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Kidney Fund

National Kidney Center

Dennis Bligen, former New York Jets Runningback, was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. The fourth of seven children, Dennis never had what is often referred to as middle-child syndrome… the child that is sandwiched between two siblings or two groups of siblings. “All of our children are quite unique,” his mother, Millie says, “but Dennis distinguished himself as an academic and an athlete as a small child.”

Bussed to elementary school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Dennis was a bridge builder—bringing together the kids from his neighborhood with those from the well-heeled Gracie Mansion neighborhood.

“There was some culture shock,” Dennis recalls, of those early days. “That was an eye-opening experience to which I attribute my ability to get along with people from all walks of life, even now,” he said.
And walk… or race through life he did. After completing P.S. 183 and Robert F. Wagner J.H.S., Dennis attended Murry Bergtraum H.S. for business careers in the financial district of lower Manhattan. He excelled academically, as well as athletically. He was captain of the undefeated City Championship basketball team there, while doubling as Captain and Catcher on the three-time Manhattan Championship baseball team.

Dennis was a heavily recruited basketball and baseball player, but the desire for a quality college education and proximity to family were also important, leading him to choose to attend St. John’s University, where he majored in Computer Science. He was a walk-on to their football team and was a starting Corner Back, Kicker and Running Back all four years. For his record-breaking career, Dennis was inducted into the St. John’s University Hall of Fame in 1998.

In 1984, Dennis signed as a free agent with the New York Jets and carved out a five-year N.F.L. career. While in the N.F.L., he earned a reputation as a versatile athlete starting games at Halfback, Fullback and Tight End, in addition to performing his duties as a Special Teams stand-out.

Dennis, the only St. John’s alumnus to play in the N.F.L., returned to St. John’s University to serve as Assistant Football Coach until the program was disbanded in 2003.

Shifting his focus to the business world, Dennis began his career as Director of Sports Marketing for Starter Corporation. From 1990-96, he was an integral part of a marketing/sales team that transformed STARTER, an $80 million dollar sportswear company, into a half-billion-dollar industry giant.

From 1996-97, Dennis served as Vice President of Mega Sports, a Long Island-based sports marketing and management firm where he managed the careers of several professional athletes and a famous artist. Dennis founded and was sole proprietor of Avenue D Sports Bar & Grill from 1997-2007, employing dozens of young people in the Hempstead area of Long Island. Dennis also served as a Varsity Football Coach at Hempstead High School.

“I believe in giving back to the community,” Dennis said, “and my life is fuller for it. The more you give, I have found, the more you receive in return.”

Dennis continues to give back. He is a football coach at the prestigious Chaminade, a Catholic High School on Long Island and has been a Quality Control Manager for the NFL since 2009. He is affiliated with various distinguished philanthropic, athletic, and business entities, including The United Way Foundation.

Lastly, but certainly first in his life, Dennis is a God-fearing member of The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. and has and is always willing to give of finance and service to the Church organization. He is a single Christian and credits his many blessings and talents to his faith and belief in Jesus Christ.
The Dennis Bligen Kidney Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in honor of Dennis Bligen, who was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2002.

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