NEW YORK — Curtis Granderson hasn’t been able to contribute much to the Yankees on the field this season due to a broken hand, but that hasn’t stopped the center fielder from contributing off the field with his Grand Kids Foundation. Established in 2007 when Granderson played with the Detroit Tigers, the three-time All-Star has made education, fitness and helping kids in cities across the United States a priority for the foundation. Monday afternoon, Granderson returned to New York from Tampa, Florida where he’s been rehabbing, to host the first annual Grand Kids Foundation All Star Awards luncheon at STK in midtown Manhattan.
Joining Granderson for the luncheon to honor brands and individuals for their ongoing support of the foundation’s 2013 community endeavors were Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, team president Randy Levine, Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher and 2013 All-Star Matt Moore, former Yankee and current Orioles outfielder Chris Dickerson and Sam Kass, Executive Director of the White House’s “Let’s Move” initiative.
“Curtis Granderson’s a difference-maker on the field and events like this are a massive demonstration of what he does off the field,” Brian Cashman said. “He’s been hurt this year. He hasn’t been able to play for us and yet he’s still making a difference regardless. We’re really proud to be associated with Curtis and all the great work he does.”
Granderson told the sold-out crowd at STK in midtown Manhattan about the origins of the Grand Kids Foundation, which is now in its sixth year.
“A lot of people asked me how do you want to give back to the community, what do you want to do?” Granderson said. “Education’s always been very important to me. My mom and dad were educators, recently retired, and my sister teaches English at Jackson State University. I graduated college [University of Illinois-Chicago] with a double degree so you can see where education has always been very important to us.
“I wanted to do something with education and oh yeah this baseball thing has allowed me an opportunity to do a bunch of great things in the community starting when I played tee ball at the age of six and now I stand here at 32 years old and still have a chance to play this game. I wanted to do something with baseball and educational initiatives and that’s when the Grand Kids foundation was established in 2007.”
Since then, the Grand Kids Foundation has remained focused on improving the educational experience for youth nationwide, helping kids with both educational and fitness-related initiatives as the foundation’s namesake grew in popularity. In the past year, Grand Kids has organized several community initiatives, including the Back-to-School Program sponsored by PWC, a Hurricane Sandy School Recovery initiative in Staten Island, a Jackie Robinson Day Tribute in Brooklyn, the University of Illinois at Chicago community development project (Curtis Granderson Stadium) and the summer rollout of the Grand Kids Fitness Challenge. Granderson is particularly passionate about physical fitness for kids.
“Once I got asked to be a part of the Let’s Move campaign a few years ago and be the baseball representative, for one it was an honor and a privilege,” Granderson said after arriving to the event on a Citi Bike to promote fitness and environmental awareness. “Just getting that mindset back especially when Type 2 diabetes among kids is starting to become an issue, childhood obesity is becoming an issue. To get a chance to be a part of it has been great and hopefully we get a chance to keep some kids moving and just have fun — baseball, football, zumba, karate, skateboard, you don’t have to go out there and do the most taxing thing, you can have a lot of fun being physically fit.”
The luncheon provided an opportunity for the Grand Kids Foundation to honor several key supporters of its initiatives, including New Balance (Sports Innovation Award), Legendary Entertainment (Inspiration Award), PWC (Corporate Citizenship Award), University of Illinois-Chicago (Community Service Award), YMCA of Greater New York (Pioneer Award) and The White House, Let’s Move! (Leadership Award). More importantly, it raised money for the Foundation’s initiatives and helped spread the word about what the Grand Kids Foundation is all about.
“I met Curtis last year and just the first impression is just an unbelievable guy, somebody that I’d feel fortunate to be able to surround myself with,” Tampa Bay Rays pitcher and first-time All-Star Matt Moore said. “He invited me [to the luncheon] when he heard I was added to the roster and he knew I was going to be in town there was no way I couldn’t come see what this was about.
“I now understand a lot more about the foundation and the message and the vision of what he’s trying to do. If you asked me to jump on board I’d be right there with him. This is something that needs a lot of attention and he’s absolutely taken a lot of steps forward to addressing that.”
For more information about the Grand Kids Foundation, visit its website.
Photos courtesy of Amanda Rykoff