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Sports Celebrities Headline Still Hope Foundation Fundraising Weekend

Hampton Roads has been abuzz of late about negotiations to bring a professional sports team to the area. Aside from making the wishes of local sports fans come true, the prospect of running into an NBA player at any one of Hampton Roads’ local jaunts is a celebrity watcher’s dream come true.

And so it was recently as Hampton Roads got a taste of the glitz and glamour that celebrities bring with them when they converge on a city. As well, the frenzy that follows when locals, armed with digital cameras, I-phones, I-pads and Sharpies clamor for a glimpse, a photograph, a handshake, an autograph… please?

No, your eyes were not deceiving you. Yes, that really was NBA great Moses Malone in the lobby of the Westin Hotel at Town Center, Virginia Beach. Yes, you heard correctly. Boston Celtics head coach, Doc Rivers, was only a stone’s throw away at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, posing for photographs with anyone who got close enough to ask. It’s true. Former NBA all-star, Patrick Ewing, was more than happy to sign basketballs, jerseys, even scraps of paper for those who were lucky enough, either by design, or by happenstance, to be at the Greenbrier Country Club.

Wish as you might, neither Moses Malone, nor Doc Rivers or Patrick Ewing was here for a clandestine meeting to bring a professional sports team to the seven cities. Rather, these sports legends were just a few of a star-studded line-up that headlined the Still Hope Foundation 5th Annual Celebrity Weekend Extravaganza, September 14 – 16.

Hosted by Still Hope Foundation, Inc. founders, NBA referee Tony Brothers and his wife, Monica, the Celebrity Weekend Extravaganza is the non-profit’s trademark event to help heighten awareness about the challenges faced by single mothers, and to raise funds for free resources Still Hope’s “Journey for Success” program provides to single moms.

Since its inception five years ago, the Still Hope Foundation fundraiser has garnered support from pro athletes and celebrities with whom Tony Brothers has established relationships throughout his 19-year career in the NBA. According to Tony and Monica, whose mothers faced the struggles of single parenting at some point in Tony and Monica’s lives, the increased awareness about the Foundation’s work and the success of the event is largely due to the celebrity involvement.

Tony and Monica Brothers (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

“I’ve been given the opportunity to help make a difference because of my work,” Tony explains. “So, if it takes some arm twisting and begging to get these individuals here so that we can raise money, I am happy to do it,” Tony said, half-jokingly.

In fact, none of the celebrities who attended asked for compensation.

Sandra White, a long-time friend of the Brothers who assists with recruiting the sports figures says it is not difficult appealing for support.

“Many of the athletes Tony and I approach were raised by single mothers,” White said. “They saw their mother struggle, many taking in more than one job just so that they could pay the bills, feed their children, and put clothes on their backs. They understand what Tony and Monica are trying to do with the Foundation.”

Sandra White and NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Patrick Ewing (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Programs and services provided by the Foundation include basic parenting skills, continuing education options and financial literacy, to name a few.

Mothers can also be paired with volunteer mentors, like Nicole Gaynor, a single mother herself, who provide guidance and a listening ear.

“I have raised a twelve year-old girl by myself, and I’m here to speak honestly and lovingly to my mentees,” Gaynor said. “I tell them to take advantage of resources that are available through the Foundation, to ask for help, to never give up. There will be setbacks, but by example, I show that it does get better.”

Tony and Monica like to stress that the Foundation’s resources are available to single mothers regardless of socio-economic status or race. To this end, the organization has sought to reach out and forge partnerships with diverse constituencies, including a partnership this year with the organizers of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival.

“We don’t want to be thought of as [simply] a black foundation,” Tony told Hampton Roads Social. “The challenges of being a single mom affect women of all colors and income levels. We want to reach out to all potential funders because our organization helps build strong family units and that benefits the entire commumity.”

The weekend festivities kicked off Friday evening with a Casino Night at the Westin Hotel Town Center held exclusively for celebrities, local VIPs, and event sponsors. Throughout the evening, guests enjoyed delicious heavy hors d’oeuvres with wine pairings. Those who felt lucky tried their hand at exciting Vegas-style table games while seated next to sports greats like Calvin Murphy, Moses Malone and Sam Cassell.

Aubrey L. Layne, Jr., King Neptune XXXIX (right) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Guests mingle with former Washington Redskins safety Alvin Walton (black striped shirt) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

The Saturday night black-tie gala featuring film, television, and stand-up comedy star, Sinbad, was held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. More than 900 guests, including many of Hampton Roads’ who’s who, and members of the public who acted quickly to snag tickets for the sold out gala had the rare opportunity to get “thisclose” to NBA analyst and former New York Knicks coach, Jeff Van Gundy, Boston Celtics Coach, Doc Rivers, former New Orleans Saints Quarterback, Aaron Brooks, and football hall of famer, Bruce Smith.

Tony Brothers and Comedian Sinbad entertain at Hope Celebrity Gala (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers (middle) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Former NY Knicks Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy (left) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

NFL Hall of Fame Defensive End Bruce Smith (far right) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

From L-R Ruth T. Jones (YWCA Executive Director), Barbara Hamm Lee (WHRO/WHRV Public Media), Will Sessoms (Mayor, Virginia Beach), Yvonne Allmond (Towne Bank Mortgage) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

In addition to a full course dinner, music by Rajazz, and an exhilirating “speed painting” performance by artist Tim Decker, highlights of the evening included the presentation of the Still Hope Foundation’s prestigious Dorian Award to Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins. The Dorian Award, a combination of Tony and Monica’s mothers’ names recognizes a mom in the Hampton Roads area that epitomizes the characteristics of their moms.

Tony Brothers, Natalie Hawkins (middle), Monica Brothers (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Speed Painter, Tim Decker (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

The Weekend Extravaganza was capped off on Sunday with the Hope Golf Classic presented by Web Teks at the Greenbrier Country Club in Chesapeake, Virginia. Once again, celebrities, including NBA all-star Patrick Ewing, availed themselves to participants and fans for photos and autographs.

Doc Rivers (middle) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Former New Orleans Saints Quarterback Aaron Brooks (right) (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Boston Celtics fan snags Doc Rivers autograph (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

Former NBA Star Moses Malone signs autograph. (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

But when the celebrities and the bright lights dim, there is still work to be done, and more funds to be raised. That is why it has been crucial for Tony and Monica to also cultivate donors and volunteers right here in the Hampton Roads communities.

The Virginia-based company, Web Teks is one such donor. This year, Web Teks became the first Celebrity Golf Classic presenting sponsor in the non-profit’s history.

“When I met Tony, I knew we would become quick friends,” Tom Walker, President of Web Teks told Hampton Roads Social. “I was impressed by his passion, and his commitment to helping improve the lives of people in our community,” Walker said. “What Tony and Monica do [exemplifies] our company’s philosophy of community responsibility. We are happy to be involved.”

Tom and Dyanne Walker (Web Teks) receive Presenting Sponsor recognition from Monica Brothers (Photo by Kennesha Walker)

The Still Hope Foundation, Inc., needs year-round support. Please CLICK HERE to make a donation.

Go to the HAMPTON ROADS SOCIAL FACEBOOK PAGE for more pictures!

Click here for fun video of highlights from the Weekend Extravaganza!

 

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