Players Raise Record Amount for the Make-A-Wish

Posted Oct 8, 2011

On Monday September 26, St. Louis Rams players donated their time at the 16th Annual Make-A-Wish Celebrity Server ”Night of Wishes.”  The event, which was hosted for the second year in a row by James Laurinaitis, was held at the Hyatt St. Louis Arch and brought in more than 400 fans eager to meet their favorite Rams players, cheerleaders and Rampage while contributing to the mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri by donating “tips” for autographs and photos. 

To make things interesting, and increase donations, the players competed with each other to see who could walk away with the most contributions.  In addition to a delicious dinner, guests were also treated to a fashion show featuring clothing from Esther and Daisy Clover boutiques.  Rams’ wives, fiancés and significant others walked down the runway with Wish Kids from the foundation while players mingled with guests.

“It is a great opportunity for the guys to get out here and see how much money we can raise for the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” said Laurinaitis. “For these kids that have life threatening diseases, it gives us the opportunity to give them another smile.”

The former Ohio State Buckeye linebacker was passionate about this organization even before coming to St. Louis.

“When I was at Ohio State, there was a little boy whose wish was to meet me, which really moved me at the time and was very humbling,” said Laurinaitis.

After that meeting, Laurinaitis was hooked on the Make-A-Wish Foundation and now uses his leadership position to help recruit his teammates to join in the cause.

“I am very grateful that so many guys came out on their night off to help,” said Laurinaitis.

Danny Amendola was one of the more than 20 Rams players in attendance.

“It is a great event to help a lot of kids and give them a good opportunity to have their wish granted,” said Amendola.  “We really enjoy this, as professional athletes in St. Louis, to be able to get out in the community and help others.  It’s a lot of fun.”

Amendola wasn’t the only player grateful for the opportunity to brighten a Wish Kid’s day.

“It is an unbelievable event,” said Steven Jackson.  “To come out here for a great cause, raise some money and hopefully make some wishes come true means a lot to us.”

In the midst of focusing on raising funds for this organization, players could not help but get a little competitive about who would be walking away having raised the most money.

“Right now I’m signing autographs, selling my name off for a little bit and trying to raise some money and hopefully be the highest earner out of all the players,” joked Jackson.

At the end of the night, Sam Bradford earned the number one spot, collecting more than $2,500 from fans.

“It feels great to be out here,” Bradford said.  “Make-A-Wish is a great cause and for us to be able to come out here and help them raise money is a great thing for us to be able to do.”

All proceeds from the event benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri.

“We had a fantastic evening tonight,” said LuAnn Bott, President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri. “We are still tallying the final numbers, but we know that we are around $250,000.”

That amount set a record for the event, which will translate to funding for more than 45 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

One of those wishes will be for Devontae, who said he hopes to go on a Nickelodeon Cruise.  Devontae spent the majority of the night helping Steven Jackson collect money for his autographs, but he also signed a few autographs of his own.

“I like all the players, but now, Steven is my favorite! This is fun,” Devontae squealed with excitement.  When asked if his time with the Rams will be more fun than the cruise, Devontae responded, “umm...probably not, but it’s still fun!”

Thanks to the efforts of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the St. Louis Rams, Devontae will have the chance to find out.

A big part of the night’s success came from the commitment of Laurinaitis and his role as the event’s chairman.

“James does a great job with this event and the fact that so many guys showed up tonight just shows how much we respect James and his leadership role on our team,” said Bradford.

Jackson added, “James has been a great leader for us ever since he has come aboard and has done unbelievable things in this community.  He’s a great guy, and anytime I have the chance to support any of my teammates, especially James, I want to show up and show him I take great honor in being a teammate of his and wanted to be a part of this event.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation Missouri Chapter’s volunteers are part of a nationwide network of nearly 25,000 caring people dedicated to making wished come true.  Although it has become one of the world’s most well-known charities, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has maintained the grassroots fulfillment of its mission.  They strive to personalize each and every wish to make sure the experience is as special as the child who requested it.  Volunteers continue to be the backbone of the organization.  They serve as wish granters, fundraisers, special events assistants and ambassadors who help spread the word about the work the foundation does.