Blog: Gridiron Gala 2014
Celebrating its 21st year, the annual “Gridiron Gala” returned to the posh ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in Midtown on Tuesday evening. Flanked by a cavalcade of local NFL players, the gala event would once again be a massively successful fundraising effort in support of the United Way of New York City, a nonprofit organization that works toward improving the lives of impoverished New York residents. And with the help of some big name New York Jets and New York Giants‘ players, hundreds of well dressed guests made “Gridiron Gala XXI” a festive Tuesday night out.
A table filled with all white footballs stood at the ballroom entrance to great each arriving guest during the evening’s VIP hour as they scurried around a quickly filling room to hob nob with some of the autograph signing football players. Though the space became crowded, it wasn’t hard to spot some of the mammoth jocks towering over the suited up guests as they enjoyed a cocktail from the Waldorf’s open bar. To date, the event has raised more than $24 million to help fund and focus the initiatives of United Way of New York City and if the attendance at this year’s gala was any indication, the organization was well on their way to eclipsing last year’s incredibly successful gathering.
This year, the Gala would recognize New York Giants’ Wide Receiver Victor Cruz and New York Jets Defensive Lineman Muhammad Wilkerson as the 2014 ‘Hometown Heroes’ award winners as professional athletes who have lent their time and stature to their communities for good. Joining the players would be honorees from the corporate world where the 2014 representatives recognized as ‘Community Quarterbacks’ were William K. Fleming (Skanska USA Building, Inc.) and William E. Mayer (Park Avenue Equity Partners) for their own corporate efforts in volunteerism and mentoring.
Though Cruz and Wilkerson’s arrival certainly generated a great deal of buzz, they were hardly alone. Legendary Jets Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Namath was all smiles amid the flashing of bulbs on the red carpet, flashed by professional and amateur styles of paparazzi (guests with their phones in hand). Namath signed autographs, posed for pictures with fans and conversed with guests that flocked to surround him quickly and aggressively- but to his credit, ‘Broadway Joe’ took it all in with supreme class. Newly acquired Giants’ free agent Walter Thurmond, III joined the likes of Henry Hynoski, Prince Amukamara, Jameel McClain, Spencer Paysinger and Markus Kuhn and the Jets’ Willie Colon to name a few players dressed to the nines and posing for photographers. Meanwhile, once off the carpet, the players were seemingly mobbed by anxious fans ranging from women to children to grown men, excited to greet their heroes and head into the evening’s main program with signed footballs in hand.
You don’t need to be a big time corporate sponsor or an NFL player to get involved with the efforts of United Way of New York City. Click on this link to get yourself familiarized with more than just the iconic two handed logo of the organization or make a donation toward improving the lives of those that need help around us.
- Jane Van Arsdale