DORAL, Fla. - The Florida Panthers teamed up with other prominent NBA and MLB athletes to raise money for hurricane relief at KINGS Dining & Entertainment in Doral on Wednesday night.
Former Boston Red Sox All-Star David 'Big Papi' Ortiz, and his wife, Tiffany, together with Miami HEAT champion, Ray Allen, and his wife, Shannon, hosted the "The Pros Bowl" event to benefit those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria through the works of UNICEF.
"David and Tiffany reached out to me and the wife on Saturday, asking if we'd like to be involved," said Panthers VP of Business Operation Shawn Thornton, who befriended Ortiz during his time in Boston playing for the Bruins. "Again, everybody was all-in as always any time we can give back. It's fun to be here. I haven't seen David in a while. We've got a lot of the organization and a few players here, so it should be fun."
As part of the fundraiser, the venue offered bowling, games, silent and live auctions and more for guests in attendance starting at a donation of $134 per person, with all proceeds going to charity.
"It's an honor to be a part of an event like this," said Ortiz, who recently moved to South Florida. "There are a lot of people out there that need help in Puerto Rico. My country, the Dominican Republic got it, but not as bad a Puerto Rico. We're trying to raise some funds so we can help these counties and make sure everything goes back to normal."
The Panthers donated $10,000 to sponsor a lane at the event.
"I'm happy that they reached out to us," Panthers President & CEO Matthew Caldwell said. "Shawn Thornton has a great connection with David Ortiz. Folks like him have heard that we're out there in the community and they reached out to us pretty early on. We're lucky to help out. We just think it's a continuation of the stuff we did for Irma. Anything we can do to help the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, we're here to help out."
In addition to members of the front office and community relations staff, the Panthers were represented at the event by forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Keith Yandle, a Boston native.
"It means a lot," Yandle said of the fundraiser. "Anything you can do to help out, especially with the hurricane being so fresh in our minds. It's a great thing to come here, especially with two Boston legends like Big Papi and Ray Allen. It's pretty cool for me to be here."
"We're glad that the Panthers donated," added Huberdeau, who joked that he brought his own ball and glove to the event, but still managed to bowl his fair share of strikes throughout the evening. "It's good to be here with Yands and Thorty. It should be a great event."
Joining Big Papi, Allen and the Panthers, other celebrity guests included former Miami Heart guard Carlos Arroyo, two-time World Series champion Mike Lowell and Puerto Rican reggaeton artist Justin Quiles.
In end, the event raised close to $100,000 from auction items and donations.
"We've talked about one territory," Caldwell said. "We want to unite all fans, but also players and teams. It's part of our vision and our mission statement. I think it's something that we were naturally organically doing when ownership bought the team, but we'll be picking it up even more so going forward."