debbie support the cause: “Being a part of this group is something we both enjoy. Sure it’s fun to play golf and attend events but at the end of the day, partnering with The Sabans and working to help others through Nick’s Kids—to make a real difference for children throughout our state—it truly is a pleasure.”

All in all, I think it is quite easy to see why this one is a personal favorite for me. Good people doing good things—wherever they are—and coming together to help those who need it most. 

Clearly, no matter what your team colors are, it’s easy to cheer for the work they’re doing at Nick’s Kids and the people they help. They are all winners, indeed. 

If you would like to make a donation to Nick’s Kids Foundation you can do just that at

To learn more about The Saban Center you can visit and you can learn more about the All Inclusive Playground at