Kentuckians party with former pros, raise money

shopkins@herald-leader.comFebruary 8, 2010 

Former professional football players mingled with jersey-clad fans Sunday at the Hilton Lexington/Downtown Hotel, site of one of Kentucky's largest Super Bowl parties.

At least 500 people attended the fourth annual Party With the Pros, hosted by former players with Kentucky ties, including Marty Moore, who was with the New England Patriots; Frank Minnifield, who played for the Cleveland Browns; and Dermontti Dawson, who spent his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Proceeds from the event, which cost $45 for an adult ticket, go to Visually Impaired Preschool Services, or VIPS, a state-run program that serves infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are visually impaired or blind.

Some gathered around tables decorated with football-shaped Colts and Saints balloons to bid on silent auction items such as a Maker's Mark-dipped football signed by University of Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips, while children played sports video games.

Minnifield collected cash from guests who placed their name on a grid of possible scores.

Moore said the party was an opportunity for Kentuckians to celebrate the Super Bowl while contributing to a good cause.

Instead of spending money on food and party supplies, "bring your party to our party," Moore suggested.

Mary Moore Yohon, director of the VIPS office in Lexington, said the money raised helps offset travel costs for teachers who sometimes drive 200 miles a day to help children in their homes. The money also helps pay salaries.

Last year, she said, VIPS got about $7,000 from the Party With the Pros.

"It's gotten bigger and better every year," she said. "Every little bit helps."

Michelle Doty of Richmond said her 4-year-old daughter, Campbell, received in-home therapy from VIPS. The program helped Campbell track objects and make eye contact.

VIPS showed Doty what kind of toys and equipment to buy to help her daughter, she said.

"It opened our eyes," Doty said. "There's so much with vision that people don't realize."

The crowd drifted into a ballroom with several tables covered in white table clothes. Plates were piled with wings, nachos and hot dogs.

Some continued conversations while others stared intently at high-definition televisions and cheered for their team.

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