The 17th Annual ALSD (Association of Luxury Suite Directors) conference was held in Phoenix this week. In attendance were a number of suite directors and managers from collegiate and professional sports teams in the Valley as well as all over the U.S. After an eventful week of meetings, parties, and guest speakers, the conference concluded Thursday with the 2nd Annual "Lids 4 Kids" at the Phoenix Children's Hospital. The program collects hundreds of autographed hats that are signed by athletes and coaches, and then given to patients.
"This is a great event and it gives us a chance to take a break from the business side of things and give back to the community," explained Cardinals Manager, Premium Seat Services and Guest Relations Cari Belanger-Maas who visited patients. "I think it's especially important to give back to the children because they're our future fans."
For many of the children the hats were enough to put a smile on their faces. But when Cardinals offensive lineman Deuce Lutui and team mascot Big Red walked into the room, they couldn't control their excitement.
"My daughter is speechless right now," said Glendale, Arizona native Hedi Turowski whose nine-year old daughter Hannah has been receiving treatments since she was diagnosed with Leukemia. "We're here with Hannah 45 days at a time. For the Cardinals to stop by it's really awesome. It just helps them pass time and get through it."
"She's nine years old and she's got Leukemia and she has to be here in long term and to see these guys dedicate some of their time for kids that is amazing, "added Hannah's father Bob Turowski. "It makes a difference to us as a family, and not just Hannah. It's priceless and I am very grateful."
Big Red and Lutui spent the afternoon together signing autographs, taking pictures, and hanging out with kids and their families.
"I was there shaking hands with parents and their children and it was really a great experience to just see how happy they were," offered Lutui. "It was big boost for them and it was nice to meet all of the patients. "
"There are so many kids counting on me and it gives me more to play for on Sundays," added Lutui. "It's always nice to spend time with kids."
Despite having his hands full at home with two children of his own, Lutui has always looked at the community as part of his family. Whether it is charity events or visiting hospitals, the Mesa, Arizona native knows the importance of giving back to the community.
"It's very important to reach out because we are role models and everybody looks up at us," said Lutui who is a native of Mesa, Arizona. "I think it's important for kids to see professional athletes out in their neighborhoods, out in their community, it plays a big role."