Chip Scoggins: Fitzgerald's philanthropy work touch lives globally

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2012 - 12:19 AM

The Minneapolis native and NFL star receiver follows his late mother's example of generously sharing time and resources.

hide

Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (left), and Starkey's Bill Austin with other NFL players in Tanzania.

Photo: Provided Photo, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

One after another, Larry Fitzgerald Jr. fitted hearing aids in the ears of young children and watched their world come alive. His heart pounded as, in stunned amazement, the kids heard birds chirp, cellphones ring and motorcycles roar on a busy street.

Fitzgerald was in India on his first 10-day mission with Starkey Hearing Foundation, and that scene stirred something deep inside him.

"You ever been to a Baptist church before?" Fitzgerald asked. "And kind of caught the spirit? That's kind of how it was. I was like, 'This is an unbelievable experience.'"

That moment reaffirmed what he already believed in his heart. As a high-profile professional athlete, Fitzgerald feels an undeniable obligation to use his platform and stature in a manner that helps others and effects positive change. He's devoted his life to that pursuit.

Most know Fitzgerald as a superstar NFL wide receiver. He could go down as one of the best ever to play that position, and he's having his usual impact for the Arizona Cardinals this season. But that discussion is for another day, because the Minneapolis native does so much more than catch footballs.

Fitzgerald devotes time, money and resources to dozens of charities and philanthropic causes here in his hometown, nationally and even globally. He has visited 80 countries on six continents and often uses his love of travel to help others.

He has made five USO tours to visit soldiers overseas. He helped dig wells and build irrigation systems in drought-stricken Ethiopia. He's fitted children with hearing aids in eight countries, including Uganda, Rwanda and Malaysia. He's served as league spokesman for the NFL's breast cancer awareness initiative to honor his late mother, Carol, who died of breast cancer in 2003. Fitzgerald's "First Down Fund" makes a weekly donation to a charity nominated by a fan.

Locally, he refurbished basketball courts at Martin Luther King Park in Minneapolis, paid for underprivileged kids to attend summer football camps and helped north Minneapolis tornado victims. He announced this week that he has partnered with Riddell to provide new helmets to 1,000 kids in the Minneapolis parks and recreation football program.

That's only a snapshot of his charitable involvement.

"He's making a difference," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Not just with breast cancer but with a variety of other charities, because that's the kind of guy he is."

In August, Fitzgerald was chosen as the recipient of the Arthur K. Arkush Humanitarian Award, presented by Pro Football Weekly to an NFL player who demonstrates exemplary contributions to the community and charities.

Former President Bill Clinton made a mission trip with Starkey to Uganda in July. He asked Starkey founder and CEO Bill Austin if he would arrange for Fitzgerald to accompany him.

"I called Larry and said, 'You've got a presidential request,' " Austin said.

Fitzgerald isn't looking for attention or praise. He helps because he finds joy and purpose in it.

"When you're a professional athlete, people look up to you," he said. "They look at how you carry yourself. You have the ability to effect change in the things you say, in the things you do."

His mother serves as his inspiration. Carol worked as a disease intervention specialist for the Minnesota Department of Health and became an activist for HIV/AIDS and breast cancer organizations. She taught her two sons about compassion and selflessness.

"She lived by example," Larry said. "She set an example by giving back, being good to people, giving her time. And genuinely caring about people and their well-being."

That is why Fitzgerald doesn't just cut a check and move on. He doesn't believe in detached community involvement. Starkey's doctors trained him in how to fit people with hearing aids so he can help on missions. Two years ago, he paid for two breast cancer survivors to accompany him to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii and invited them to his rented house for dinner the night before the game.

"I wanted them to know that I care about them and I think about them and I appreciate their valiant fight," he said.

Fitzgerald embraces his role model status because he recognizes the impact he can have on young kids by giving them guidance and support.

"I remember going up to King Park and shooting baskets for hours when I could be doing some other stupid things," he said. "But I had that outlet. I want to make sure kids have that same opportunity that we had when we were growing up. I have that responsibility to the next generation."

His extensive travels to far reaches of the globe have provided him a humbling perspective and awareness of the challenges that others face on a daily basis.

"When you see how dire the need is in some of these places, it really makes you sit back and appreciate the things that we have here," he said. "A lot of people don't have that same opportunity, but every day you see they have a smile on their face and they're thankful for their families and to be alive. From a worldly standpoint, they might not have much. But what they do have is a fulfilled spirit."

Fitzgerald wants to experience more of that. He plans to visit Antarctica after the season. He also wants to explore Tibet and Russia, climb Mount Kilimanjaro and sail around Patagonia.

"I've got a lot of things on my bucket list," he said.

Fitzgerald wants to see the world and do his part to make it a better place. His mother would be proud.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • VIKINGS WEEK 7

    Up next: Noon Sunday vs. Arizona

    Mall of America Field • TV: Ch. 9 (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 43 2nd Qtr 3:32
LA Clippers 37
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who will win the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close