Donations continue to come in so the benefit auction started by former Green Bay Packer great Jerry Kramer won’t be just a one-shot deal.
Jerry Kramer, Mike Ditka, Willie Davis, Gale Sayers and the illustrious group of NFL legends who make up the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund have announced that the online auction and donation drive initiatives will be indefinitely extended to continue raising funds to assist retried NFL players in dire need.
Phase I of the auction and donation drive launched during Super Bowl XLI week, and was immediately followed by Phase II on February 14th. The response was overwhelming according to Executive Director Jennifer Smith. A collection of those items closed on February 20th.
Ditka’s 1975 NFC Championship ring was among the items offered in the first phase, selling for over $12,000.
A fan who was identified only by the name ‘Bill’ was the high bidder for hand-drawn plays by Vince Lombardi, purchasing them for $7,101. "I am a life long Packers fan and grew up watching the Packers as a young boy during the early 60’s," said the high bidder. "I spent countless weekends watching the games in my basement with my father. He would always emphasize the importance of selflessness and teamwork and how Coach Lombardi was such a great example of what could be accomplished when so many functioned as one, as a team. Those are memories I have taken with me through-out my life and memories I have never taken for granted. That is the nostalgic basis for my involvement."
To date, the public auction and donation drive has raised over $170,000. That is more than a thousand times the amount of money that some players receive as a monthly pension. Hall Of Fame Cornerback, Herb Adderley, for example, receives only $126.58 per month in pension for his career in the NFL.
The Gridiron Greats fund provides financial aid and other assistance to retired NFL players in dire need due to a lack of adequate pension and disability support. The auction and donation drive have been extended indefinitely due to the increased level of interest form the public and corporations who are continuing to make cash donations, as well as NFL players who continue to send in personal items for auction and volunteer their time for celebrity experiences to be auctioned.
Some of the items in the Phase II collection which closed this week included a game-used, autographed Brett Favre jersey and several ‘experiences’ featuring fans interacting with NFL players.
While the auction is ongoing, items will close ten days after they are posted. New items will be added continuously. The public is encouraged to check the website daily. People who do not wish to bid on the auction items can make a cash donation at JerryKramer.com or by calling 1-800-708-1078.
“If we can continue over the next several months to bring in these kind of numbers through donations and auctions, the Fund will be off to a great start,” Smith said. “The fund is now set to begin distributing funds and offer other assistance though services to players in dire need. In addition, we now have someone in place who is working directly with the players and their families in need to assist and support them in a variety of ways. But, we need the continued support of the public and corporate America so we are able to help as many of these men as quickly as possible.”
Since the launch of the Fund on February, 2nd, more than 30 retired NFL players in dire need have contacted the GGAF seeking assistance. Among them are a former Chicago Bear who is in a nursing home in and need of additional staff to care for him due to his size and condition, a former Green Bay Packer who suffers from Parkinson’s in need of a feeding tube and is requesting support to be placed in an assisted living facility, a member of the Pro Football Hall Fame, Willie Wood, who is in an assisted living facility with early dementia has also requested assistance so he can stay in the facility and receive rehabilitation with the hope of being able to return to living independently.
The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, Inc. will provide medical and social services assistance to retired professional football players and their immediate families. The Fund is intended to assist players in their payments for medical costs and basic needs. Each case will be considered on an individual basis taking into account a number of factors, such as income, current other support, source of need, lack of ability otherwise to address the need, and other matters. Other than medical needs, players may apply for temporary assistance for basic necessities of life, including but not limited to food, assistance with housing and shelter, assistance with transportation, clothing, and other basic needs.
In addition to financial support, the fund will also provide the coordination of other types of assistance that may be available. Players requesting assistance from GGAF will be asked to fill out a streamlined packet of information. The fund will provide a person that is dedicated to helping the players fill out the forms for GGAF aid as well as assisting them to apply for other help that may be available. This is truly a unique service that the GGAF is providing to players and their families.
The full board will oversee all awards grants. Grants of smaller amounts and emergency situations would be handled by the awards committee.
“I am so encouraged by the public support and the support of other NFL players that I can see we have a real opportunity to help some of the guys who really need it,” said Jerry Kramer, founder of the GGAF. “I have been touched by the response and hope that now, with the ongoing donation drive and rolling auction, we can continue to raise funds to help even more.”
Some of the items and celebrity experiences that launched Wednesday include a 16”X20” lithograph depicting Hall of Fame Defensive Ends Willie Davis and Reggie White that is autographed by Davis and White. This print is a personal photo of the two friends that was recently hanging in the home of GGAF board member Willie Davis. Still up for grabs is a trip to the NFL Network to go behind the scenes and hang out with Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, and Deion Sanders, as well as day of driving at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, a unique Super Bowl XLI bowling pin signed by thirteen HOF and retired NFL players.
“I am thrilled that we are in a position to begin assisting some of the guys who are in dire need,” said Mike Ditka. “This is a tremendous cause. I am thrilled that so many players are stepping up to help, and that the many individuals and corporations are supporting the cause by making cash donations. It is important for everyone to remember who the funds raised are going to. It’s going to the guys who started football. Not the guys who are making the money off it, the guys who started it. Visit JerryKramer.com, bid on an auction item, or make a donation to help these guys out.”
The idea to start the GGAF came after Jerry Kramer’s missing Super Bowl I ring materialized in an online auction sale in April 2006. The auction house returned the ring to Kramer once it learned the item was stolen from Kramer 25 years earlier. After returning the original, it was decided to auction Kramer’s replica ring to raise money for these players. It sold for $22,000, nearly double the amount experts predicted, becoming the initial capital used to start the GGAF. The cause itself is dear to Kramer, who has witnessed the crippling effect a lack of financial support has had on former players he knows personally.