Cliff Avril and several of his Seahawks teammates took part in a celebrity waiter event on Monday night for the Cliff Avril Family Foundation, which aims to raise funds and awareness for Type 2 diabetes.
"Richard, I don't want no dreads in their salads!"
That was the voice of defensive end Michael Bennett barking orders at long-haired cornerback Richard Sherman, one of several players posing as 'celebrity waiters' for defensive end Cliff Avril's third annual Dining to Make a Difference event.
A picturesque early fall evening inside Seattle's Palisade restaurant saw Seahawks players ditch their gameday garb for server aprons and dish up three-course meals to a throng of 12s seated at 30-plus tables overlooking Elliott Bay. The sold-out gathering was held in support of the Cliff Avril Family Foundation, which Avril launched in 2014 to increase awareness of Type 2 diabetes in youth, and to encourage healthy living through nutrition and exercise.
"My grandmother passed away from diabetes," Avril said. "My mom, my auntie, a lot of people in my family have diabetes, and it’s very prevalent in the Haitian community, so I just feel like it’s only right for me to be able to support.”
Avril said the the primary objective of Monday's function was to "get awareness out about all the different ways you can combat juvenile diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, with eating healthy and being active."
"I hope we can raise a lot of money, but again it’s all about getting awareness out of how prevalent Type 2 diabetes is in a lot of kids," Avril added. "Kids nowadays are playing video games, they’re not outside playing, getting active or anything like that, so we just want to let parents know, people know that you’ve got to get these kids active, that diet is very important. And also again, raise a lot of money so we can continue to keep building, continue to keep doing some great things in the community.”
Avril, Bennett, and Sherman were joined by teammates Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor, Brock Coyle, Jimmy Graham, Quinton Jefferson, Jermaine Kearse, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Tony McDaniel, Mike Morgan, DeShawn Shead, Steven Terrell, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Luke Willson, and K.J. Wright, as well as defensive line coach Travis Jones and assistant strength and conditioning coach Mondray Gee. Seahawks Legend Marshawn Lynch even made an appearance, as did NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens.
“It’s amazing," Avril said. "That just shows you how tight we are as a team."
Added Wagner, whose grandmother had diabetes: "I think we do a really good job supporting each other, especially a guy like Cliff. He’s an amazing man on the field and off the field, so whenever he has an event we’ll definitely show our love.”
In addition to his Dining to Make a Difference event, those "great things in the community" that Avril alluded to includes his work with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) chapters in Seattle, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, which in partnership with Avril's foundation has put teams together for Nordstrom's annual Beat the Bridge to Beat Diabetes walk and run. His community work has also brought him overseas, with Avril spending time in Haiti this past offseason alongside Lynch. Avril said it's a country where diabetes is "very prevalent" and the work he's currently doing there to help build an elementary school, establish health clinics, and host football camps aligns closely with the initiatives his foundation is aiming to achieve.
"We’re doing a lot of different things, man," said Avril. "And without the support of these people I don’t know if we’d be able to do it.”
Avril said his wife and Lynch, who Avril called "a big supporter of what I have going on," will return to Haiti this week along with other team members from his foundation to continue the work Avril, Lynch and other NFL players started this past summer.
"I want to continue to keep going out there," Avril said of making return trips to the country his parents once called home. "Continue to keep putting up health clinics and different things like that out there, and football camps.”
And going back to Avril hoping to raise "a lot of money" as a celebrity waiter, his event ended up bringing in more than $350,000.
A live and silent auction included autographed merchandise from Seahawks players, as well as other items signed by sports superstars like Kobe Bryant, Jamal Crawford, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, and Dwayne Wade. Experiences were auctioned off as well, including tickets to Seattle home games, a personal flight with tight end Jimmy Graham as a pilot - which went for a whopping $10,000 - and an evening of Monday Night Football entertainment with Avril and some of his Seahawks teammates.
Avril, Lynch, and Sherman also sold co-branded t-shirts on site throughout the night featuring the hashtag #Bricks2Books, a reference to the work Avril's humanitarian efforts Avril has started in Haiti. The shirts are available at Lynch's Beast Mode store in Seattle, with all proceeds going to the school Avril helped start in Haiti.
“I think we’re very fortunate to be in our situation, to be able to have this platform," Avril said. "So I think we should definitely take advantage of it."