Monday, November 16, 2015 has been circled on my calendar for quite some time. Ever since we profiled the Joe Andruzzi Foundation for a Charity Spotlight post, their annual gala has been on my Snap bucket list.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year, purchasing my ticket with the expectation of a fun night that would include a three-course meal, a live auction, and the opportunity to meet some NFL players. Little did I know when I bought my ticket that I would be able to walk away with so much more than that.
The event started at 6pm and was held in the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium. For those of you wondering, the view from the club looks like this:
Maybe I’m a football nerd, but that view never gets old.
The night kicked off with a cocktail hour where guests were able to check out the many items up for auction. Autographed jerseys were among the most popular silent auction items.
Guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers while mingling and placing their bids for the silent auction.
Several Pats players made appearances at the cocktail hour to sign autographs. Pictured below is TE Scott Chandler. I had a chance encounter with his wife after I complimented her shoes. (Before you think I’m creepy, I didn’t realize it was his wife at the time. I can’t help myself from gushing about footwear if someone has fabulous taste in shoes.)
Other players at the event included Rob Ninkovich, Pat Chung, Stephen Gostkowski, and past Patriots Matt Chatham and Troy Brown. (I believe Matt Slater made an appearance later in the night and Nate Solder was there as well in the role of keynote speaker.) I have a feeling there were other players, but it was difficult to tell considering there were about 800 attendees.
Pictured below is my girl Linda with Pat Chung. (Linda gets a shout-out because she let me hang out and drink wine with her crew once she realized that I was flying solo.)
Around 7:15, we entered the dining area and I was blown away by the way the room was decorated. Volunteers clearly put a lot of time into creating the beautiful space. The table settings were gorgeous.
I was fortunate enough to sit with some great people at table 77. One thing that struck me throughout the night was how many attendees personally knew Joe and Jen Andruzzi. Everyone talked about how they are some of the nicest, most genuine people. It quickly became evident that the kindness they have shown others is one of the biggest reasons they get so much support in return for events like this.
Dinner was a three-course meal, which included a tasty salad, a main entrée with chicken, beef, and assorted vegetables, and a dessert tray featuring whoopie pies, cookies, and other sweets.
Scott Zolak, a sportscaster and prior Pats quarterback, acted as the Master of Ceremonies. Joe Andruzzi welcomed guests and introduced Nate Solder as the night’s keynote speaker.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Nate’s story, he was drafted in the first round by the Patriots in 2011. Up until his season-ending injury this year, he had been a constant on the o-line, protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. In April of this year, he revealed his battle with testicular cancer prior to the 2014 season.
Along with the rest of the crowd, I fully expected Nate to talk about his own experience with cancer. His speech took an unexpected turn when he started to talk about his 3-month-old son, Hudson. There was a collective intake of breath when Nate revealed that his son was diagnosed with kidney cancer in October.
I don’t know how Nate was able to hold it together to share his family’s story. Tears welled up in my eyes as he shared how life changed overnight with the discovery of Hudson’s tumor. To hear Nate describe his son’s treatments (Hudson has four chemotherapy treatments down and 15 more to go) was absolutely heartbreaking.
As someone who kept his own cancer diagnosis private, I can only imagine how difficult it was for Nate to share this news with the world. During his speech, he mentioned that his wife told him that it was more important than ever to talk about Hudson as part of his keynote speech, knowing that there are other people out there that receive this heartbreaking diagnosis on daily basis. It was a somber reminder that cancer does not discriminate.
You can watch a portion of Nate’s speech here. Get your tissues ready.
While surprising and emotional, I don’t know that a more fitting keynote speech could have been made that night. If I had to guess, it provided even more of an incentive for attendees to bid during the live auction, which followed Nate’s keynote speech and a JAF mission video.
Paul Zekos, the auctioneer, was extremely entertaining and did a great job of getting people to raise their bidding cards. Most of the people in attendance are probably in a different tax bracket than me and that was excellent news for the Foundation.
The live auction included thirteen items – many of which created entertaining bidding wars. The biggest bid of the night (two people each bid $23k) was for a package that included QB Jimmy Garoppolo and C Bryan Stork acting as bartenders for your personal event. What made it even better was the fact that they would be bartending from a refurbished Airstream trailer, which I got to check out on my way into the event. (Unfortunately, Jimmy and Bryan were not manning the bar at that time. Bummer.)
Other notable auction items that I would have been raising my yellow bid card for if I had more disposable income, were the Punt, Snap, Kick package (included a one hour clinic and two-hour dinner with K Stephen Gostkowsi, LS Joe Cardona and P Ryan Allen, along with autographed merch) and dinner with the O-line at Maggiano’s in Boston. Unfortunately, I did not make fast friends with the lucky winners of these bids, but there is always next year, right?
The night ended with Joe and Jen Andruzzi (seen below) awarding Lisa and Ed Medeiros of presenting sponsor East Commerce Solutions with the 2015 (Up)Beat Cancer Award in honor of the support they have given the Foundation.
Last year’s event raised over $900,000 for the foundation. I will update the post with this year’s proceeds as soon as they are released. (Personally, I’m crossing my fingers that they were able to cross the $1 million mark!)
If you would like to donate to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation in honor of Hudson Solder (tell me he isn’t one of the cutest babies ever), click here. Proceeds of the fund will benefit JAF’s mission of providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their families – allowing them to focus on recovery, not mounting rent/mortgage, utility, or other household bills.
For more information on the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, click here.
Thank you to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation and all of its volunteers for putting on such a great event!