Like many creative ideas, this one was sparked in the shower, on Valentine’s Day 2023.
Tom Grossi, a comedian and popular YouTuber who has been creating National Football League content and trying to do “chaotic good” since 2015, thought of a unique fundraiser. What if he visited the 30 NFL stadiums in 30 days to raise money for a good cause?
He shared the idea with friends, and the more he thought about it, the more excited he became. Grossi had raised funds for different charitable causes in the past. He had always wanted to contribute more to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and decided a few days later that it would benefit from his latest fundraising efforts. He knew his 475,000 YouTube subscribers at the time would embrace the idea, too.
“Pediatric cancer is a cause that I have supported a lot, and St. Jude quickly became a no brainer,” Grossi said, noting that some of his followers through the years have shared stories of how pediatric cancer affected their lives.
Grossi, of New York, went to work. He spent four months organizing the tour and decided he would spend $50,000 he had saved to buy a house to pay for the cost of travel and hotels.
“This was more important, this was for the kids," he said in one of his YouTube videos recounting his odyssey around the country.
He planned not only visits to the NFL stadiums, which host 32 NFL teams, but also organized fan meetups. When he arrived at his first stadium, Lambeau Field, the home of his favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, he hoped for at least a dozen fans. Instead, he drew about 40, he said.
With every stadium visit during the month of June, his fan events reached more people, who were happy to donate whatever they could for the children of St. Jude. They donated money but also auctioned some of their prized possessions. Grossi was moved with the “inherent kindness of people.”
“We got chants at every single fan event that was for the kids,” he recalled. “People coming in who gave me $5 and $1 and saying give this to St. Jude and it was this huge rallying thing across 32 fan bases, and 32 very different teams coming together for this very awesome thing.”
Grossi’s aim, at first, was to raise $100,000. He reached it in 10 days, helped by the videos he uploaded on his YouTube channel after every stadium visit. He then set a higher goal of $500,000. He announced incentives when the fundraiser reached certain amounts to draw more donations. When he reached $250,000, for example, he had to stay at a haunted hotel in New Orleans.
The journey came with some challenges, as well. In Buffalo, on Day 6 of his travels, when he collected $50,000, Grossi jumped through a folding table, a tradition among Buffalo Bill fans. The stunt left him with a busted arm and an achy back for days. Later, when he was in Philadelphia and Baltimore, the thick smoke from the Canadian wildfires which could be felt and seen in the area made it rough to breathe.
“I grew up with asthma, being out there in that did not feel the best,” he said.
In the middle of his trip, Grossi visited St. Jude in Memphis. There, he was able to tour the campus and its research facilities. He was told of the research hospital’s history, and the efforts of St. Jude Global, which was established in 2018 to help enhance the quality of care for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases worldwide.
He also was able to meet with some patient families.
“Hearing the stories behind it and seeing the videos of the kids and that put it into perspective,” he said. “This is not something that is far away or out of sight, out of mind. It is in front of you.”
Grossi ended in Los Angeles, where he did interviews, visited SoFi Stadium, and toured the NFL’s Los Angeles headquarters. His final meetup was held outside the NFL building where fans sported different colored jerseys representing several NFL teams.
Grossi was named NFL Fan of the Year on Thursday at the NFL awards ceremony. He raised more than $500,000 for St. Jude. He became a nominee after being named the 2023 Green Bay Packers Fan of the Year.
Grossi said he is grateful to the football fans.
“I’m a weird football dude who decided to do an insane thing and jump through tables and go stay at haunted hotels,” he said. “But it comes down to the everyday people who put the money up and who donated. It highlighted how awesome NFL fandom can be.”