Friday, December 28, 2012

Gridiron Giving: The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund

With a dismal record of 5 wins and 10 losses, the Arizona Cardinals haven’t been in the playoff picture for quite some time.  For the Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, though, the early start to the off-season means that he can devote even more time and energy to his personal charity, the First Down Fund.


A perennial all-star receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is known for his reliable hands and has already made his mark on the football field.  So far over his nine-year career, he has been selected to six Pro Bowls, has set several NFL and Cardinals records and is a Super Bowl Champion.  He's also got a great on-screen presence; check out this ESPN SportsCenter commercial, one of my favorites:
Less known, though, are his achievements off the field in bettering local communities.  Through his First Down Fund, Larry has supported many causes both at home and abroad. 


Earlier this year, Fitzgerald traveled to Ethiopia with another organization, Oxfam America, to visit a farm training center and an irrigation project, where he worked on the construction site for retaining walls that will capture rainwater and prevent erosion.  He has also made several trips to Asia and Africa with Starkey Hearing Foundation to fit children with hearing aids.


Here in America, the First Down Fund supports a wide variety of causes aimed at fighting cancer, building strong families and promoting good health.  Fitzgerald, whose mother, Carol, died in 2003 while being treated for breast cancer, was a spokesman for the American Cancer Society’s “Crucial Catch” campaign during October, which was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The Fund also made significant donations, based on the number of his touchdowns and receptions during October, to several breast cancer organizations. 


To promote the cause of building stronger families, the First Down Fund was a sponsor of “Tying the Knot,” an event in his home state of Minnesota that combined song, storytelling and dance to celebrate fatherhood.  Larry is also a long-standing supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, several Boys and Girls Clubs and Plano Child Development Center, which is devoted to providing vision care to Chicago-area children (Fitzgerald had to deal with vision problems as a child). 

This season and last, the Fund made a $1,000 donation each week to a fan-nominated charity.  Funds this year have gone to: TyREDD, which raises awareness about the dangers of driving while tired; the Arthritis Foundation; the Weekend Backpack Program of FeedMore in Richmond, Virginia, which provides kids who depend on public school lunch programs with meals to get them through the weekend; and a Tucson, Arizona elementary school, which is getting $1,000 for their playground and another $1,000 for school supplies. Recipients from last year included the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Parenting with a Purpose and the Special Olympics of both Minnesota and Arizona.


To learn more about the wide reach of First Down Fund, and to keep track of what is sure to be a busy 2013 for Larry Fitzgerald and the Fund, visit their site at

Click here to find out more about Larry’s world travels.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gridiron Giving: Aaron Rodgers and the MACC Fund

Last year during the holidays, Naptime Huddle launched its “Gridiron Giving” series, which profiled several charities that reflect the personal missions of NFL players to serve their communities or causes that they are passionate about.  This year we continue the series with an organization supported by numerous athletes who play a variety of sports.  But it happens to be the favorite charity of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.


The mission of Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc.—or “MACC Fund”—is to provide funding for research to cure childhood cancer and related blood disorders.  The funds it raises are given to a variety of research institutions, primarily the Medical College of Wisconsin, which researches childhood cancer through various facilities, including the MACC Fund Research Center.  Since its founding in 1976, the MACC Fund has contributed $42 million to childhood cancer research.


The MACC Fund was founded by former Milwaukee Bucks star Jon McGlockin (left), who played in the NBA for eleven years.  The roster of the Honorary Athletic Board boasts many current and former star athletes and sports figure, including Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair, baseball fixture Bob “Mr. Baseball” Uecker and former University of Wisconsin football coach (and current Athletic Director) Barry Alvarez.  However, the organization’s most fervent, and visible, celebrity supporter is Aaron Rodgers.


Rodgers’ popularity, especially in Wisconsin, makes him an invaluable asset for the MACC fund, not only in fundraising but in raising awareness of the plight of childhood cancer, which is the leading disease-related cause of childhood death after the newborn period.  Rodgers devotes a great deal of time to the MACC Fund, making himself the focus of numerous fundraising events for the organization throughout the year, like An Evening with Aaron Rodgers and Pack Lunch with Aaron Rodgers. 


Despite the rigors of quarterbacking the Packers, including making a push to the playoffs, fall has been a busy season for Aaron Rodgers and the MACC Fund:


·  Currently, the charity is in the midst of the Aaron Rodgers 12 Days of Christmas program.  From December 1st through the 12th, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is running a full-page ad featuring the story of a child battling cancer or a blood disorder.  Kohl’s department stores in Milwaukee are also involved in the effort, donating 5% of net sales of all toy purchases from December 1-12 to the MACC Fund. 

·  Last month, the quarterback made personal visits to three children living with cancer.  Videos of their memorable experiences are online at, a site established by a local law firm to raise awareness for the MACC Fund. 

·  December 12, 2012 has even been declared Aaron Rodger’s Day by the Wisconsin legislature, the result of one fan’s drive to establish the “holiday” to both honor Rodgers and bring awareness and contributions to the cause that is so near to his heart (click here to visit the Facebook page of the Aaron Rodger’s Day movement and here for its fundraising page).


The organization’s largest event is its annual Trek 100: A Ride For Hope, which is a bicycle race that offers riders loops of various distances (from 19 to 100 miles) through rural Southern Wisconsin, with post-ride festivities that include music and food.  This year’s event was projected to bring in more than $800,000.  Some schools have supported MACC by conducting “Buzz Cuts for Cancer” events:  students and teachers volunteer to have their heads shaved in return for pledges; they also sell T-shirts for the event.  Over seven years, two school that have hosted the event have raised a total of over $90,000!


I think it’s fitting to start this year’s Gridiron Giving series with this charity because, as we tend to focus at this time of year on the material gifts we buy and receive, most of us take for granted the most precious gift of all:  the gift of good health.  So, especially if you are blessed with healthy children, please take the time this holiday season to remember the families with loved one who battle every day to beat cancer or another serious illness.  For these families and victims of disease, every new day is a gift.  


To learn more about the MACC Fund, and to find out how you can make a contribution or volunteer for this worthwhile organization, visit its website at