I’ve known Rod Crawford for more than 25 years. I’ve known him as the Kobrand Guy, the Gallo guy, the Glazer’s guy and now, the Southern Glazer’s guy.
But for the last 14 years, I’ve known Crawford as the motivating force behind one of Kansas City’s most successful charity events: First Downs for Down Syndrome, an event Crawford helped start after the birth of his son, Max. Max was born with Down syndrome.
“We had Max in September, and shortly after that, a man who became a mentor to me in all things Down syndrome, Larry Rouse, an attorney, made an appointment with Glazer’s Wine and Spirits to talk about creating a wine-themed fundraiser to benefit Down syndrome. I was working for Gallo at the time. Glazer’s knew we just had Max so they invited me to the meeting. After, I thought, ‘Larry’s got a great idea but he’s doing it all wrong,’ ” Crawford recalled.
Armed with his expertise, contacts in the wine industry, and personal passion for the cause, Crawford took Rouse’s idea and made it a reality.
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“Our idea was to create a food and wine-themed auction, which there really wasn’t in Kansas City, and just keep it at that,” Crawford shared.
It worked that first year, and it’s worked every year since. Last year’s First Downs for Down Syndrome raised $229,000. This year, moving into a new, larger venue, the historic Firestone Building, Crawford and company are hoping to top that number.
“The silent auction will feature 90-100 items donated by people who have great cellars. Our live auction will feature 10-12 high-end wines, dinners with local chefs like Celina Tio, wine country trips, and original art pieces. Celina tells us her dinners go for about $10,000, so we’re excited. There really isn’t another event like this in town,” Crawford said.
Crawford points out that all the money raised stays in Kansas City and helps benefit the city’s Down syndrome community. Start talking about that and Crawford stops being the man behind First Downs for Down Syndrome. He’s Max’s dad, the thing that got this all launched in the first place.
“All of us who are parents of children with Down syndrome want the same thing. We want our children to achieve as much as they can and be as happy as they can while doing that. I’ve realized that Max can do almost anything he sets his mind to. He, and we as parents, might need more help to get there, but it can be done. This event helps raise money to help families and their children achieve those goals,” Crawford told me.
It’s doesn’t get any simpler, more poignant, or more personal than that.
In addition to the great silent and live auction items, guests will be treated to delicious food provided by Dean & Deluca, and some pretty tasty wines, served in a Riedel Crystal glass that each guest will take home at the end of the night.
Tickets are $100 and can be purchased here.
The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Firestone Building, 2001 Grand Blvd. Attire is business dress.
Dave Eckert is a partner with Flavor Trade, a Kansas City-based gourmet food incubator and co-packer. Before that, Eckert was the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS and AWE for 12 seasons.