As the nights get cool and the leaves start to fall, you know that Halloween is almost here. The beloved holiday is a tradition for most amongst family and friends of searching for that perfect costume to attend a party, go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood and the telling of haunted ghost stories.
The Ravens have a long-standing Halloween tradition of their very own - The Annual Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party.
It was 1999, when the Ravens and Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake teamed up for the first time to offer a Halloween treat for fans. Hosted by Ravens players, the event includes bowling, billiards, video games, food, drink and an impressive silent auction.
Items in the auction over the years have included trips to Costa Rica and Napa Valley, gift certificates to local restaurants and hotels and autographed items from the Ravens, other notable NFL players, The Rolling Stones, Olympian Michael Phelps and even President Barack Obama.
Seventeen years later, the event has raised over 2 million dollars.
Kevin Byrne, who is the Ravens Senior VP of Public and Community Relations, and his wife Sally are no strangers to the lure of the event. They have attended and assisted in the planning of all 17 Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Parties.
"I'm humbled by it," Byrne stated, who sits on the board and is the former chair of Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake. "I owe it to the support of our players, including Dennis Pitta, Justin Tucker, Todd Heap, Edwin Mulitalo, Shannon Sharpe and Derrick Mason, who have given a lot of their time to make this event work."
Byrne went on to say, "There is a history that lives among the team for this event, and once players hear the long-standing tradition and the Goodwill story and how this great organization (Goodwill) helps the people who need it the most – it seems to resonate."
Below are some photos of Byrne and his wife, Sally, and their creative costumes over the years.
(Kevin and Sally Byrne – 2006)
(Kevin and Sally Byrne – 2008)
(Kevin and Sally Byrne – 2009)
"Shannon Sharpe hosted the party the first two years and he had professional makeup artists involved in his costumes," Byrne said. "Through the years, all of our prominent players have attended, including Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden disguised as a tree, Ray Lewis as fireman, Ed Reed as "Michael Myers," Joe Flacco as Michael Phelps, and the list goes on. I believe every member of our Ring of Honor has attended at least one Gridiron."
(Todd Heap and Edwin Mulitalo – 2001)
(Kevin Byrne with Joe Flacco, Mark Clayton, Todd Heap & guests – 2008)
(Nestor Aparicio and Joe Flacco – 2010)
(Kevin and Sally Byrne with Dennis Pitta & family – 2013)
(Justin Tucker, Dennis Pitta and Brandon Williams – 2014)
(Kevin and Sally Byrne with Steve Smith Sr. – 2015)
Near the end of the night, attendees with unique costumes take part in a contest judged by the Ravens players in attendance. A dance off ensues of the top participants as a way for them to try to impress the judges, and one-by-one, the players award the third, second and first place prizes.
(Costume contestants at the 2016 Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party)
(Ravens players and the costume contest winners at the 2016 Goodwill Gridiron Halloween Party)
Each year the event benefits Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake, Inc., with all proceeds donated toward training and employment programs to help the disabled and underprivileged secure and retain jobs. Last year, Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake provided services for over 35,000 individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment, placing 3,307 people into jobs.
While out and about this last weekend of October celebrating your annual traditions, the Ravens wish their fans a fun and safe Halloween.