By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t take his celebrity status for granted. He’s respectful of fans and, as a result, the Red Sea adores him.
One way the 6-foot-3 athlete uses his stardom to give back to the community: raising money for breast cancer and child-related causes.
The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will present “The Grand Illusion, the ninth annual Fitz’s Supper Club — Celebrities at Your Service” on Monday, August 28, at Dominick’s Steakhouse. It benefits the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund.
Illusions will take center stage, as guests enjoy a four-course dinner and spirits served by Fitzgerald’s teammates and other celebrity friends. A magician will perform tricks throughout Dominick’s.
“Every year we try to introduce innovative ideas to keep people interested and willing to come back,” Fitzgerald says via telephone from Minnesota, where he was hosting a kids’ camp.
“It’s difficult to keep people’s attention in today’s world with instant gratification. By changing up the themes and making it fun and exciting, it will generate some much-needed revenue for our foundation.”
Fitz’s Supper Club will allow guests to “experience” Dominick’s Steakhouse as they haven’t in the past. The servers will be Hall of Fame NFL players, Phoenix Suns, current and former Arizona Diamondbacks and a cadre of Cardinals. It has become one of the premier social, philanthropic and entertaining evenings in Scottsdale.
“We are huge fans of everything Larry Fitzgerald does both on and off the field,” says Jeff Mastro, co-owner of Dominick’s Steakhouse and Steak 44. “That’s why we are proud to underwrite the entire evening and help Larry raise a record amount of fun for his First Down Fund.”
For a decade now, the Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund has supported kids and their families with significant gifts of time, money and special resources through numerous associations across the country. Despite the achievement, Fitzgerald is quick to deflect the attention from him and the work he’s done.
“It’s been a team effort,” he says. “There are a lot of people involved who have done a lot of hard work to make it go the way it’s been going. I’ve had some dedication from my teammates and all the donors who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to make the foundation go out there and address the needs of the people in the communities.”
His mother, Carol, taught him the importance of philanthropy. She lost a battle with breast cancer in 2003, and inspired Fitzgerald to raise money for the cause.
“She would say, ‘Let’s go over there and do Circle of Love,’ or ‘Let’s go over there and do the AIDS Walk.’ It was engrained in us,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s essential for me to do this. If I’m not making a presence in the community, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
The biggest joy he gets is when he sees his and his team’s work come to fruition. “Like a backpack back-to-school drive or a computer lab initiative, once you see it implemented, that’s what makes it feel really special to me,” he says. “I have people come up to me at random dinner locations and say, ‘Larry, we really appreciate the money you’re raising for breast cancer awareness. Thank you for fighting the battle with us.’”
Fitzgerald is proud to continue his mother’s legacy and was thrilled to share the Walter Payton Man of the Year honor with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
“It was really fun to share that with Eli, somebody I’ve known since 2003,” he says. “I see all the great work he’s been able to accomplish. We were in the same draft class in 2004. We’re just continuing to do what’s right in our respective communities. We strive to be great examples not only for athletes but people in general.”
He doesn’t feel the pressure, however, to be a good role model. It comes naturally.“I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Fitzgerald says. “Nothing changes with me. I do the same things I’ve always done: Live life to the fullest and be respectful.”
The Grand Illusion, Fitz’s Supper Club—Celebrities at Your Service
7 p.m. Monday, August 28
Dominick’s Steakhouse, 15169 N. Scottsdale Road