Blog: United Way's 20th Gridiron Gala
The National Football League has long been a proponent of the United Way of New York City, the nonprofit organization that utilizes both long and short term solutions to assist low-income and underprivileged citizens. On Tuesday evening, the group who for years has been working toward supporting the stability and life enhancement for underserved New Yorkers, celebrated its 20th annual “Gridiron Gala” inside of the ritzy midtown confines of the Waldorf Astoria. Since its inception, the Gala has raised in excess of $23 million to support the programs of the United Way of New York City. And with more than 1,000 attendees at Tuesday night’s event, that number was only certain to climb to even greater heights.
The “Gridiron Gala’s” VIP portion of the evening kicked off at 6pm, with guests treated to an exclusive area with some choice food samplings, an open bar, and a collection of blank footballs located adjacent to the press line, for fans to seek out autographs from some of the big name players representing the league. Locally, the New York Giants and the New York Jets are perennially supportive of the annual event, and the 2013 iteration was certainly no different. Honored as this year’s ‘Hometown Heroes’ were Giants’ Wide Receiver Hakeem Nicks and Jets’ Defensive Back Kyle Wilson, both of whom have been participants in countless charitable events and fundraisers, setting an example as community leaders for other players to follow. The two would be honored alongside ‘Community Quarterback’ award winners Jonathan Durst (The Durst Ogranization) and Ted Moudis (Ted Moudis Associates) and MVP Award winner Anthony M. Carvette (Structure Tone Inc.), but the crowd on hand refused to be deterred from seeking out the players themselves.
Posing candidly on the red carpet, both Nicks and Wilson seemed genuinely flattered to have the award bestowed upon them- signing footballs and posing for any fans that would approach them. They were soon joined by fellow Jets D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Joe McKnight, and legend Emerson Boozer and Giants like Steve Weatherford, Kevin Boothe, and Amani Toomer. But the true star that enraptured the collection of fans, and made for a truly raucous affair for autograph seekers, was the arrival of Joe Namath. The only Jets’ Super Bowl winning quarterback in team history was essentially mauled upon his arrival, both by the evening’s honored guests and their friends, and by fans holding out mini footballs and pictures desperate for ‘Broadway Joe’s’ attention and signature. To his credit, Namath never wavered from giving each fan his sole attention, and paraded up and down the now crowded press line, signing each item handed to him, and thrilling all in attendance along the way.
For some, the opportunity to hob nob with some NFL players is a priceless proposition. But with tickets starting at $1,250 at the “Gridiron Gala,” which includes a cocktail reception, dinner, and a full program and presentation at the posh Waldorf Astoria, and an NFL guest seated at each table, the entirety of the evening certainly seems to deliver a great deal of value for the fan experience. And with another completely sold out evening, the 20th “Gridiron Gala” also proved another successful fundraiser for the folks at the United Way of New York City, whose helping hands for the poverty stricken New Yorkers can continue to be extended in perpetuity, as a result of events such as this one. For more information on how you can become affiliated with the United Way of New York City, or to make a donation, check out their website here.
- Jane Van Arsdale