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What's a Juice Ball?


How it all started...

Tommy FitzGerald’s 40th birthday is on Friday January 8th 2010, and he wanted to have a party… imagine that, Tommy Fitz wanting to have a party!


When Tommy first met with my Juice Ball promotional partners (George Aquino and Jimmy Le) to discuss the idea for his 40th birthday, I know that all of us were a bit stunned by the lofty reach of what Tommy wanted to do, yet at the same time we were inspired. Knowing that to be able to pull off an event of this magnitude, it would take a venue with the clout and size of the JW Marriott, Aquino without any waiver in his voice said “we’re in”. Thus began the ‘all hands on deck’ attitude to get this moving forward… and so The Juice Ball was born.


Personally I think my favorite part of this effort, is that often when one turns 40 you will hear of some tawdry event where all of the details are to ‘stay in Vegas’, but how many of us can actually say that our 40th birthday was about something greater than us altogether? Here we have one of our own right here in Grand Rapids doing something rather unimaginable… dedicating his 40th birthday to the cause of raising almost 150,000 juice boxes for Kids Food Basket.


The efforts of Kids Food Basket are absolutely stunning, and yet the numbers are heartbreaking… KFB sends home 2000 sack suppers to kids from 20 schools EVERY evening*; and the single largest expense in that sack supper is the 100% juice box. Tonight at dinner imagine for a moment if you will, what your household would be like if your child’s nutrition was dependent on the efforts of an organization like KFB. In no way am I trying to guilt anyone into an emotional response, rather I am just trying to adjust your perspective for a moment so we can all understand just how good we really have it.


Many of you know that Tommy has been a bit of a gym stud lately as he is working hard at loosing some necessary weight, and the strides he has made in a short period of time have been inspiring. We have seen Tommy on TV shopping at Meijer talking about a point system as it applies to the nutritional value of a particular food, he can regularly be seen cooking on EightWest , and he is also being sponsored by MVP in his quest to regain his 20-something girlish figure.


However, there is another story here as well; the timely irony in Tommy’s efforts lies in something he quipped about while discussing his recent weight loss… “It’s all about portion size baby… who knew?!” Yet there are hundreds of children that go home from school every afternoon with little regard to portion size, as they are happy to just have something to eat.


Point being… Tommy isn’t just throwing himself at this issue emotionally or even spiritually, but physically as well.


Tommy has long been a fixture of the Grand Rapids culinary scene; most of us have enjoyed his interpretive cuisine at some point in our lives, and yes we are the better for it. Over the years Tommy has seen a great many successes, and perhaps just as many setbacks; and yet there he is doing what he does best everyday, with an infectious smile on his face making sure our day is the best it can be. His most recent effort, Café Stella, is an absolute delight… it may not be a high brow project that he has attached himself to in recent years, but it is all Tommy and there in lies Stella’s appeal.


As of this writing approximately $20,000 has been committed in corporate and personal sponsorships, people keep coming out of the woodwork on Tommy’s behalf asking “what can we do?” I believe that is a testament to the people that Tommy has touched, and his ability to connect with our community in such a way that compels others to step up when called upon.


Turning 40 is supposed to be a milestone in our lives, a point where we reflect on our accomplishments since High School or College, and look to solidify our goals for the next 20 years. For many it marks the official entry point to adulthood… I don’t know that I am ready for Tommy Fitz to become an ‘adult’, but I am ready to follow his lead during this pinnacle moment in his life.


Happy 40th Tommy… well played!

Todd Ernst

Circa 2010

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