What started as a personal project to empower local kids with access to education and technology, has left a lasting impression on the Seattle-area community at large. Rick Rizzs, lead voice of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners, isn’t just an American sports broadcaster. He is a local legend and icon in the community, for his commitment to giving back to those in need - including our long-time community partnership with Rick to provide educational opportunities and supplies to local area youth. Join us as we get to know more about Rick’s nearly three decade long commitment as the founder of Toys for Kids and their work with the RedCloud team.
RC: What is the mission of Toys for Kids and what types of programs do you run?
RR:The core mission of Toys for Kids to make sure that Christmas shows up for thousands of homeless and underserved children throughout the state of Washington. As the homeless situation in our community continues to grow year after year, so does the need. We want to make sure that Santa Claus shows up for these children.
We have a number of great programs throughout the year.
RC: Can you tell us why you started Toys for Kids?
RR: We started Toys for Kids saw a great need in our community among the homeless population, especially with children.
I’ll never forget it. [Former Seattle Mariner] Dave Henderson and I were at a local bar in Pioneer Square one night towards the end of the 1995 baseball season. We happened to catch a story playing on the TV that said there were 8,316 homeless people in King County (at least that they could count). We wondered how many of those are children? Neither of us knew. I suggested we get together with some Seattle Mariners players who are active in the community, form our own charity and go seek out these children - and that’s what we did.
Dave and I, with the help of Seattle Mariners players Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Julio Cruz, Aaron Sele, John Olerud, Bill Haselman, John Moses, Matt Sinatro, Jeff Nelson, Jamie Moyer, and Omar Vizquel to form Toys for Kids. In our first year we raised $18,000 and were able to support three hundred children from the Broadview Women's Shelter, First Avenue Service and Harborview Medical Center, the latter of which held a Christmas party for homeless children.
Fast forward to today, at our most recent end of year gala we raised almost $1 million, purchasing brand new toys for over 17,0000 homeless and underserved children in and around King County. We also work with more than thirty-six homeless organizations to make sure Christmas shows up for these kids.
And those since retired Seattle Mariners? They still help out with our mission to help homeless kids to this day.
RC: What are you most proud of that the Toys for Kids charity has accomplished today?
RR: I am proud that:
I’m proud of so many things, but I’m especially proud of the passion that each and everyone of us have to help these children and their mothers during the holiday season. It is so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when they get a toy - it lets them know that there’s hope for a better future. That’s why we do what we do.
RC: Tell us a bit more about Toys for Kids’s relationship with RedCloud came to be?
RR: One of the best things that has ever happened to Toys for Kids has been the relationship with Brett Alston and RedCloud! Heather Jones, had previously worked with Brett through another organization and we are so happy and fortunate to have RedCloud as such an important partner and part of our Toys for Kids family. It’s hard to explain the impact that Brett and RedCloud has had on Toys for Kids or how much they have helped us throughout the year, but, I’ll try.
Without Brett and RedCloud we would not be where we are today as far as making an impact with these homeless and underserved children in our community. RedCloud has been truly a blessing for our Toys for Kids charity and thousands of kids.
RC: Can you tell us specifically about the high school scholarship program that RedCloud supports?
RR: One of the best programs Toys for Kids has is the Dave Henderson Scholarship Award.
Many years ago, Dave and I talked about doing something more with the funds we raised for Toys for Kids during our annual gala. One thing we talked about was creating a scholarship for a high school senior who could use some financial help with higher education. Shortly after Dave’s passing eight years ago, we started the scholarship award to honor him. In our first year we awarded one recipient, in comparison 2022 where we awarded ten scholarships!
RedCloud is a vital part of our Dave Henderson Scholarship Award program. As a sponsor they donate an additional $5,000 to the fund to make sure a high school senior has a chance to jumpstart his or her college education with the scholarship. Additionally, Brett is actively involved in - choosing an award winner from the hundreds of essays submitted by high school seniors throughout Washington. But that’s not all. Brett also shows up at the high school of the winner he selected to personally present the award to them. We receive an absolutely amazing response from the award winner, the children in their classroom and the school.
RC: How many games will the Mariners win this season?
RR: I guarantee you the Mariners will win every game each, scoring more runs than the other team and you can take that to the bank. Honestly though, last year was an amazing season for the Mariners and our fans. We got to the playoffs for the first time since 2001!
We were also one of the youngest teams in the AL league. With that core group of players along with the others on the roster and the team that our Director of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, has put together, I feel very confident that the Mariners will get back to the playoffs again this season. In 2023 our goal is to get to the World Series and win it. I believe in my heart we have the team, the organization, and the fanbase to make that happen.
RC: Any final thoughts?
RR: I also want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me about Brett Alston, RedCloud and what they have meant to Toys for Kids down through the years. The Mariners have a bright future and so does our Toys for Kids charity because of people like Brett Alston and RedCloud. We are truly blessed and can’t thank him and RedCloud enough. Thank you.
Giving back is a core value at RedCloud and believe it’s up to each one of us to extend a helping hand when we can, whether the gesture be big or small. We’re honored to partner with Rick Rizzs and Toys for Kids throughout the year to give back to our local communities. We extend a big thank you to Rick leading the way and rallying this circle of supporters together.
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