When’s the last time you attended a gala where you didn’t have to wear fancy shoes but you could shoot hoops?
That was exactly the type of event former Eagles Rodney and Erika McLeod held as part of the second annual “Sneaker Ball: Art & Sole” staple to raise money for their foundation, “Change Our Future.”
The event was held on July 7, 2022 from 7-10 p.m. at the Vie by Cescaphe.
“Change Our Future” was started in the heart of the pandemic by the McLeods to address the issues the youth in Philadelphia face. Some of these issues included lack of career and education resources as well as a need for programs that focus on well-being and healthy lifestyles.
The event kicked off Thursday evening when guests arrived in their best attire and fresh sneakers to compliment their outfits on the red carpet. Guests were also asked to bring school supplies or sneakers to donate to the Philadelphia youth.
This was not your typical gala, it was better. Besides entertainment provided by DJ Diamond Kuts, the host of “Yo! MTV Raps,” and fundraising, guests were treated to a sneaker museum, photo opportunities and a corner designated for shooting hoops or throwing a football. There was an assortment of food and drinks available which gave a “taste of Philadelphia” for those in attendance.
Guests also enjoyed the silent auction which included signed Eagles swag, luxurious trips and paintings from local Philly artists.
Attendees networked with each other and met a handful of special guests, including past and present Eagles Brian Westbrook, Jordan Mailata, Jalen Hurts and Darius Slay.
“It means a lot,” Slay said on his support for his former teammate, “It’s a great opportunity to come out here and support. He did it last year. I told it I’d do it again, for sure without a doubt, and they always turn out with a great event.”
Mailata stepped up big, much like he did last year, and donated a container full of school supplies.
The night continued on with Rodney and Erika giving remarks and thanks to those who’ve helped “Change Our Future” take off. Because of the gracious donations last year, the foundation was able to launch the “I Am” Youth Leadership Summit and the “Next Man Up” men’s mentorship program.
Where last year’s Sneaker Ball focused on building these programs, this year’s focus is on keeping these programs going.
“Tonight is about, honestly, the people in this room who helped us get to this point today,” Rodney said. “Tonight is about celebrating how far we’ve come just in that short span of time with the support of everybody that’s in this room, whether they supported us in the past or just getting to know us now. It feels good when the community is behind your mission and what you stand for,”
The “I Am” Youth Leadership Summit was held a little over a week ago at the Community College of Philadelphia. It gave high school students the opportunity to learn to become leaders and game changers in their community. One of the biggest messages the McLeods wanted to get across to the students was the power of positive affirmations, something Erika wore on her dress for the evening.
“We were able to host 40 kids for our first inaugural “I Am” Youth Leadership Summit. It was so impactful to see the difference of me asking ‘Who feels like they are a leader?’ in the beginning of the summit versus the affirmations we had them all write about themselves at the very end.” Erika said.
“I am wearing the “I am” affirmations because I think it’s something that if you continue to tell yourself if you believe in yourself that you can, then you can do it,” Erika continued.
During their remarks, the McLeods gave awards to individuals who made significant strides in their communities. The co-founders invited some of the students from the “I Am” Youth Leadership summit to help present the awards.
Four recipients were given the Game Changers Award, which is given to someone who made impactful contributions in their communities. These recipients were Connor Barwin, Lloyd Freeman, Dr. Safiyya S. Shabazz, MD. and Dr. Mpasi.
The next awards were the Changing Lives Award. This award goes to educators for their impact on inspiring the young leaders of tomorrow. Brittni Jenkins, an African American history teacher at Constitution High School and Sharahn Santana, the Director of Peace and Social Justice Academy at Parkway Northwest High School were the two recipients of this award.
Following the awards, the Change Our Future foundation was quickly able to raise over $150,000 to continue expanding programs.
Rodney might be moving a few states over to a new team, “Change Our Future” will remain in Philadelphia. The support, both financially and through volunteering, is something the McLeods appreciate.
“We want people to be apart. It’s one thing to support our event financially, but it’s another thing to also get involved. Be not only advocates but your actions and give your time.” Rodney said.
For more information about “Change Our Future” and where to donate, visit the foundation’s website.
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