The Grande Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria was flooded with talent this past Tuesday night. The two rival stadium-sharing New York teams put their differences aside for the night to raise awareness and money for the United Way New York City at the annual Gridiron Gala. Among the sea of suits were well known players of the present and the past. Representing the Giants were Sean Landeta, Karl Nelson, Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks. From the Jets (my reason for being there) were Joe Klecko, Joe Namath, Dustin Keller, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, among others. Guards from both teams Brandon Moore and Chris Snee were the Hometown Honorees.
The United Way New York has had years of success with raising money for the underprivileged families of New York City. Tuesday’s affair was proof of this success with a grand total of $1.5 million raised. Every year hundreds of corporate leaders and NFL players gather at the Waldorf Astoria to not only raise money, but to honor those well deserved for their charitable due diligence. Focusing on the New York Jets, Brandon Moore and his wife have formed the Moore Family Foundation. Moore and his wife attended a Newark school and challenged the children to read by starting the Read Moore Challenge. Although the money goes to families, Moore’s foundation primarily focuses on the children and their needs.
The night before the gala I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Gordon Campbell, the President and CEO of The United Way NYC. During our conversation he elaborated upon the success of the program, and the purpose of the Gridiron Gala.
CA: I want to thank you for the invite to the Gridiron Gala. Last year was very successful and hopefully this year will be as well. The purpose of this year’s event is to raise money for the lower income families of New York. Can you elaborate on that for readers?
GC: Yes, This is to benefit average kids in New York City, both from and educational setting and really working with kids from 3 years olds up to high school to ensure that they are getting the education they need, that they can graduate on time, and go on to have successful lives. Obviously education is an important issue, and avenge kids are the ones that need the attention the most. It’s not only from an education perspective, but a health and nutrition perspective. As part of our work we find over five-hundred food pantries and soup kitchens, and unfortunately all too many New Yorkers are having to show up on a Monday morning or Saturday afternoon for a meal or a bag of groceries. This is important for the young people. Working with young people from a holistic perspective, I have to tell you, without the Jets support, we couldn’t do what we do year after year.
CA: You know that’s just like with me and football. The longer I am with Jet Nation and just paying attention to the Jets, I think almost every player has a charity and they are so supportive of all different charities. I know some of them focus on charities that affect them personally. For example, Brandon Moore, the Hometown Hero, he highly deserves it.
GC: I love the Read Moore Challenge. I think it’s cute and it sticks and it works, and that his wife is involved with it. That’s the think with the Jets players, they really roll up their sleeves and yes, it’s all about what happens on the field, but even more-so, what happens in their communities and the idea of giving back. Just to give you a sense, this is our nineteenth year of having the Gridiron Gala with the Jets and the Giants. In the past 18 years, through this great partnership, we raised over $22 million. We expect to do well tomorrow. I don’t know if you saw our list of players….
CA: Yes I did! I am looking forward to meeting Joe Namath.
GC: Joe Namath has been there for the past four or five years, and is the nicest guy in the world. He will talk to anyone and sign any football. To have him a part of the mix is great.
CA: What future projects do you have in store for the United Way?
GC: Each year with the Jets we do an annual project. I do not know yet what we are doing this year, but it is something that the United Way puts together and do with as many players as possible.
CA: That’s really good. What makes you different from other charities or foundations that support the same cause?
GC: That’s a very good question. The difference is that our work is all about investing in average kids. We come up with lasting solutions where we cannot only address the young people we are working with, but take the winning solutions, and really push them out across the city. It is a very different way of operating. It’s more of asking what is a program piece, it’s finding out the elements that work so we can push it out on all schools across the city, and find ways to continue it’s progress. For example, we have a goal to reduce the drop out rate by 50% by 2018. This is not only for United Way NYC, but for across the country. It is all about partnerships and the Jets are a perfect example, and what both the individual players of both the retired and present bring to bear. If we are going to make progress, it is about everyone saying, “This is an issue, and I care about it.” That is how one differentiates us.
CA: I know you don’t only focus on the children, but a large part is about them, and that is how the Moore Foundation works.
GC: We do more than just help the children, but it is a big part of our work. How I described our formula for success is applicable to all of our work.
CA: This all sounds very exciting and I am happy to be a part of it.