Familiar cause, faces boost Daltons' community efforts

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Linebackers Rey Maualuga (right) and A.J. Hawk get ready to serve Monday night.

The closest Kevin Zeitler ever came to working in the food service industry came back at the University of Wisconsin when he bounced at Wando's in Madison.

It turns out the requirements except for blocking weren't much different than his current job description with the Bengals.

"Look intimidating and if there was a problem, make sure you let one of your bosses know," said Zeitler, the monstrous right guard, as checked out his white gloves for serving wine. "The guy told me I shouldn't squeeze the bottle tight because I might break it."

Even the regal A.J. Green once dabbled in the business. In high school he fried chicken tenders at Zaxby's.

"Yeah. No fun," Green said. "I only did it for a month. I wanted to buy some sneakers."

On Monday night Zeitler, Green and several other teammates made sure the service went smoothly as celebrity waiters at Andy and Jordan Dalton's fourth annual fundraising dinner for their foundation.

As on Sundays, Dalton had his familiar main men around him. His three regular receivers in Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. Old backup quarterback Josh Johnson. The protector of his blind side, left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Defensive leaders Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga.

The only thing missing were the Steelers or Ravens.

Also in the wings were special teams co-captains Vincent Rey and Cedric Peerman, and do-it-all reserve running back Rex Burkhead. If they had to kick, punter Kevin Huber and kicker Mike Nugent checked in. The newest Bengal in the class of Waiter 101, linebacker A.J. Hawk, of the Centerville and Ohio State Hawks, needed no introduction to the V.I.Ps.

"This is my first time doing an event here," said Hawk. "But (Packers head coach) Mike McCarthy had one of these deals in Green Bay and we were both waiting on tables and bartending."

Dalton liked the looks of it all as it bounced back in his gaze at the Hall of Mirrors in the downtown Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.

"I haven't seen anything spilled yet," said Dalton as he eyed Happy Hour.

If the cast around him is familiar, so is the cause. It's why those close to the foundation believe the Daltons' quest to improve the lot of Greater Cincinnati's sick children and their families has taken off. In its second year in the roomy Hall, the dinner guest list expanded by 100 to about 300 while the sponsors list also grew. After taking about $200,000 last year, the hope coming in was to get closer to $300,000 and maybe more to fund their biggest project yet.

"It just shows how much support we have in this community. To grow over 100 people in one year is big," Dalton said. "People are figuring out the cause and that we're able to help and knowing we can make a difference."

There Is King for a Day, which provides families of severely or chronically ill and special needs children with an all-expenses-paid dream day at Kings Island.  There is the Holiday Hearts program in area hospitals with visits and gifts during Christmas. A few weeks ago at the Omni was the first Date Night, where parents of chronically sick or special needs children are treated to a V.I.P. night out. Those yearly staples came in the wake of last year's unveiling of a hub at Cincinnati Children's Hospital similar to the one the Daltons donated to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. A big locker filled with iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, gaming systems and other items, it is designed to help through treatment or recovery.

"I think the consistency has helped. People see these things every year and they see that people's lives are being changed," Dalton said. "People want to be part of something good."

It is a good thing it is getting bigger because it has to if the next phase is going to work. Dalton calls it "Pass It On,' which is where Monday night's take is headed.

"People can apply to receive a grant for medical expenses… We're working through Children's" Dalton said. "If they can't afford a wheelchair, we can give them a wheelchair. Different things. Maybe insurance doesn't cover a full payment and we can help in that way. It's so tough on these families financially, we feel like we can make an impact."

The familiar faces agreed.

"He does a lot out in the community,' said Peko, who also does his share. "You want to help your quarterback and support him and his cause."

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