Editor's note: The following was submitted by Elevate Communications.
Gillette Stadium was filled with laughter and inspiration Monday night, as Boston sports stars and celebrities gathered in Foxborough to help three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Andruzzi raise money for cancer patients and their families.
The fifth annual New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala raised a record-breaking $500,000 for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, with all proceeds dedicated to helping families cover household expenses during cancer treatment, as well as funding pediatric brain cancer research at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The Joe Andruzzi Foundation enjoys strong support from the New England sports community, and many local sports stars and executives came out for the big night, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; current and former Patriots players Rob Ninkovich, Zoltan Mesko, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Steve Gregory, Kevin Faulk and Matt Light; Boston Bruins star forward Milan Lucic; comedian Lenny Clarke; Dropkick Murphys lead Ken Casey; and many more.
Scott Zolak, a former Patriot and 98.5 The Sports Hub Midday Host/Patriots Color Analyst, served as the event emcee and Boston radio and TV personality Billy Costa ran the live auction. It was the first time the annual gala was held at Gillette Stadium.
“We hoped to make this year’s gala our best ever, and we definitely succeeded,” said Andruzzi, Foundation President and founder. “It was especially exciting and meaningful to celebrate our fifth anniversary gala at Gillette. I’m so grateful to our many generous sponsors and to the Kraft family and Patriots – my former teammates and coaches, as well as the new players – for helping make our benefit a night to remember. And I’m grateful to our many loyal supporters and friends, who came out to help us raise money. Most families struggle financially during cancer treatment. The funds we raised at this year’s gala will help a lot of people pay the bills during what can be a very stressful time.”
The evening kicked off with a special symposium prior to the gala, focused on care giving and brain tumor research. “Caring for the Caregiver” was presented by longtime JAF sponsor Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, and led by ambassadors of the biopharmaceutical leader. Lisa Marquette Porat, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, President of ILP Solutions, Inc., and Kimberly Alexander, founder of the Tackle Cancer Foundation, also joined the conversation. Dr. Peter Manley, Director of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Outcome Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, led a discussion on molecular advancements in the treatment of brain tumors.
A cocktail hour, in which players signed footballs and mingled with donors and supporters, preceded dinner and the silent and live auctions, which featured priceless sports memorabilia, in-demand Boston sports tickets, and luxury dining, spa, entertainment and travel packages.
Robert Kraft also took the stage during the speaking program to thank the Andruzzis for their hard work on behalf of cancer patients. And JAF patient recipients and their family members shared touching stories, joining Joe and his wife, Jen Andruzzi, in inspiring and uplifting the crowd.
The Andruzzis draw from their personal experience with cancer to fulfill JAF’s mission: bringing fun and humor to families during treatment, while providing critical financial and emotional support. Marking the gala’s fifth anniversary, this year’s special event embodied the Foundation’s new rallying cry – (Up)Beat Cancer – which champions the courage and tenacity of cancer patients, especially children. In honor of her positive work with young cancer patients, Lisa Scherber, Director of Patient and Family Programs at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, received the Foundation’s first (Up)Beat award at this year’s gala.
This fall, the Foundation also celebrated the wisdom and humor of children through its Daily Dose social media campaign, in which Millennium donated $5 to the Foundation for every funny kid quote tweeted or posted to Facebook by friends and followers. The campaign culminated at the gala, where the Foundation unveiled its favorite quotes in a new book: “Don’t Lick Your Friends! And other hilarious insights from kids.” The book will be made available online, with all proceeds benefitting the JAF.
“This has been an important year for our Foundation, and we’ve grown tremendously,” JAF Executive Director Jen Andruzzi said. “Every year since we’ve started, we’ve aimed to double our patient giving and fund more research, and we’ve more than met those goals. Celebrating the gala’s fifth anniversary surrounded by so many of our friends and supporters was incredibly rewarding, and I’m so pleased we were able to raise a lot of money to help families fighting cancer. We’re looking forward to an exciting new year and we’re grateful to everyone who helps us realize our vision, every day.”
Since its inception in 2008, the Joe Andruzzi Foundation has provided grants to more than 400 cancer patients and families, assisting with rent, mortgage and utility payments so caregivers and patients can remain focused on treatment. It has also donated more than $300,000 to Dr. Mark Kieran, at Boston Children’s Hospital, to help fund pediatric brain cancer research. The Foundation also sponsors upbeat outings for patients and families, and Joe Andruzzi is a regular visitor at Boston Children’s Hospital and other cancer facilities.
The fifth annual New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala thanks its many loyal and generous sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor Credit Union Kids at Heart; MVP Sponsors Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company and the Kraft Family/New England Patriots; and Touchdown Sponsors The Home Depot, CVS Caremark, and East Commerce Solutions Inc., among many others.
For more information on the Joe Andruzzi Foundation and the Fifth Annual New England Celebrities Tackle Cancer Gala, please visit www.joeandruzzifoundation.org