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 creation."
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.