Larry Izzo with his Ron Burton Community Service Award.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Special teams captain Larry Izzo was recognized as the 2008 New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award winner at the team's annual Kickoff Gala. Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft presented Izzo with the award, which is named in honor of Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the team and known for his widespread charitable work throughout Eastern and Central Massachusetts.
"My family and I admire the way that Larry has taken the initiative to go above and beyond the call of duty in the community," said Robert Kraft. "Philanthropy is an important obligation to my family and to everyone associated with the Patriots. We are proud of our players' achievements in the community this past year, and on a team where so many are so generous with their time, Larry should be commended for standing out."
Coming from a military family, Izzo, 33, has focused much of his charitable outreach on supporting the United States military. He has held three karaoke events, called "Larryoke", to raise money for military charities such as Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund, Home for Our Troops, the Fallen Patriot Fund, Fisher House Boston, Operation Ensuring Christmas and the Pat Tillman Foundation. His three Larryoke events, featuring Larry and his teammates belting out karaoke tunes, have raised a total of $600,000. During the 2005 offseason, Izzo traveled to the Middle East for a week to officially open the Pat Tillman USO Center, located at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He also visited Kuwait, Qatar, Afghanistan and Iraq, meeting thousands of soldiers during "The USO and NFL Salute the Troops Tour". Izzo has also done volunteer work with Cause, a non-profit organization that benefits military personnel while they recover in military hospitals, and he has visited injured military personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
In addition to his personal work with the military, Izzo contributes heavily to the Patriots' community outreach in Boston and the surrounding areas. In 2007, Izzo served food at the Kids Café located at the Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury and also visited the Pine Street Inn to serve and prepare meals for Boston's homeless community.
Izzo is the sixth Patriots player to be selected as the Ron Burton Award winner, joining past honorees Joe Andruzzi (2003), Troy Brown (2004), Matt Light (2005), Jarvis Green (2006) and Ty Warren (2007).
Patriots LB Larry Izzo comments after receiving the award
LI:It's truly an honor to receive this award and to be associated with Ron Burton. The work that I do in the community pales in comparison to what he was able to do in his lifetime. But it's an honor. I thank the organization for giving me this award and I thank my teammates for supporting the work that we do with the military. It's about the troops. Any time we've had the Larryoke event, it's been about the troops and supporting them and their families because they're the ones that need it the most. I'm just happy to be in a position where I can put an event together that brings attention to the sacrifices they're making and raise a little money while having a little fun.
Q:Did you ever think Larryoke would grow to the level that it has?
LI: You know, it was my wife [Mara]'s idea to connect my passion for karaoke and my passion for the military. I have to give her full credit. She's the one who helped me identify that this would be a great way to raise money. A lot of people do golf tournaments and bowling and pool tournaments. I think that Larryoke is a very unique event and I hope to continue to do it. I also want to thank the people in the Boston area who have supported it so well. We've sold out every time we've had the event and raised over $600,000 in three years. We wouldn't have been able to do that without the corporate sponsors and the people of Boston that support the military as we do.
Q:Our understanding is that you were kept in the dark about winning the award. When you saw your face on the screen…
LI:My heart started beating a little bit. I have to say, I can't remember my heart pounding as much as it did when I was hearing Mr. Kraft identify the things that I have done in the community. It's an honor. I commend all of my former teammates and current teammates who have won the award in the past. They've all done great work. We have other guys who didn't win the award this year who all do great work in the community. That's what makes it such an honor, knowing that we have a lot of guys that are committed to giving back. I'm just happy to be one of them.
Q:Why the commitment to the military?
LI:I grew up as an Army brat. I moved all around the country, every two or three years going to different schools. I have a connection with the families of the military. And obviously my trip overseas [on a USO tour in 2005] was a life-changing event, to go over there firsthand and to see what was going on over in Baghdad and Afghanistan and Kuwait and to see the sacrifices personally that all of the troops were making. That's the connection, through my dad [Larry], who was a career army officer, and my trip overseas.