Jonathan Vilma's 'Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner' brings out the Saint in all of us

Coming off a great win against the Dallas Cowboys the day before, the New Orleans Saints and the Who Dat Nation were in ebullient spirits, especially at the “Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner” on Monday, Nov. 11. A benefit for the Jonathan Vilma Foundation, the star linebacker and his teammates, as well as a few local celebrities, traded their uniforms and work attire for aprons to wait on tables to raise money.

The evening started with a reception in The Shops at Canal Place, where guests could get up close to players such as Vilma, Pierre Thomas, Ramon Humber, Thomas Morstead, and former Saints player Steve Gleason (with whom they took photographs). The players also autographed footballs and aprons, which were sold at the event and proceeds went to the foundation.

The evening then moved to Morton’s, The Steakhouse, where fans enjoyed a four-course wine-pairing meal and could bid on items in the silent and live auctions. Those waiting tables, in addition to Vilma, Humber, Morstead and Thomas were New Orleans Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Saints players Jimmy Graham, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Will Herring, Cameron Jordan, Charles Brown and Robert Meachem, along with special guests former Saints player Michael Lewis, Mark Romig (who was the event’s live auctioneer and is the Saints' home-game PA announcer) and WVUE/Channel 8 Jennifer Hale, who served as the night’s emcee.

As of the next morning, the event had raised $180,000 for the foundation. Vilma established the foundation (working through the Giving Back Fund) after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As Vilma’s parents are from Haiti, and family members remain, he is committed to assisting in the long-term rebuilding efforts. In 2011, the foundation partnered with Artists for Peace and Justice to create the first free, secondary school in Port-au-Prince. Since then, through foundation grants, the school has expanded and a third wing is under construction.

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