Once the cake arrived it was officially a party. Hunger Task Force food bank volunteers fawned over the cake that was a replica of a Sargento truck.
“I see these trucks all the time, so that gave me some inspiration,” said baker Debbie Pagel of Eat Cake! in Milwaukee. Every year she creates a custom cake for this celebration with a Sargento theme.
The guests of honor were the Hunger Task Force volunteers who staff different food pantries across metro Milwaukee. The invitation to this a-list event came from Sargento, thanks to us being the Official Cheese of the Green Bay Packers.
“In the early days of ‘Touchdowns for Charity,’ this day used to be a simple check presentation. It has grown tremendously and become a nice tradition for all the people who work so hard on the front lines against hunger,” said Sargento Creative Services Director Bob Peiffer. “It’s been an amazing run with the Hunger Task Force these past 13 years. We’re very pleased.”
There was a buzz in the air because the volunteers knew that not only would they be getting a delicious meal and a block of Sargento Aged Cheddar cheese, they knew they would get to meet the hero of the Packers 2015 season: Richard Rodgers. His Hail Mary catch against the Detroit Lions two weeks ago increased the RSVPs to the party by 100 according to Hunger Task Force Executive Director Sherrie Tussler.
“It’s huge having him here. This is the biggest one we’ve had yet with more than 273 people. He really is like their Christmas gift,” said Tussler. “Thank you to Sargento for 13 years. We look forward to at least 13 more. Sargento really put the Hunger Task Force on the map with ‘Touchdowns for Charity.’ People get it. It really elevated our brand and what we do, having an affiliation with Sargento and the Packers,” she said.
For the past 13 seasons, Sargento has donated $1000 to the Hunger Task Force every time the Packers score a touchdown. This has been our ‘Lucky 13′ season, not only because of Richard Rodgers’ amazing catch, but also because we have surpassed one million dollars donated to tackle hunger.
“This day couldn’t have gone any better. It’s nice to be able to thank the volunteers and to reward them for the hard work that they do year round,” said VP-Corporate Communications & Gov’t Relations Barbara Gannon. “We were able to present a check for $39,000 today to the Hunger Task Force. That’s based on 37 touchdowns plus Louie, threw in an extra $2,000 bonus because of that special Hail Mary catch!” said Gannon. “Richard Rodgers has the most touchdowns this season for the Packers which is lucky for us. We choose which Packer we are going to partner with for ‘Touchdowns for Charity’ at the beginning of the season, so we have no idea how they’ll be offensively. We have always lucked out though and gotten players who have a big impact on the season,” she smiled.
“This is great that Sargento helped make this possible,” said a guest with his 2-year-old son. “My wife runs the Open Door cafe at St. John’s Cathedral in Milwaukee. She serves hundreds of homeless people every week. They get food from the Hunger Task Force, so it’s nice that Sargento supports this cause. It makes a difference,” he said.
During the check presentation portion of the celebration, the emcee, Green Bay Packers radio announcer Wayne Larrivee, asked Rodgers a few questions and so did the volunteers:
HTF Volunteer: When did you decide to play football instead of basketball?
Rodgers: When I was a sophomore in high school in Worcester, Massachusetts. I probably should’ve played baseball because it would’ve been easier on my body. When I was at the bottom of the celebration pile after that catch, I was worried!
That’s all, really, Richard Rodgers said about his historic catch. He was very matter-of-fact about it. He said it was a perfect spiral as it dropped into his hands. The entire day he was very gracious and humble with the volunteers.
HTF Volunteer: Where are you from?
Rodgers: Concord, California. I’ll take this weather, even though I’m used to cold having lived in Massachusetts. Rainy games aren’t fun though unless you’re running the ball like we did on Sunday against Dallas.
All four Milwaukee television stations covered the celebration, perhaps drawn by the appeal of Richard Rodgers. He signed autographs for every volunteer who waited in a line that snaked to the back of the building. He said his hand wasn’t tired because he “practiced” signing his autograph as a kid in high school. He knew something then that Packers fans just figured out.
“This is awesome. He’s hot! And now I’m sweating!” said a volunteer fanning herself after receiving Rodgers’ autograph.
The final autograph Richard Rodgers signed happened backstage as he was taking photos with the Hunger Task Force and Sargento staff. Bob Peiffer couldn’t resist asking Rodgers to sign a photo of “the catch” for Sargento Trade Planning Analyst Ryan Stubbs who is an avid Detroit Lions fan.
“Yes, sign it ‘To Ryan with love!” said Public Relations Manager Portia Young.
A wide smile lit up his face as he grabbed the Sharpie one last time.