FARGO — Faith, trust and family are important to Eagles quarterback and North Dakota State University alum Carson Wentz.
That’s why when it came time to found, and later expand his nonprofit Audience of One Foundation, he looked back to his North Dakota roots to find the people to help him run it.
Based in Philadelphia, AO1 Foundation declares its mission as “uplifting individuals and communities around the world by demonstrating God’s love for His people,” on its website.
The foundation works toward this goal through three ministries: Thy Kingdom Crumb, a food truck that dispenses free food throughout the city of Philadelphia; the Outdoor Ministry, a series of outdoor camps and excursions for children with medical or physical disabilities; and the Haiti Sports Complex, a multipurpose building equipped with sports facilities, locker rooms and showers as well as trainers.
“It’s been so important for me to hire people I know and trust because they are all a representation of my values and beliefs. I wanted to find like-minded people — in terms of faith and values — to help grow the foundation and to carry out our vision effectively,” Wentz said in a statement.
Cole Davis, one of Wentz’s fellow quarterbacks at NDSU, was tapped to serve as director of development at AO1 following his graduation in 2017.
During their time at NDSU, Davis said he and Wentz bonded through their shared religious beliefs, sometimes even holding small group Bible studies at campus dining centers.
“From that initial bond we formed, we knew we worked well together and Carson kind of had a vision of wanting that same thing with his foundation,” Davis said. “So he wanted people he could trust and like-minded people with the same values and that all developed at school in Fargo and just kind of transfers over to here.”
Pastor Stephen Glasser met Wentz through NDSU’s Chi Alpha, a nondenominational campus ministry organization with over 300 chapters across the U.S. Glasser preached at Chi Alpha for six years, during which time Wentz joined the ministry.
“I think it’s been really neat to see Carson grow and develop through Chi Alpha and then go into the NFL and this public spotlight and just seeing the way that he has handled that,” Glasser said.
Glasser was asked to help direct last year’s Camp Conquerors through the Outdoor Ministry branch, where he worked with camp-goers to develop their spirituality, including 11-year-old (then 10) Landon Solberg of West Fargo.
Solberg is battling brain cancer, and his and his family’s experience deeply impacted Glasser.
“I think my heart breaks for the kids but also for the families that are going through these troubling times, these terrible things, so it definitely contributes to my heart, my passion for helping people like that,” he said.
Along with his wife, Taylor, and 1-year-old-daughter, Glasser is preparing to move from Fargo to Philadelphia where he will serve as director of events and operations at AO1.
Glasser said he’s excited to begin working in earnest at the foundation because he could see how it impacted the lives of the kids at Camp Conquerors last year.
“Just knowing the joy that it brings to their lives and I think behind it all is this Christ-centered focus that we’re not just hoping to give people a great experience, but we really want to give them an opportunity to find hope,” he said.
Cole Scherbenske, Outdoor Ministry director at AO1, also joined the foundation through his involvement with the Chi Alpha ministry at NDSU.
He and Wentz formed a relationship based not just upon their common faith, but also their love of the outdoors, fishing and hunting.
While the rest of the AO1 team is based in Philadelphia, Scherbenske said his role is best served here in Fargo as he plans and runs programs through the Outdoor Ministry.
“Although there’s great hunting in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the impact we wanted to make was back in the Midwest,” Scherbenske said. “North Dakota is kind of where it all began. Not only for Carson and for him falling in love with the outdoors, but for me as well and so I think that for us, North Dakota is always home.”