Larry Fitzgerald’s Game-Changing Charity
Many of us know Larry Fitzgerald Jr. as the Arizona Cardinals’ elite wide receiver; a player dedicated to his team who consistently gives his all during each game. Off the field, Fitzgerald gives his all to the community, putting that same energy, passion and dedication seen on game day into his thriving charity organization, The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund.
Inspiration first struck Fitzgerald to start an organization that would help struggling kids and families in the community when he lost his mother, Carol Fitzgerald, to breast cancer in 2003.
“My mom was really involved in the Minneapolis community, so I wanted to do something that could impact my own community here in Arizona,” shares Fitzgerald. “So that was my First Down Fund, and every single year we try to do something to raise awareness for breast cancer and also for the youth.”
While Fitzgerald might have already been a big name on the Cardinals roster by the time he started The First Down Fund, the organization had much humbler roots.
“I really had small goals at first, I just wanted to get some computer labs and start some programs to help kids along the way, and over the years it just continued to grow,” tells Fitzgerald.
Always one to dream big and achieve even bigger, Fitzgerald devoted countless hours to ensuring that his organization continued to be a valuable resource for children in both his community and around the world.
“I just continue to work hard. For me, it’s something that I’m very proud of—to know that I am giving. I want to go and make a positive impact on the people coming after me,” he says.
Although originally from Minnesota, as a Cardinals player, Fitzgerald holds the Phoenix community in a special place in his heart. Not only does he work to give back to the city, but he also enjoys being part of the community, getting to know the residents and holding fun events for youth in hopes of inspiring them to become successful, flourishing members of society.
Recently, Fitzgerald has joined forces with ProCamps to hold the Albertsons Larry Fitzgerald Football ProCamp once a year. During this two-day camp, kids from all over the Valley get the chance to work with Fitzgerald, receive expert football instruction and participate in daily games and skills contests. Much more than just a football camp, the program gives the kids an opportunity to get to personally know and interact with Fitzgerald, who serves as both a mentor and role model for working hard and achieving goals and dreams.
“Something I really believe in is our future generations; they are responsible for our country and us, and I want to be able to provide them with the best opportunity and equipment to do that,” he says.
As Fitzgerald has a big appetite for making an impact on the community, it would seem fitting that the only way to satisfy that appetite would be to hold a philanthropic dinner party benefitting The First Down Fund. Thus, the concept for Fitz’s Supper Club “Celebrities at Your Service” was born.
“We kind of just came up with this philosophy, and I really like the way it’s run. It gives me the opportunity to be in an intimate setting where I can see everybody and kind of get to meet all the people here to support the fund,” says Fitzgerald.
This year, Fitz’s Supper Club took place at Dominick’s Steakhouse, featuring an art auction of Fitzgerald’s personal travel photography. When speaking of the event, CEO of Dominick’s Steakhouse, Jeff Mastro, had nothing but positive words about Fitzgerald and his charity.
“We thought it would be a great partnership. Larry’s a great football player and a great person and his charity does great work, so we are very happy to host the event.”
And for Fitzgerald, that’s what it’s all about: giving back to the community while having a great time.
The real game-changer came, however, when he decided to take The First Down Fund to an international level, partnering with Starkey Hearing Foundation to help fit thousands of underprivileged children with hearing aids. Fitzgerald decided to get personally involved with the Foundation, going on repeated hearing mission trips to Africa and Asia and helping children experience the gift of hearing for the first time, while also finding great joy and satisfaction in knowing he had helped bring hope back into their lives.
“The first time I did a charity mission was actually with Starkey Hearing Foundation, and that changed my perspective on how big and how far of a reach you can have,” says Fitzgerald.
“They really continue to inspire me to dig deep, work hard and make a greater impact myself. Those experiences, those five or six missions that I’ve done with them, they have really been a game-changer for me.”
True to his word, Fitzgerald took what he learned from his mission trips with Starkey Hearing Foundation and began working with Oxfam America, where he and teammate Anquan Boldin traveled to Ethiopia in response to a severe drought they were experiencing. While there, Fitzgerald and Boldin made it their mission to restore life and vibrancy to the community by visiting with farmers, helping plant trees and working alongside the locals to assist in building retaining walls to prevent erosion.
As Fitzgerald says, “I just want to make sure I am doing my part,” whether that be on a local or global scale.
Back home, Fitzgerald also pays special tribute to his mother by acting as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and NFL’s “Crucial Catch Campaign,” which takes place in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“It has been really rewarding for me to know that I am helping, so other people don’t have to loose their mothers or grandmothers or aunts or sisters; that’s really important to me,” says Fitzgerald.
With his tireless efforts in using his NFL platform to raise awareness about Breast Cancer and his unflinching desire to prevent anyone from loosing a loved one to the disease, Fitzgerald is the perfect embodiment of the American Cancer Society’s biggest attribute—hope.
Ultimately, Fitzgerald’s main goal is to provide a solid foundation for children to find what their passion is, and to inspire them to pursue that passion despite all the odds.
“For me, my only goal is to inspire and to be able to equip kids with the things that they need to make them be able to reach their goals and dreams,” he shares.
What drives Fitzgerald to do this is the tight-knit group of people that have supported, inspired and helped him grow throughout his life.
“I was just a young guy with great dreams and aspirations, but you know you have to work hard and reach far for those dreams, and I had a lot of people who were always there to support me along the way and guide me in the right direction,” he says. “I just want to make sure I am doing my part now.”