Only Jason Kelce could get thousands of fans to trek down to the Jersey Shore on a random Wednesday to drink beer.
The All-Pro center for the Philadelphia Eagles stirs emotions in people that they never knew existed. With all apologies to Swoop, he is the team’s real mascot, cloaked in a Mummer’s costume and yelling “Hell yeah!” in his raspy voice.
Kelce held his third-annual “Team 62” celebrity bartending event at the Ocean Drive bar in Sea Isle City on June 28.
Diehards brought Styrofoam coolers, party games, and lawn chairs as they turned Landis Avenue into a makeshift tailgate party that wrapped up and down two streets. The cover charge was $10, with all proceeds going to support the Eagles Autism Foundation.
The rowdy revelers — many of them dressed in No. 62 jerseys — carried footballs and other memorabilia to get autographed, while flashing crisp $100 bills that they were preparing to hand over to Kelce in exchange for a beer and a shot. Man of the people. Man of many masks, including the fat Batman one.
“I think the Sea Isle community is very much into any excuse to party and have fun,” Kelce told Billy Penn. “You don’t have to talk me into a good time. It’s a good time so everybody that’s been here before loves it, you get to be out and about with good people with everyone looking to have fun, it’s a good time.”
Chugging beer to raise money for charity
The seeds for Kelce’s beach bash were planted very much on a whim in 2021. After the isolation of pandemic lockdowns, the Eagles star was casually strolling down the streets of Sea Isle City and stopping to take pictures with any fan who wanted one.
It was evident, then and now, that he was very much the town’s unofficial mayor. Locals claim to see him everywhere, from shopping at ACME to visiting Fish Alley. That’s when the Eagles jumped in.
“It was he and I negotiating, watching him taking hundreds of pictures,” said Ryan Hammond, executive director of the Eagles Autism Foundation. “I said, ‘We should turn this into a philanthropy,’ and he just agreed — and I don’t know if he knew what he agreed to in that moment, but three years later, here we are.”
The line was long but moved rather quickly as people slammed beers and hard seltzers in between impromptu Eagles chants.
One of the people waiting to get in was Matt Craig, a 21-year-old from Cape May dressed in a Kelce Mummer’s costume. His brother has autism, he said, so the fundraiser meant a lot to him personally as well as as a fan.
“I think of his [Super Bowl 52] speech, and I think about how we don’t really care about what any of the competition says, about what any of the haters say. It’s all about love and respect for your community and your team,” Craig said.
“It’s really good what they’re doing,” he added about the fundraiser. “It sets a great example for what celebrities can do for the community.”
Donna Kelce: Mom of the people
If Jason Kelce is the man of the people, then Donna Kelce has become the momma bear. Multiple bar-goers waiting in line talked about how much they admired the woman who gave birth to two NFL superstars.
The Trautman family — husband and wife Kirk and Maria, with daughter Melina — were the first fans to enter Ocean Drive. They’d arrived in Sea Isle City at 6 a.m. and got in line at 10 a.m. They were delighted when Donna walked by them on her way in and stopped to chat for a few minutes.
“She’s gotta be the most famous football mom ever,” said Kirk, 59, from Glen Mills. “And you can see how much Jason loves her and cares about her.”
And, no kidding, a few were ready to submit adoption papers.
“I love her. Absolutely,” said Faith, 24, from Philadelphia. “My mom wouldn’t be happy with that, but I’d let her do it.”
“Great mom, trickles down from the parents, obviously a great person,” said Kevin O’Donnell, 31, from Montgomeryville. “I like who I am. But adding the hyphen Kelce might be good.”
Later in the day, news of these hopeful adoptees was related to Donna as everyone was waiting for Jason to step behind the bar and serve up drinks. She laughed, and offered honest feedback.
“They probably wouldn’t like it very much,” Donna said. “I was a little bit of a tough love kind of mom.”
Donna went on to express how proud she was of both her sons, Jason and Travis, for following their dreams. She said neither one was ever shy as a kid, relaying that Jason was “very loud” and loved to get up in front of people. He played the saxophone in high school and starred in a sixth-grade performance of the musical “Grease.”
“I knew he would be good at whatever he did,” Donna said. “He was just somebody who had his own small little business. He was a very focused individual.”
Did that focus translate to bartending? Not according to Jason.
“Don’t ask me to make a cocktail unless it’s a rum and coke,” he said from behind the bar. “Don’t ask me to make a cocktail. Long Islands? No.”
This year’s event had raised $150,000 before the bar even opened its doors at 3 p.m. for VIP customers. In addition to the entrance fee, there was a Beer Bowl fan competition, auction, raffle, and pop-up yard sale, as well as a live recording of Jason and Travis Kelce’s New Heights podcast. A marathon all around.
It was predicted to be a “record year,” according to Hammond, Eagles Autism Foundation executive director — and by the end of the night, the foundation had tallied $380,000 raised.
“Jason Kelce is a really good example that you can use your talents and turn them into fundraising dollars,” Hammond said. “And, for him, it’s chugging beer.”
Added Kelce: “It’s a long day, but with how much money is raised … I really just enjoy being here.”