Toys for Tots and the Akron-based Legends Foundation are gearing up for a special April fundraiser that will involve the local presence of four former standout NFL athletes.
April 12 will bring former Pittsburgh Steeler Mel Blount, former Cleveland Browns player Don Cockroft, former Steeler and Browns player Anthony Griggs, and former Green Bay Packer Dave Robinson to St. Florian Hall in Wintersville.
The former athletes will share their playing-days stories and how they are helping families, communities, businesses, churches and friends - their key emphasis being to inspire youth to make good daily choices, according to event organizers Joe Hoffman and Patty Hanle.
Joe Hoffman and Patty Hanle.
A local resident, Hanle is working to raise money in Jefferson County for Toys for Tots, assisting Deborah Oberlin, who oversees the Toys for Tots in a four-county area that includes Jefferson, Harrison, Columbiana and Carroll counties.
Hoffman is the chief executive officer of the Legends Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose focus is to educate children about their responsibility to make good choices for themselves and their communities.
The foundation recruits former professional athletes to go to schools and youth incarcerated facilities. "We talk to them about making good choices and educational and career opportunities," Hoffman said, noting he and Griggs, president of the Legends Foundation, have been to nearly every youth incarcerated facility in Ohio to speak.
The April 12 event will feature "Dinner with the Legends," a sit-down dinner from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Prior to that, however, there will be a "VIP session with the pros" from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. followed by a social time from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The former athletes will each give presentations from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., with Blount, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee, as the keynote speaker. He'll share the podium through the evening with Cockroft, a kicker with the Cleveland Browns from 1963 through 1980 and author of "The 1980 Kardiac Kids - Our Untold Stories;" Griggs, who played with the Steelers for 13 years but also for Cleveland; and Robinson, who played in the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl I and II.
Sponsorship information is available by calling (330) 322-8495 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dinner tickets are $50, available by calling (740) 266-7652. There will be a silent auction and Chinese auction, according to Hanle.
Proceeds from the event will be equally split between the Legends Foundation and Toys for Tots.
"We hope to make this a yearly event," Hanle said, noting people generally don't want to think about Toys for Tots until it's closer to Christmas, but generating funds earlier in the year enables the program to order age-appropriate toys at a wholesale price.
Hoffman said with the Super Bowl on Sunday pitting the Steelers against the Green Bay Packers, it's an interesting coincidence that Robinson and Blount, both recipients of Super Bowl rings, will be on hand.
Hoffman said the April event could include two other Steelers.