Gayle Benson gets New Orleans in the holiday spirit by covering nearly $100,000 in strangers’ layaway debt
After handing out beat downs to most of their 2018 opponents, Gayle Benson got into the giving spirit this week.
The owner of the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Pelicans, and GMB Racing, a horse racing stable competing at the highest levels, paid off 408 layaway orders totaling $93,502 at the Walmart store on Tchoupitoulas Street.
While she made the gift anonymously, the Saints confirmed “Miss Gayle,” as she is affectionately called, was behind the move.
“This was a gift from Mrs. Benson for the holidays,” the team said in a released statement.
News of the gift went viral and picked up by nearly every major news organization in the country. Sports Illustrated quoted store manager Zena Williams as saying, “They're coming in, and they're calling their friends and family. They're very excited. It's a good thing. It's a good thing for the community. It's a good thing for the store. I'm glad that we can participate and help bless so many people for the holidays.”
While the move was unexpected, it is not surprising.
Over her years, Benson has proved that she is no Scrooge, and her sense of noblesse oblige would make Dickens grin.
She is well renown in the local community for her philanthropic endeavors. She has worked with the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic Charities and the Archbishop of New Orleans Community Appeal campaign. With her late husband, Tom, who purchased the Saints in 1985, were awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for their generosity to the Catholic Church, the highest papal honor that Catholic laypeople can receive. The Bensons also donated more than $25 million to establish and expand the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center on the main campus of Ochsner Medical Center. The couple were also major contributors to Tulane University and The National WWII Museum.
With franchises in two of the world most popular professional leagues, Sports Illustrated called her “the most powerful woman in sports.”
In her first year as sole owner of the teams, she is proving her mettle.
In April, the Pelicans swept the Portland Trail Blazers and advanced to the conference semifinals.
In May, her horse, Lone Sailor, made a “Run for the Roses” in the Kentucky Derby.
Later that month, her fellow NFL owners needed just 60 seconds to unanimously award New Orleans the its 11th Super Bowl. The last time the league championship game was played in the Big Easy in 2013 it had an estimated $480 million economic impact on the city.
Of course, the Saints have had an amazing 2018 season. With a 10-2 mark, they have enjoyed their second longest win streak in franchise history and are currently considered the top team in pro football.
In October, she was ranked No. 298 on the Forbes 400 list, an annual ranking of the wealthiest Americans. With an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion – equal to media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey – she is the lone Louisianan to make the list.
The year, of course, is not done yet. The Saints are hoping to wrap up an NFC South Division Championship this weekend in Tampa against the Buccaneers. That would qualify the team for the playoffs, but a first round bye and home field advantage through the playoffs are still within reach. If the team can make it to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII and win, she will give Saints fans around the world a gift that money just can’t buy.