“I played football at ASU,” comedian Bryan Ricci said.
He also proudly proclaimed that he stands 5 feet 5 ½ inches and added that people sometimes ask, “Were you the ball?”
Yes, there was something funny happening inside the Paradise Valley Country Club’s big, beautiful Camelview Room on Thursday, April 26.
Red Mountain Academy’s Comedy Night.
This annual event raises money for the Academy, and in addition to a ballroom full of people enjoying cocktails, beautiful views of Camelback Mountain, dinner and many, many laughs, the evening raised awareness for a great cause.
Red Mountain Academy – which Gary Walker of Phoenix started in the late 1960s (but was officially founded in 1995) – is a nonprofit organization that works with inner city kids, grades K through 12, and it specializes in teaching life lessons and employing character building.
Comedy Night’s emcee Jim Krohn explained that Red Mountain Academy stands on four pillars: academic motivation, life skills/training, spiritual guidance, and work.
“Red Mountain Academy teaches lessons. The kids work and get paid,” John Jordan, a Red Mountain Academy volunteer from Chandler, said.
For example, he worked with a group of kids who cleaned up an area near 19th Ave. and I-17, and this is just one way that the organization teaches responsibility to children.
“I’m a psychiatric nurse, and (in my job), I see kids whose lives (without appropriate guidance) are ruined,” Jordan said, as his experiences at work motivate him to lend a hand.
Although, Red Mountain Academy’s activities are not all work. Jordan mentioned that the program includes new pastimes for the kids.
“I learned how to fish,” Saul Felix exclaimed.
Felix has enjoyed participating in the program for 11 years. Fishing was a thrill, and now this high school junior is ecstatic, because Harvard University has accepted him into their secondary summer school program.
Buddie Johnson – who became friends with Walker after an initial 3 ½ hour conversation in 1971 – was named the volunteer of the year and takes joy in seeing kids learn success.
“I always have catered to the underdog,” Johnson said.
When asked why, Johnson initially responded that he had no idea, but after some reflection he added, “I grew up very poor. The oldest of nine kids, and we never had anything.”
Well Johnson and everyone else heard plenty on Thursday. Plenty of jokes for a couple hours from Mark Cordes (who is known as The Spouse Whisperer), Walker’s son Reggie Walker and Ricci.
During his set, Cordes stated that in addition to Tom Collins and Shirley Temple, someone should invent new drinks and name them Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. He also publicly stated that he would never cheat on his wife, because he loves his house.
Reggie noted that he used to live in a studio apartment that was supposedly haunted. Then again, he debunked those assertions, because the place was only 320 square feet, so there was absolutely no room for a ghost to haunt.
Ricci expanded on his adventures as a nursery school teacher and reminisced about his ASU place kicker days. He mentioned that his longest field goal was just three yards.
Ricci’s longest field goal may be short, but Red Mountain Academy has inspired him and many others to go long to help others. In fact, he wants to speak at high schools and inspire kids through his comedy.
“God gave me this ability, and I want to give back,” he said.
That certainly was a familiar sentiment inside the Camelview Room on April 26.