In the mind of the masses, there are about 500 more boxing stories of more import than the fact that the 18th annual “Teddy Dinner,” the fund-raising gala held by ESPN analyst, trainer, and most importantly, arguably, superlative philanthropist Teddy Atlas, is to be held tonight, Thursday night, on Staten Island, New York.
The complex and charismatic Atlas, best known for being a vital part of the Cus D’Amato/Mike Tyson collective, and helping steer Michael Moorer to a heavyweight title, and singing Harry Nilsson songs with horrid pitch but ample enthusiasm, talked to TSS about the mission of the dinner, and his foundation, the Dr. Theordore Atlas Foundation, which honors his physician father, who was revered in the Staten Island region for being a caregiver to any and all, no matter of they had the means to pay for services.
Such a mindset is derided in too many cynical circles as a form of softness, of socialism. I can hear the grumbling about Obama and hear the gears whirring in some small minds, as they mutter “Obama” and “Benghazi” and theorize about “takers” and such…no matter that statistics, real ones, compliled by souls more decent and unbiased than I, talk about numbers of Americans living in poverty which are nearly unprecendented. Atlas, he stays out of the politics, smartly, but you don’t have to cite stats about people in this land of overwhelming bounty for some falling in between the cracks to him.
He’s seen it for all his life.
He saw it when as an 11-year-old he went with his dad to the office, right before Christmas. Dad was seeing a mom with a gaggle of sick kids, and he gave them all a look see, and gave her some medicine to treat their ailments, samples, because he knew she was down on her luck. Her purse was bare, and young Teddy could sense it. He saw her eyes darting as the visit wound down. She was looking for an escape route, and wondering how she’d tell Dr. Atlas that she had no money to pay him.
“It was Christmas eve,” Atlas told me, in between dealing with a sports biggie who was trying to blow off the dinner, and was sure to receive a polite dressing down from a man for whom character is just about everything, for whom a handshake and a promise is an immutable bond. “She had like four kids. It caught my eye, her trying to figure out how to get out of there. My father knew that she didn’t have money to pay. There was probably no father at home, and she didn’t want to be doing that. My father said, ‘No charge.’ She was relieved…and she was doing what she had to do. She took care of her kids and didn’t have to lose her dignity by running out.”
See, see how he thinks? He doesn’t assume the woman is a grifter, a taker, someone looking to snatch your hard earned tax dollars to pad her own pocket, which didn’t bulge because of her moral and ethical failings…He saw it from the softer side, he assumed that her lot in life was not her fault, but regardless of the cause, that her kids deserved to be seen, and get their vicious coughs attended to. I’m not digressing into politics, here, by the way, I’m digressing into the concept of how we act as human animals…are we going to veer toward the sinister and accusatory and Rand-esque “every man for himself” POV…or a gentler manner, one that believes that every soul deserves, if nothing else, the right to see a doctor and get decent medical care, size of bank account aside. Sorry…little Teddy-styled Woods rant there. (Not actually sorry, though).
‘I forgot, it’s almost Christmas,’ Dr. Atlas told Teddy, after the woman exited. “My dad handed me a $50 dollar bill, and told me to find her.”
‘She is probably at the bus stop,’ the doctor said.
Teddy hustled out, looked left and right, saw the woman and her crew at the bus stop.
“The doctor said to give this to you,” he said, handing her the bill which would probably be used to keep the underneath a spindly tree embarassignly empty. “And she started to cry.”
Yes, there are a whole bunch of boxing stories that are “more interesting” or “more important” than the Teddy Dinner tonight, arguably.
The money raised tonight will help the foundation continue to aid those people turned away by the March of Dimes, the United Way, and all those other fine organizations who are sometimes compromised by their massive infrastructure and administrative levels and outlays. That will enable the Atlas Foundation to keep installing those wheelchair ramps for that single mom with the child who soldiers on bravely through the symptoms of muscular dystrophy, and the couple who is getting older, and more frail, but can’t afford a bath setup which serves their daughter who is paralyzed. The funds raised by the good soul who is best known for being a TV guy, but whose charitable endeavors are actually what make him Hall of Fame-worthy, will be used for purchasing turkeys and all the trimmings for families who can’t, despite mom and dad working five jobs between them, can’t keep up with the rent, the bills, the crazed cost of living.
“I’m no special person,” Atlas tells me. “My father, he was a special person.”
I disagree; Teddy learned by osmosis what his father knew in his heart, and goes about proving that every day. Yes, what he does on TV is good and great; but what he does for people who need that hand up is where it’s really at. He is a special person, and I salute him, and thank him for his service.
The dinne ris sold out. Click here, please, to make a donation.