The 24th annual ’Teddy Dinner’
By Bill Tibbs
Teddy Atlas - he’s one of the most recognizable faces in the sport of boxing, he has a large and devoted fan following, he is the co-host of a hugely popular weekly podcast, he has trained numerous world champions and world rated contenders, and he is enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his work as one of boxing great ringside analysts and commentators.
However, to the endless amounts of people that he attends to year-round through his non-profit organization, The Doctor Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, from his home base of Staten Island, New York, he is simply the undisputed world champion.
For the countless needy, under privileged, disabled and marginalized people the foundation serves and supports, Atlas is indeed their undisputed world champion. Without Atlas and his organization, named in honour of Teddy’s father, the late Dr. Theodore A. Atlas, their world would indeed be very different.
When Teddy decided to start this organization, to honour his (Staten Island-legendary) father, and continue his charitable work, he started with a grassroots vision. He wasn’t looking for a government supported business plan with a charitable sector; he was looking to keep it simple – find the needs and offer help.
As stated in recent press material advertising their upcoming annual, fundraising “Teddy Dinner”, held annually in Staten island, their vision of hope and helping is very clear.
“The Foundation comes to the aid of people in a variety of difficult situations, people who have nowhere else to turn for help, people who would otherwise fall between the cracks. And it does so in a very direct and a very real way. Once the Foundation identifies a person or a family in need, it moves immediately to help, and avoids any bureaucratic obstacles that might damage the recipient’s pride”.
Through Atlas’ connections in sports and entertainment, the dinner has quickly moved from a start-up, grassroots organization to a huge regional charity that has literally helped tens of thousands of people and families in need over the years.
With Covid restrictions for large gatherings in place, obviously the dinner has to be a virtual event this year. However, that didn’t stop Atas and his dedicated support staff, from bringing in some sports and entertainment stars to help out at this year’s dinner held on Thursday, November 19. This year’s event will see UFC champion Daniel Cormier, former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield (a long-time friend of the dinner), legendary coach and sportscaster Dick Vitale, NY Giants legend Phil Simms, broadcasting legends Bob Pappa and Brian Kenny and TV star Tony Danza, to name but a few. The annual, “Teddy Dinner”, hosted by Atlas and his podcast partner, Ken Rideout, is the annual, highly anticipated event in November on Staten Island and Teddy’s reach brings supporters, fans and stars alike.
In a recent media (video) release, Atlas, (the reverence and respect for his father so evident in his voice), talked about the foundation and its vision, from where it started to where we see it today.
“I started the foundation 24 years ago to remember my father. Remember a man that helped others”, said Atlas. “He absorbed the costs of people who could not afford it (proper hospital care). He took care of all of them, he didn’t care about what they didn’t have, he cared about what they needed”, he continued. “My father was a different kind of man. When he died, the nurse said to me that ‘he cared more about other people than he cared about himself’. I just thought a man like that should be remembered”.
Like Atlas’ father, who did house calls into his 80’s, today the Atlas Foundation continues that tradition of cutting out the red tape and going straight to the people in need. They have put handi-cap ramps at homes, they build handi-cap bathrooms for families in need, they fly families out of state to get the proper, specialized care for a sick child, they are now feeding senior citizens who are non-ambulatory or can’t get out of the their apartment, they are helping people who find themselves out of work without a paycheck and with no government support, they have numerous social programs, education and sports programs for numerous at-risk schools, they have education incentive programs, they have countless sports related programs and have funded boxing gyms throughout the New York area. The foundations reach is long and strong, and it is making a huge difference in the lives of people in Atlas’ local and extended community.
I met Teddy Atlas almost 35-years ago in a chance encounter through boxing. At the time. while well-known in boxing circles, he didn’t have the profile and celebrity he does now. What has always fascinated me is watching a man rise to world-renowned heights in his chosen profession and observe absolutely no change in his core values – values that can often be tested in the industry he has long worked in. Teddy, a married father and grandfather, is a man of deep principles with a character that is beyond reproach.
Atlas, quick to shrug off and shy away from any praise or attention to himself for his charitable work, is indeed helping others in the tradition of his father who himself founded 2 hospitals in New York. Atlas keeps his motto simple, that being helping the people who have no one else to turn to.
Atlas, as his foundation states, is indeed carrying on his father’s spirit of giving in the foundation that bears his name. Atlas, (like his father) is iron-tough and relentless in his drive. However, much to the benefit of the needy in New York, it is driven by a heart the size of Manhattan, showing critical care and vital support to those who have nowhere else to turn.
“Yes, it is named the Dr. Atlas the foundation, after my father”, said Atlas, “but it (supporting the foundation) is in memory of somebody close to you, that did similar things, that helped people, that helped you. The best way I can describe it is caring about the people that fall through the cracks. It’s the best way I can describe what we do, we take care of the people that have nowhere else to go to be taken care of. We need to keep doing the things that the foundation does, we need to keep helping people”, continued Atlas. “And, sometimes, the most important part of it, it’s not even the cheque, it’s the fact that someone’s there, that they’re not alone, they’re not in the dark”.
This is a special man, doing special work; his father would be proud.
*The Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation
543 Cary Avenue.
Staten Island, NY