By Danielle Beurteaux
Jared Landaw speaks with reverence about the recently renamed
MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home to the New York
Jets and the New York Giants. "It’s amazing to
step on that field," he says.
||Jared Landaw: A mentoring relationship can
only be built by spending time together
But Landaw isn’t a pro football
player—he’s the chief operating officer
of a hedge fund and the co-founder of the Gridiron Games. The
Gridiron Games are an annual event—the next is
November 5—for kids involved with Big Brothers Big
Sisters of New York City, a citywide mentorship program founded
in 1904 and now serving more than 3,000 kids.
Landaw, 46, chief operating officer and general counsel of
New York–based activist fund Barington Capital Group,
started volunteering 20 years ago and has been on the board of
trustees since 2003. He co-founded the Gridiron Games in 1995
when a fellow volunteer gained access to the
Giants’ previous home, Giants Stadium. More than
100 kids—called Littles—spend the day with
their adult mentors—Bigs—at the stadium
(formerly known as New Meadowlands). "Our Littles come from
tough inner-city neighborhoods, but they are the most kind,
pleasant and appreciative kids," says Landaw.
"It’s a beautiful opportunity for them to spend a
day playing at the stadium with their adult mentors, and I
think they realize how special that is."
The Littles get coaching from a pro player and play football
on the field. They also get a stadium tour and have lunch in
one of the VIP clubs, where former NFL players talk with the
kids. For past Gridiron Games, Joe Namath, Carl Banks, Stephen
Baker and Sean Landeta have all volunteered their time. "The
kids’ eyes are the size of saucers," says Landaw.
In the afternoon, New York law firms take to the field for
fundraising 5-on-5 touch football games, with the winning team
taking home the Gridiron Games trophy.
Above all, the day is a time for Bigs and Littles to
strengthen their connection. "A successful mentoring
relationship can only be built by spending time together,
building trust and getting to know each other," says
Landaw is what being a volunteer is all about, says Hector
Batista, executive director and chief executive of BBBS of NYC.
"For our kids to be exposed to the Gridiron Games is pretty
incredible," he says. "Jared is extremely involved, and
he’s raised over $1 million since its
Landaw says studies show that kids involved with Big
Brothers Big Sisters are less likely to abuse drugs and
alcohol, will develop better self-esteem, get along better with
their families and are more likely to stay in school. That ties
in with the message the footballers have for the kids at the
Most of all, Landaw says, he hopes kids leave the Gridiron
Games with big smiles and memories of a great day spent with
their Big Brother or Big Sister. "It’s a real
miracle day for the children in our programs," says Landaw.