Seahawks have fun, and raise funds for autism

Posted May 2, 2014

The Seahawks held their third annual Prime Time Celebrity Waiter event on Thursday night to raise fund for and awareness of autism through “Ben’s Fund” – which is named after the son of GM John Schneider and his wife Traci.

It was an insider opportunity to be waited on by members of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, bid on memorabilia from their 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and also enjoy some good food, beverage and company.

But the true meaning of the sold-out third annual Prime Time Celebrity Waiter event that was held Thursday night at El Gaucho in Bellevue is never lost on general manager John Schneider and his wife, Traci. Their 12-year-old son, Ben, was diagnosed as being autistic at the age of 3. And this event raises money for “Ben’s Fund,” as well as awareness of the condition.

“This is a very personal cause for us because of our son Ben,” Traci Schneider said. “So we always knew this is where we wanted to give back. We wanted to give back to the parents and to the families because we live it and we know what that’s like. And we couldn’t imagine not having the capability to do what you need to do for your child, because health insurance isn’t mandated to cover autism services and the state doesn’t have a program for kids with autism.

“So the families are really struggling to get services, and that’s the only way their kids are going to be better is to get support. So we feel very fortunate to be in the situation we’re in, to have the relationship with the team that we do and to be able to do something like this and have such an incredible involvement and backing.” 

Among the three dozen celebrity waiters were the All-Pro tandem of free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman and the Pro Bowl duo of quarterback Russell Wilson and center Max Unger.

The items in the silent auction included jerseys autographed by Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent and Sherman, and balls autographed by Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones; Jacob Green, the franchise’s all-time sack leader; Dave Krieg, the quarterback of the Seahawks’ first playoff team in 1983; and players past and present from other NFL teams – former Broncos QB John Elway, current Broncos QB Peyton Manning and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. And, of course, the prerequisite array of Super Bowl XLVIII memorabilia.

The guests also purchased “Ben Bucks,” which could be used to “buy” autographs from and photo opportunities with the celebrity waiters. And with everything related to the Seahawks since coach Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010, there has always been an emphasis on competition at this event.

“I knew that our philosophy here is ‘Always Compete,’ so there was going to be some competitive implementation,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said through a sly smile.

At a celebrity waiter event to raise funds for autism? “It got very serious, to the point where we had guys stealing other guys’ ‘Ben Bucks’ trying to win,” Baldwin said when asked about the “competition” to collect the most “Ben Bucks.”

“But it’s fun. It’s a team bonding-type atmosphere as well. And it’s for a good cause.” 

Fun and games aside, the real winners on this evening are the children with autism and their families who benefit from the funds generated by the event. The first event in 2012 raised $250,000. Last year, it was $270,000.

“This has exceeded our expectations and our hopes,” Traci Schneider said. “It’s such a gift to be able to give back to the community in this way, and raise money for ‘Ben’s Fund’ – something that’s so close and near and dear to our hearts. And to have the Seahawks be such a part of it and have the players come and be here again and again and again, it’s just amazing.”

That fact hits home even more for the players who have children of their own.

“It’s not just the kids that are affected, it’s the families and friends, too,” said linebacker Heath Farwell, who has two young sons. “So when you have kids, it’s extra special and you feel for anyone’s family that has to go through it. So if there’s any way we can help out, that’s why we’re here.

“You see the turnout of players, it’s really cool. Guys are here to support and it’s a great cause.”

Like Farwell and Baldwin, Unger was participating in his third Prime Time event.

“John and Traci have done this for a couple of years, and we get a good turnout every year,” Unger said. “And I’m glad. It’s a really fun event.”

Knowing Ben Schneider also increases the pleasure – and pleasure of knowing you’re helping.

“Ben rolling around the building and us being able to see him a little bit, and just be able to say hi and watch him kind of grow up,” Unger said, “there’s a little more invested, obviously.”