Ryan Asdourian, the man behind the Seattle Seahawks' beloved mascot “Blitz”, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2008 while working at Microsoft, where he is currently a communications manager.
Since then, with the blessing of the Seahawks, he has used his feathery suit and massive bird head to help raise money for MS research.
A Fundraising 'Blitz'
According to a Microsoft company profile of Asdourian, he began fundraising after deciding to share his diagnosis. “I wrote a letter letting people know I’d been diagnosed. I sent it to 300 people at the time, none of which had any clue, and it just went viral,” Asdourian told Microsoft. “All of these people started donating, joining the cause, and I started telling my story on radio shows and TV.”
Using his creativity to engage the public, he started the Team Blitz Pub Crawl, which is now in its fifth year. Even his Facebook profile picture depicts a defiant Blitz, in fighting stance, pitted against the Walk MS logo.
He has a knack for making a bold statement without words—a prerequisite for any NFL mascot.
Mobilizing the Community
According to Asdourian's Facebook page, during Walk MS 2013, Team Blitz raised more than $85,000. Over four years, they've raised more than $300,000.
Besides the Walk and the Pub Crawl, Ryan also sits on the board for the Greater Northwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS).
According to the NMSS, “Since being diagnosed with MS in 2008, he has mobilized even more people to join the movement to end MS... leveraging his connections as the big blue hawk to bring national media attention to people living with the disease”
As of 2011, when he was honored by the NMSS as Volunteer of the Year, he had been instrumental in raising more than $135,000 for research. “At his day job at Microsoft, Ryan recently lent his leadership to launch an online community for Microsoft employees interested in doing something now for people with MS," the NMSS wrote.
Vanquishing His Foes, on the Field and Off
His disease doesn’t seem to keep him from performing his antics as Blitz, as you’ll see when he jumps, gyrates, wiggles, high-fives, and repeatedly raises-the-roof for fans at this Sunday's Super Bowl.
And although he enjoys connecting with his fans, he loves that his job comes with anonymity. “I’m the best kind of famous,” he told Microsoft. “Once the Blitz head is off, no one knows who I am.”
Blitz is appearing in a SportsCenter promotional video this week in a humorous and awkward elevator confrontation with the Denver Broncos' mascot, Miles. But no matter who wins this weekend, one thing’s for certain: neither Blitz nor Asdourian are going down without a fight.