Almost a year to the date of the first time he volunteered with the New England Patriots Foundation, the same cause found Ty Montgomery sitting at the head table inside Gillette Stadium's Coss Insurance Pavilion and Business Center last Wednesday.
Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft had just announced a commitment of $1 million in grant funding for six foster care organizations across New England in honor of Foster Care Awareness Month. Now, his son, Patriots Foundation president Josh Kraft, was at the podium introducing the receiver to the reception.
"Ty, unfortunately, missed most of last season with an injury," Josh noted. "But he did score our first touchdown of the season, so we look forward to getting him back."
In other words, it doesn't need to take a lot of time to make an impact. And though he wasn't on the field much in 2022, he saw how much he still aligned with his new team off of it – especially, as it pertains to foster care.
"I'm just feeling gratitude," Ty said at the event, where he shared his plans to send 11 former foster children on a 10-day trip to Israel for the same transformative experience he once had.
Growing up with 17 foster siblings is part of his story, and he knows first-hand what it means to expand their horizons.
"I'm really thankful to see this love and support for foster youth. They need it."
Ty is his mother Lisa's only biological son, but around the time he was in third grade, he started begging her for a sibling.
Having grown up with a big family, being one of eight herself, she could empathize with her son and see the loneliness that came with being an only child.
"He wanted siblings," admitted Lisa. "Me, being the oldest daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor and freshly divorced, having a baby out of wedlock wasn't an option. It was still taboo back then, but one of my friends at my church down here in Dallas suggested becoming a foster mom. All of the kids she brought to chruch every week were foster kids, and until that point, I just thought they were her biological kids. So it all stemmed from there and eventually took on a life of its own."
Ty got his first brother soon after that, and they remain big parts of each other's lives. Eventually, it became less about getting Ty a sibling and more about doing whatever she could to help kids in need.
She refused to split up siblings, even if it meant there were six or seven kids living in her house at once. Sometimes a child only needed a place to stay for the weekend, but the situation became permanent. Her home was a refuge.
"The word foster was never used in our home," Ty said. "My first brother, Lee, he would always say, 'It's a love line, not a bloodline.' We were one big family. So it's near and dear to us to make sure that foster youth are able to find a place to rest, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically."
Every instance was different, but some of his brothers came from tough backgrounds. It gave him a lot of perspective, even if he had to grow up quickly.
"I've seen and heard the horror stories," Ty said. "Some of my brothers' previous (foster) situations – they weren't allowed in the kitchen, there were locks on the pantry, they were only allowed to use a certain amount of tissue squares if they needed to use the bathroom. Foster kids, they just want a family. They just want to feel loved regardless of their situation. My mom and I never believed in splitting up families. They could always go back to their biological families if they wanted to, and our home was always open to them. We were still a family to them, and in some cases, their family became our extended family."
Some of the boys Lisa took in called her mom, but they didn't have to. To some, she was Auntie or Miss Lisa. Whatever a kid needed her to be for them, she was. Ty would show them the ropes to help get them settled, pointing out that the food in the pantry was there for when they felt hungry, not only when they had permission to eat it.
When Ty got his first cell phone, so did his brothers. Lisa's refrigerator was filled with sports schedules and extracurriculars because if Ty could participate, her other boys would be as well. The only rule was they had to be involved with something, as there was no sitting idle in her home.
Lisa worked as hard as she needed to, and with support from her village, she made it happen.
"It was important to me that they didn't see dysfunction, but instead a single mom going to work every day, going to their school, and being that mom that was active in everything for everybody. If I couldn't be there, they knew where I was and that someone would be there instead."
Ty can't imagine growing up any other way.
He saw a lot at a young age through his brothers, but believes God equipped him with empathy to connect to them. In return, that rambunctious environment with so many boys probably helped set a foundation for his football career.
"We were always very competitive and it definitely forced me to be tough," Ty said. "I don't shy away from competition. I'm never afraid of a fight, and I'll never back down from anything -- but my personality style, I don't need to make everything a competition but we couldn't avoid it. We were dunking on each other, wrestling in the living room. Everything turned into a competition in some way, so you could say that helped me. But I also learned how to be a team player. I've got my brothers and my brothers have me. Everyone knew those are Lisa's boys, and no one ever messed with us."
In high school, Ty starred in both football and track and field. His talent and grades gave him the opportunity to play wide receiver at Standford. With him away at school, Lisa continued on with her mission.
"I just don't want to give up on them," Lisa said. "They need to know they have a village because it takes a village. The system is set up to where they turn 18, they get a few months depending on where they live, and then they have to go find a place or go to college or the military. Sometimes college and the military aren't right for that person. What if Ty had not gone to Stanford at 18? What was I going to do, kick him out? That same principle and philosophy carried over to all my kids. They need us to be there for them as well, even at 18 and 19."
Lisa went on to take her foster care advocacy to another level, starting a foundation called A Heart Like His.
The charity serves this population of forgotten youth, drawing inspiration from David from the Bible to come up with the name.
"It's named after David because David was not perfect, but he had the heart to do right and to do good for God," Lisa said. "These kids, sometimes the constraints of what we call the system puts them in a predicament. They're not perfect, but they have hearts and they want to do what's right."
She sees that eagerness to do right by these kids in her biological son as well.
Lisa is grateful to see her son so humbled by these life experiences, and using his NFL platform to provide better opportunities for countless kids in similar positions as his siblings. During his rookie season, Ty started his own non-profit, My 10 Percent, to support and empower foster youth and adoption processes, among other causes.
Like Lisa's, scripture also inspired the name of his charity.
"The name My 10 Percent came from the idea of tithing in the Bible. God said that all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed, and greater than the things you've seen me do, you'll be able to do. I'm paraphrasing, and those two scriptures aren't back to back, but when I connect the two, I think to myself that I would like to just plant a seed of any kind, be used as a vessel of the Lord to plant a seed anywhere I can. They only need faith the size of a mustard seed. When you talk about tithing and the 10% of your first fruits, I always think about money, I think most people think about money. I took it a step further, I felt the Lord calling me to take it a step further, which is tithing 10% of myself, to an individual, helping in any way that I can."
Lately, that looks like him acting as a travel agent of sorts.
During the spring of 2022, Ty's unwavering faith called him to the Holy Land. The trip was one he'd never forget and motivated him to provide that same experience to young adults transitioning out of the foster care system.
"I don't have the words to describe it. It's an out-of-body experience, and as soon as you land you can feel something is different about the place," Ty said of visiting Jerusalem. "Seeing the devotion to God, seeing the peace and the joy that the people have, learning about all the history there and being able to walk where scripture comes alive."
Robert Kraft has been organizing group trips to Israel for years, and Montgomery sees the immense benefit in providing something similar for former foster kids.
Beginning on June 6, and hosted by the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries, a group of 11 young adults from around the country will set out on a 10-day Jerusalem Encounter tour in what Ty hopes will be just as transformative for them as it was for himself.
My 10 Percent is raising funds to help cover the expenses and make this an annual occurrence, and the cause has received generous donations from NASCAR Cup Series stars Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace.
"For these kids that really struggle with family, really struggle with rest, really struggle with something that feels eternal or real – I wanted to provide them the opportunity to experience God, whether they believe or not," Ty said.
"A lot of foster youth don't think they can leave their city or state. Many have never even been on a plane. That alone would be impactful and open their minds to the possibilities, and to go to another country, a place as beautiful as Israel, the Holy Land – I think God really called me to do this."
Learn more and help support My 10 Percent's mission here.