Whether sponsors pay a minimum of $2,500 for a chance to have their picture taken with him, someone pays $1,600 for an autographed pair of Superman socks or bidders flock to a silent auction for a Redskins jersey, it’s good to be friends with Robert Griffin III if you want to raise money for your organization.
It also helps to land Griffin if the event is at the Ferrell Center at Baylor University, his old college and high school coaches are there; and he truly supports your cause.
In this case, Griffin, Baylor’s 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and current Washington Redskins quarterback, and about 4,000 people turned out Friday night to the Ferrell Center to support Friends for Life at the “An Evening with Robert Griffin III” fundraiser. Friends for Life is a nonprofit group that provides needed support to the elderly and disabled through guardianships, independent living programs, adult day care and other services.
Inez Russell, founder and executive director of Friends for Life, said the organization hopes to raise $250,000 from the night with Griffin.
“This is the biggest event we have ever had,” Russell said. “We are in the process of expanding our services and what we are doing at Friends for Life. We are trying to reach out and help more people, so this is huge for us.”
Before the fundraiser, Griffin posed for photographs for more than an hour at a VIP sponsors event at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Jonathan Murphy, a 10-year-old center for his Mid-Tex football league in Boerne, struck one of the more innovative poses, kneeling over with his head up for the camera acting like he was centering a shotgun snap to the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Griffin, 24, obviously got a kick out of the pose and knelt down like he was ready to receive the snap.
Murphy’s father, Matt Murphy, said Jonathan’s grandfather, Norman Murphy, works for Friends for Life and they came to the event to support the group but also to see Griffin.
Jonathan said he is a Cowboys fan and, like many Baylor fans who grew up with the Cowboys, is “a little bit” torn when his favorite team plays the Redskins.
Griffin volunteered his time to work with elderly adults and disabled persons at Friends for Life while he was at Baylor, Russell said.
“Robert really had an impact on clients,” she said. “He played dominoes with them. They actually taught him to play. They are real proud of that.
“If you talk with our clients and you ask them what they are most impressed with, they will tell you that he listened. He sat down and listened to them and he would talk to them. I’m not sure any of them knew at the time he came that he was a good football player. They just liked him. He is such a genuine, caring person, and when he got famous, it was that much better. They became fans of the Redskins and Superman socks.”
The Gerald Bolfing family donated $50,000 to kick-start the fundraiser. Gerald Bolfing has worked with Friends for Life for more than a decade and got his family involved, said his son, Gerald.
The idea to involve Griffin was natural because of his popularity and because of Griffin’s involvement with Friends for Life, he said.
“We initially were going to do it last year, but Robert got hurt. So when we asked him this time, it took about a split-second for him to agree to do it,” the younger Bolfing said.
Griffin’s old high school coach from Copperas Cove, Jack Welch, brought two assistant coaches and 36 of his football players with him for the event.
Tyrell Thompson, a 17-year-old defensive end, and J.P. Urquidez, a 16-year-old offensive tackle, said Griffin personally invited the team to come.
“It’s cool to see someone we have met who worked hard and made it all the way,” Urquidez said. “It motivates us because we know that if we work hard, too, we might be able to be successful also.”
Griffin spoke to the crowd and then participated in a question-and-answer session moderated by Baylor President Ken Starr.
Before the event started, Starr joked that he was going to ask Griffin if he or his wife, Rebecca, does the cooking in their home.
“I think he will say, ‘Subway,’ ” Starr said, referring to Griffin’s endorsement deal with the sandwich company.