QUINCY, Mass. -- The clouds burned off right in time to let the sun warm those gathered at Joe Andruzzi's charity golf tournament Monday.
The fourth-annual event, to benefit Andruzzi's namesake foundation, was co-hosted by New England's Rob Gronkowski and Rob Ninkovich. Several other past and present Patriots (Tedy Bruschi, Logan Mankins) also came out to raise awareness and funds for cancer patients and their families.
The experience of fighting the disease is all too real for Andruzzi, a survivor of non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's lymphoma.
"Why we're here and what we're about is to help families, those families that are struggling," Andruzzi said. "I was fortunate enough to play in the NFL for 10 years. Other families aren't as fortunate. I know those walls close in when you're at the hospital. Sometimes a caregiver has to leave their job, but the mortgage still needs to be paid; rent still needs to be paid; there are utility bills. That's where our foundation steps in."
The Joe Andruzzi Foundation has donated over 300,000 to brain cancer research since it was founded in May of 2008. Ninkovich and Gronkowski -- who came to New England in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- were easy picks as co-chairs, said the host.
"We had to put a little spin on the golf outing," Andruzzi grinned. "Rob and Rob, since they've come here to the Patriots -- I didn't have a chance to play with either one of them -- but they've been a part of my gala and they've been part of the golf outing for the last few years now. They're really supportive of everything we do and they're great in the community, so to have them come out and attach their name to the golf outing is just an added bonus."
The pair was gracious. Ninkovich politely indulged several one-on-one interviews after the group media availability session ended.
"I'm excited to be here," he said. "I'm happy that Joe asked me to be a part of this. It's something that . . . anything that I can do to help out -- especially with what Joe's doing. I think it's great, what he's doing for families. That's what it's all about. Especially, being able to do this, being a part of something like the NFL where you can actually help someone and make a difference in their life."
Gronkowski had the crowd laughing with his... unique perspective.
"It's a great event. I get to go out, play a free round of golf, so that's a big plus. Get a couple meals out of it," the 23-year old yukked.
He eventually sobered up.
"But we're supporting him. He's been through so much, he and his family. He's raising money for cancer -- that's a great cause. You don't want anybody to deal with it. Whatever we can do to help him achieve something through his foundation."
Funny -- for all the NFL tight end records Gronkowski's broken, he said he's no good on the golf course.
"I'm a hacker," he admitted.
Lucky for Andruzzi's well-meaning friends, the fundraising is less about skill than heart.