Past and present players came together today to celebrate the storied history of the New York Jets and to kick off the 2007 season.
The four members of the New York Sack Exchange — Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam — joined New York Jets owner Woody Johnson at the American Stock Exchange, where they were given gold gavels with which to ring the opening bell. The former players received a warm welcome as they spent more than an hour walking through the floor of the exchange to sign autographs, pose for pictures and talk with traders.
Johnson and the Sack Exchange members then joined the entire 2007 team and several other alumni, including Rich Caster, Wesley Walker, Greg Buttle and Dave Herman, a few blocks away at Cipriani Wall Street for the Jets' annual Kickoff Luncheon. The luncheon honored John Adam Kanas, former chairman, president and CEO of North Fork Bank, and raised $800,000 to benefit the New York Jets Foundation and the Alliance for Lupus Research.
Bob Wischusen, radio voice of the New York Jets, emceed the event and got it started by introducing all the players and coaching staff to the crowd of Jets supporters. The players were then seated throughout the crowd to enjoy lunch and mingle with the guests. Later in the program guests heard remarks from Johnson, Kanas, Jets president Jay Cross and head coach Eric Mangini.
In addition to thanking all of the luncheon guests for their continued support of the Jets' charitable efforts, Johnson said in his remarks, "I also want to thank our players and our coaches, each of whom takes the time to give back to our community. With this type of teamwork, there is nothing we cannot achieve. We can — and will — continue to make a difference."
Over the past seven years, the Jets and their charitable foundation have donated or contributed more than $7 million to promote youth health, fitness and education, particularly in disadvantaged communities. From fighting childhood obesity through the "Generation Jets: Be Lean & Green" initiative to launching a football team in a Harlem high school and urging students in the Bronx to eat right and move more, the Jets make investments that make a difference in the lives of others.
In addition, since 2001, the New York Jets have raised more than $5.5 million for the ALR through proceeds from this luncheon and participation in the alliance's signature fundraising program, "Walk with Us to Cure Lupus" events throughout the tristate area.
The program closed with a spirited live auction, which raised an additional $40,000 for charity. Two lucky bidders each won an all-expenses-paid trip to Arizona for the 2008 Super Bowl.