There are plenty of kids like this fighting life threatening illnesses everyday around the country. The families also endure plenty of suffering too. This is where the Big Easy Mafia steps in.
When you hear the word “Mafia” the first thing that runs through your head might not be warm and fuzzy thoughts. However, this mafia is very different. Actually, the word can mean positive things like: family, unity, and watching each other’s back.
The Big Easy Mafia was founded in 2014 by fans from Who Dat Nation. There’s a ton of great things that the organization does in New Orleans. In any case, there’s no better way to get a better idea than to talk with founder Erick Engelhardt, who founded the organization. Here is the interview…
Dean Mullen: So Erick, tell me a little but about the Big Easy Mafia.
Erick Engelhardt: So the Big Easy Mafia was founded in 2014 and was originally to be just a meetup group for fans to go to away games or events in Champions Square. It ended up growing much faster than I thought. Then it moved on to getting involved in charitable functions. It ended up becoming a 50/50 thing. It became 50% about football and 50% about charity.
DM: So did you start it yourself?
EE: At first, it was just me just sitting on my sofa. Then I realized that other teams had a more official fan club. And I felt like we needed it. I decided that this would be something that people would want to be a part of.
DM: Tell me more about what goes on and who is involved?
EE: Actually, we’ve also had an interest in the UK where another smaller group spun off of us there. The Big Easy Mafia has the “SuperFans” that come out to our events. If Drew Brees can’t be there then it’s sort of the next big thing for fans. I really do this for the fans and the charities. I really love how it’s really taken off with the business that are involved too. There was the fear that the mafia name was going to scare them. But it’s just a name that that’s more of a fictional thing really. Obviously, there are plenty of people that are fans of the movies, and even games that are just plain adaptation from the name.
The charities are really happy to work with us. It’s been nothing but positive. Other teams also have that name in it. Ironically, I ended up federally trademarking the name and I found that there were plenty of other names registered with the name “Mafia” in it. They even had the Crawfish Mafia registered.
DM: So Erick, tell me about the charities that y’all are involved with.
It’s based out of Metairie. The kids are mainly younger and face life threatening illnesses. It’s a lot of stress for the children and the families. There’s also a lot of financial stress that breaks families. The kids miss out on their childhood. They miss out on Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. Things that kids may take for granted. They put on Christmas parties and have Santa Claus come around ,because a lot of these kids can’t go outside. They do this all throughout the year. When we do an event, all the funds go to them. In April, it’s Autism month. And they have events for that for Autism Speaks. In September, it’s Childhood Cancer month. We will set events that raise funds for that.
In October, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We actually had one of our members that started an organization for that. He lost his mom in 2010 to that disease. That is the main causes that we get involved with. That being said, we will do anything if someone comes up with an idea.
For example, last week was “Gleason Fest” and they asked us to come. The Superfans will go out and take pictures with the kids. Also, I have come up with merchandise that is sold at the events. I’ll set up the booths and 100% of the funds that are raised will go to the event.
DM: How does it impact the families?
EE: Unfortunately, it has tremendous impact. The divorce rates tend to skyrocket because of all of the stress involved. There is nothing better to see how our help really does impact the families that really just need a break from it all.
DM: Can you tell me any stories specifically?
EE: They had a family that lost a child right around Christmas recently. And the family had other kids as well. The other kids were struggling as well. We decided to step in and raise funds specifically for them. We came together and raised a bunch of funds for them. Without them knowing, we came in and brought it in a black sack without the families knowing. There was so many toys and gifts for the kids. The parents were just so appreciative of us coming to take time out. A lot of these families I’ve never met before. But I tell you, moments like these take my breath away and to see their faces light up is priceless. It’s all real from that point forward. It makes it all worth it.
DM: I want to thank you so much for sharing what the Big Easy Mafia is about.
EE: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share.
There will be a draft party this Thursday at Buffalo Wild Wings at 3434 Veterans Memorial Blvd. There will be raffles and food there. And you might see a Saints player or two. I’ll be there as well.
You can also find the Big Easy Mafia on Twitter at @bigeasymafia