Jays reliever serves up Grilli Cheese for charity

Signature sandwich benefits Jays Care Foundation

Jays reliever serves up Grilli Cheese for charity

TORONTO -- After a long road trip, one begins to crave the comforts of home -- your bed, your shower and, of course, comfort food. For Blue Jays pitcher Jason Grilli, nothing satisfies like a Grilli Cheese sandwich.

The Grilli Cheese sandwich, one of the new dishes available to Blue Jays fans this season, is an initiative between Grilli and Rogers Centre executive chef Elizabeth Rivasplata that supports Jays Care Foundation's baseball-for-development programming across Canada. Throughout April, fans can buy the Grilli Cheese sandwich in Section 244, with a portion of the proceeds from all sandwiches sold donated to Jays Care Foundation.

"Having a platform as a professional athlete, you can go out and help the community, and for me it was an easy choice," said Grilli. "I've always tried to do community service, and what I've been particularly fond of is helping families and youngsters eat. Building off [my nickname], the grilled cheese is an easy choice, it's a comfort food, and I think it brings a smile to people's faces."

To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month and launch of the Grilli Cheese sandwich, Jays Care Foundation invited 30 participants from its Home Run Scholars program to join Grilli and Rivasplata for lunch.

"I couldn't be more proud of our players." said Robert Witchel, Jays Care Foundation's executive director. "Jason is well aware of the work Jays Care does with children and youth across Canada, and approached us with this fun idea to help out. Jason has championed anti-hunger initiatives in the past, and this effort will support Jays Care's programs such as Home Run Scholars and Rookie League, where children and youth receive healthy snacks to fuel their learning."

After-school hours can be a vulnerable time for children, especially those living in marginalized communities. Home Run Scholars provides a place for them to go after school and is an exceptional program that works to improve academic performance, promote physical health, enhance social and emotional well-being and change student behaviour. Home Run Scholars operates in 21 Toronto Community Housing locations across the city and is one of Jays Care's seven signature programs that use baseball to teach important life skills -- resiliency, leadership, teamwork, self-confidence and inclusion -- to more than 65,000 children across Canada facing barriers.

"In the Home Run Scholars program, we get help with our homework, we eat snacks, we learn different games ... every day is a new thing," said Nathan, 12, who had never met a Blue Jays player before dining with Grilli. "Today was actually pretty awesome! I wanted to shake [Grilli's] hand a lot of times and I did, five times. I also had six sandwiches, so it was pretty good. [Grilli] told us that if you work hard and keep going, you are going to accomplish your goals."

"[Jays Care] is great," said Grilli. "[The community] supports us, and so [Jays Care] gives back to the people that support us in a way that we don't always get to see. But it's important to the city, to the area, to the team and, in this case, the country. Knowing what Jays Care is all about, it's easy for us to give back and get involved. For [the guys on the team] to give back, in a multitude of ways -- the small ways that we can -- it brings a lot to the community and that's what's important."

To support Jays Care Foundation, or learn more about its programs, fans can visit www.jayscare.com or follow @Jayscare on Twitter.