Toronto Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli launched his “Fire Up the Grilli” promotion in conjunction with Jays Care Foundation Wednesday.
April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and Wednesday was National Grilled Cheese Day – so there was no better time for the man dubbed Grill Cheese to debut a new temporary food stand at Rogers Centre selling what else? Grilled Cheese sandwiches!
The stand, located in section 244, is part of a promotion the Jays created around the energetic reliever, called Fire up the Grilli. Throughout the month of April, baseball fans attending games at Rogers Centre can purchase grilled cheeses at the stand, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Jays Care Foundation.
This is an effort years in the making, Grilli said.
“For the last four years my team and I have put together an event that utilizes my nickname as a way to give back to the community. The idea of putting a grilled cheese cart on the stadium concourse was one I have had for many years and I’m thrilled that it not only became a reality this year but that the Jays have lent so much support to it as well,” Grilli said.
Jays care officials said Grilli approached them with the concept and they were thrilled to make it work.
Taking Grilled Cheese to Another Level
The always expressive Grilli is a fan of the classic grilled cheese himself, but felt Jays fans might have more elevated tastes. So he teamed up with Chef Elizabeth Rivasplata, Executive Chef at Rogers Centre, to create the ultimate Grilli Cheese.
“Chef Elizabeth helped me take it up a notch and gave it a bit of a Canadian flair. I couldn’t be happier with the end result,” he said.
The sandwich includes three cheeses – havarti, cheddar and mozzarella on Texas toast with an option to add a maple syrup drizzle.
“Sounds weird,” Grilli conceded, “but don’t knock it till you try it, tastes pretty amazing,” he added.
His sandwich was put to the test immediately upon its launch, when Grilli joined a group of children from Jays Care Home Run Scholars program Wednesday for lunch. The program, one of many that will benefit from money raised through the sale of the grilled cheeses, takes place after school and supports youth in grades 1 – 6.
“The hours after school finishes can be a vulnerable time for children, especially those living in marginalized communities,” a Jays Care Foundation information sheet stated. “Home Run Scholars provides not just a place for children to go after school, but an exceptional program that works with children to improve academic performance, enhance physical health, enhance social and emotional well-being, and improve student behaviour after school.”
From the smiles on the faces of the kids in the program, and the warm thank you Grilli received, it looks like the recipe was a home run!
— TO Community Housing (@TOHousing) April 12, 2017
— Jays Care Foundation (@JaysCare) April 12, 2017
Making a Difference, One Sandwich at a Time
Grilli, a member of the Entertainment Council for Feeding America, one of the largest domestic hunger relief organizations in the US, is a longtime supporter of efforts related to ending poverty. He jokingly attributes his heritage for inspiring his spirit of giving.
“There’s nothing better than the feeling of giving back so I try to do so as often as possible. I think the Italian in me just likes to feed people,” he said, adding a hearty LOL to our email conversation. “Something as simple as cheese in between two slices of bread can do a lot for those in need. Feels great to make a difference!”
Robert Witchel, Executive Director, Jays Care Foundation loved the innovative approach Grilli is taking to raise funds and awareness for food insecurity.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players,” he said. “Jason is well aware of the work Jays Care does with children and youth across Canada and approached us with this fun idea to help out. Jason has championed anti-hunger initiatives in the past and this effort will support Jays Care’s programs such as Home Run Scholars and Rookie League, where children and youth receive healthy snacks to fuel their learning.”
Grilli plans on posting a link on his social media feeds (@grillcheese49) for fans who would like to contribute to the Fire Up the Grilli promotion but can’t make it to Rogers Centre to purchase a sandwich.
He doesn’t have a set goal in mind for how much he hopes to raise for Jays Care through the promotion, but he said, “I hope the lines are long and we raise a lot of cheddar!”
To learn more about Jays Care Foundation, visit their website at www.jayscare.com and follow them on social media @JaysCare.
*Featured Image via Toronto Blue Jays
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Joy Frank-Collins is a Communications professional who got her start writing as a journalist at a daily newspaper in southeastern Ohio. She was born in Reds country, but “found” baseball watching the 1986 Mets win the World Series. A long-time Pittsburgh Pirates fan, she added the Blue Jays as her AL team the day they picked up Russell Martin. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, with her family, who all share her passion for baseball. She loves the suicide squeeze, a crisp 6-4-3 double play and catchers. When not obsessing over baseball, Joy likes to work out, travel and drink wine.