Ryan Kerrigan is enormous. Not your standard, "oh, that's a big guy" enormous, but more like "that dude could be a paper towel mascot or the subject of frontier lore" kind of huge. I know this because I was fortunate enough to attend his Blitz for the Better Foundation's Celebrity Waiter Night, held Monday at the Ruth's Chris Steak House in Arlington. Organized by Prolanthropy, the evening raised a whopping $108,000 to benefit Washington-area families with gravely ill, physically disabled, and other special needs children.
Pitching in as celebrity waiters were teammates London Fletcher, Alfred Morris, Kirk Cousins, Darryl Tapp, Kedric Golston, Will Montgomery, Adam Gettis, Logan Paulsen, and Doug Worthington.
The night went like so: Cocktails, autographs, and silent auction until 8 p.m., at which point attendees took their seats for the players to help serve dinner. Waiting tables is harder than it looks, and most players opted to serve drinks one at a time—trays are daunting. The meal of salad, filet mignon, lobster tails, and flourless chocolate cake was excellent. Before the live auction began at 9, Kerrigan took a moment to address the room:
"Being in the NFL, we have a unique platform to be able to reach out to people and to help people that are a little less fortunate. This cause really hits home for me because I have a cousin with autism and I've been able to see first-hand the struggles and the challenges that my family has faced, both financially and in every day life. I had numerous friends growing up that were autistic and had special needs, so being able to give back to a group of people that really needs it means a lot to me."
"Our goal for 2014 is to have a Kerrigan's Corner set up at the Children's National Hospital, which is basically an electronic entertainment system that each kid will be able to have fun with. It all starts tonight with your generosity, so thank you so much for coming out again and helping me see my vision through."
With that, the live auction began, and bidding wars fetched $5,201 for a private dinner for four with Ryan Kerrigan, not to mention $3,500 for a signed London Fletcher jersey. Emcee Toby Knapp (of Hot 99.5 fame) promised every auction winner a hug from the host. Kerrigan looked surprised, but obliged with a good-natured smile.
My favorite moments of the evening were getting to meet some of the players for the first time. I introduced myself to London Fletcher at the cocktail reception, so when a fan asked about his ankle during dinner, he declined to elaborate. "Oh no. She's media," he said. For the record, I didn't notice any limp. Oh, and Doug Worthington's rehab from a biceps injury is right on schedule. He expects to be back with the team in time for next season.
As I was posing for a picture with Kerrigan, my photographer friend had to back up a few feet to fit us both in the frame. Redskins.com lists him as 6'4" and 260 pounds, but it's hard to contextualize what that means until you're standing next to him and your head barely reaches the middle of his chest—even though he's leaning down and you wore heels in anticipation of this very issue. He probably weighs 2.5 times more than I do, even after my shameless performance over Thanksgiving (aside: did you know it's possible to gain four pounds in four days? I did not).
Alfred Morris would have been an excellent waiter had he not pulled up a chair at our table and chatted with us for most of the evening. Not that anyone complained, mind you. You've probably read this 1,000 times, but he's an absolute joy to be around.
Some of the highlights of our conversation: Morris actually lost weight over Thanksgiving. How is that possible (read: what's your secret?), I asked him. He didn't know, but guessed that he ate less because he was at a friend's house. The conversation moved on to Ryan Kerrigan, who has quite a strict regimen for maintaining his physique, apparently. Morris said Kerrigan works out every day and is the only player who never partakes in the ice cream, cake, and cookies served the night before every game.
The event was thoroughly impressive, not just for the amount of money raised, but also for the good will evident in the room. All of the players were incredibly sweet, patient, and generous with their time. Alfred Morris and London Fletcher signed enough footballs to make my hand cramp just watching. Kirk Cousins casually chatted with attendees about how he met his fiance. And though Pierre Garçon was not waiting tables, he made an appearance to support his teammates.
It's not too late to join the players in supporting a great cause. For more information about how to help, please visit the Blitz for the Better Foundation website.