How do you spend your birthday if you are Larry Fitzgerald Jr.? Running routes on the practice field and running food at Dominick’s Steakhouse, of course. The wide receiver hosted his seventh annual Fitz’s Supper Club, Celebrities at YOUR Service on August 31 at the swank Scottsdale eatery, and yours truly lucked out with an invitation to be on the red carpet.
Arriving in a black and silver Rolls-Royce, Fitzgerald was eager to meet the friends, family and media who turned out for the fundraiser. He flashed that great smile of his when we met face-to-face and said, “The last time I saw you, you were wearing a pink dress.” Indeed I was.
I’ve been a Cardinals fan since the team left its St. Louis nest and landed in Arizona in 1988, and recall doing some research on Fitzgerald when we drafted him in 2004. Dennis Green was the coach then, and knew the young athlete from his days as a ball boy with the Minnesota Vikings. I learned that nothing was given to Fitzgerald. He has a great work ethic, and earned it all.
I had the pleasure of meeting Fitzgerald last summer on a photo shoot for PHOENIX magazine, and recall how he listened attentively as we spoke. We share a common bond in that he lost his mother to breast cancer in 2003, and I am a four-year survivor. He asked about my diagnosis and treatment. He was locked in and made it clear he was absorbing every word. I learned that when people talk – family, friends, fans, people in general – Fitz listens.
The athlete was equally intrigued with our photographer Carrie Evans. After trying out her personal camera, he pulled out his phone to show us some photos taken during his recent travels, including one of a black mamba. His eyes widened as he told us how they are among the fastest and deadliest snakes in the world. “I can run fast, but not that fast,” he said with a laugh. “Trust me, I had a zoom lens when I took that photo.”
Many of the images we saw last year made their way to Fitz’s Supper Club. In addition to enjoying a luxury dinner served by No. 11’s teammates and other celebrity friends, guests were treated to an inaugural art show and auction of photographs taken by the athlete, including breathtaking images of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, the pyramids in Egypt and a variety of wild animals captured by his lenses in Tanzania.
“Larry does so much good for so many organizations,” Brian McKnight remarked at the event. “Anytime he says the word, I’m here.” The celebrated R&B singer not only attended Fitz’s Supper Club, but also graced guests with an intimate performance. Much to Fitzgerald’s chagrin, McKnight also broke into an impromptu round of “Happy Birthday” for the 32-year-old on the red carpet.
“Shhhh,” Fitzgerald pleaded. “Tonight is not about me. This is all about the kids. I am so blessed, and with everyone’s unwavering support, this event allows us to help those in need.”
This year’s gala raised more than $500,000 to benefit The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund, which supports children and their families through numerous organizations across the country.
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