The “Spirit of Giving” continued as the Atlanta Braves and Academy Sports + Outdoors hosted a surprise Holiday Party for D.H. Stanton Elementary School 5th graders.
To kick off the festivities, the students were led by the Tomahawk Team and Homer from their classrooms to the surprise party where Braves and Academy employees greeted them to the tune of Frosty the Snowman. Braves Alumni players Alejandro Pena, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, and former Braves player and current first base coach Terry Pendleton joined the fun.
During the first half of the party, the students participated in arts and crafts projects, decorated ornaments, snowmen and wreathes. Meanwhile, Homer and his elves were getting ready for the big surprise. As the volunteers waited quietly behind closed doors, we gathered the students for a round of Christmas carols with the Tomahawk girls.
The students were then given specific instructions to yell on the count of three, “Open That Door!” Upon command, the double doors in the back of the room swung open and in came Homer, followed by 30 colorful, sleek Huffy bicycles.
The students screamed with excitement as the bicycles were rolled down the aisle one by one.
The Braves alumni players and staff presented each child with their very own bike and safety helmet courtesy of Academy Sports + Outdoors. The students immediately jumped on their bikes and peddled throughout the gymnasium, but not before hugging our Braves alumni and volunteers thanking them for the wonderful surprise.
The parents in attendance were grateful to see the joy in their children’s faces that left many of them speechless.
For the 5th year in a row, we continued our commitment of honoring local military families with our annual Holiday BaseBowl Bash. Over 100 servicemen and women along with their families were invited to participate in an afternoon of bowling, games, food and fun at Midtown Bowl on December 6.
Braves pitcher David Hale, pitching Coach Roger McDowell, Braves Alumni Marty Perez, Jim Nash, Johnny Estrada and Greg McMichael were there to spend some quality time with the families, sign autographs, and spread holiday cheer.
We kicked off the party with a special check presentation to five deserving military-supportive charities. Throughout the 2014 season, five Braves home games were dedicated to honoring the various branches of the military. The Braves players wore their red military appreciation jerseys during each of those games and their jerseys were then auctioned online to benefit the following charities: Wounded Warrior Project, BraveHeart: Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative, United Military Care, SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center, and the USO. With the support from Braves Country, we were able to raise more than $27,000 for these groups!
Much to our surprise, the Atlanta Braves Foundation received a special recognition award our support from the USO President & CEO, Mary Lou Austin and Chairman General Tom Wessels.
After the formalities, bowling commenced and the fun began! Prizes were awarded to the top overall male and female scores. A special drawing was held for five lucky military members to bowl against five Braves in a “Jocks vs. Joes” bowling contest . It was a very close game, but this year, the Jocks escaped with the win!
This event was a success due in large part to the Braves front office staff and the Braves 400 Club members who volunteered and helped distribute goodie bags and various prizes that were awarded throughout the afternoon.
We love hosting this event each year because it allows us to thank the military service men and women, and their families, for all of their sacrifice and dedication to our great country.
The families were appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to participate. A special thanks goes out to Midtown Bowl for hosting us again this year as well as to our Braves fans for the continued support of the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Braves Foundation, and the support of our military.
Happy Holidays from our Braves Family to yours!
This year, Braves staff completed more than 3,000 community service hours in conjunction with our monthly Braves Care Employee Volunteer Initiative. We would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time this year to give back to our community in a variety of ways. Below is a recap of our community service projects.
In January, we visited the Atlanta Community Food Bank where we sorted cans and restocked the in-house grocery store with assistance from Braves alumni players, Brian Jordan and Marquis Grissom.
In March, the staff cleaned out their closets and donated clothes to the Atlanta Union Mission as a part of the Spring Cleaning Clothing Drive. We also visited the La Amistad After School Program to help the students celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with fun arts and crafts activities.
On April 22, Earth Day, we helped clean up the Piedmont Park Conservancy. We focused our efforts on the garden area where Piedmont Park hosts field trips and we were able to give the garden a mini makeover, as we left our mark on Piedmont Park!
During the month of May, we partnered with the USO to collect items from Braves staff and fans for soldiers returning home from overseas. This effort to help welcome the courageous men and women back to the states was an initiative we called “Support the Brave.”
In June, we celebrated the wounded veterans of the U.S. military by inviting them to Turner Field for an extremely special Braves Care event. Braves staff welcomed about 35 warriors from the Wounded Warrior project to the ballpark where they took a tour of Turner Field, ate lunch with Braves President John Schuerholz, and took batting practice on the field with staff and Braves alumni players.
Christmas came early in July for the kiddos at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta! We surprised patients with room to room visits by Braves players, coaches and wives distributing brand new toys collected by the Braves wives during their annual toy drive. Braves employees participated in fun games and crafts at the Zone, the indoor activity center at the hospital.
At the beginning of August, Braves and Delta Air Lines employees teamed up to get our partner DH Stanton elementary ready for the new school year. We painted, organized books, designed bulletin boards and decorated classrooms.
We spent quality time with our four legged friends in the community during the month of August. We got to play with dogs that are up for adoption at PAWS Atlanta, a no-kill animal shelter just east of the city. We walked the dogs, interacted with kittens, and built new picnic benches for potential adoptive parents.
In September, we helped our friends at DH Stanton Elementary School get excited for the new school year. Throughout the season we partnered with Arrow Exterminators to collect school supplies from Braves staff, fans at Turner Field and Arrow customers. We surprised the students and teachers with brand new supplies for their classrooms and also spent a little time reading to the students.
For our October activity we celebrated Halloween at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School in Roswell. We helped students create unique handmade candy corn paintings with homemade paint brushes and delivered Braves hats and tomahawks to students that were unable to take part in the activity.
In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we served lunch to the homeless at the City of Refuge and to the students at Bright Futures Academy.
We will round out the year with our December initiative, the Annual Angel Tree Project. We will partner with the Second Wind Dreams “Gift of Light” program and “adopt” senior citizens from a local nursing home. The seniors will be provided with holiday gifts to help make their spirits bright!
We want to thank all of Braves staff members that helped make the Braves Care events this year a huge hit! We are so grateful to have co-workers that are always eager to help out.
A special kudos to Terrence Willoughby and Elizabeth Jimenez for being our 2014 “ACE in the Community” Award Recipients for being the most active Braves Care employees in 2014!
Check out the gallery below for more 2014 Braves Care photos!
Last week our partner school, D.H. Stanton Elementary, hosted their annual Career and Education Day, an opportunity for community members to share with students their experiences in their field of trade.
Braves Community Affairs Trainees Kathryn Bennett and Stephen Bailey were honored to share their unique experiences while working with the Braves and emphasized the importance of attending college. They were among 20 other guest speakers from many different lines of work including attorneys, National Treasury, APS School Board members and an anchor from Fox 5 Atlanta.
A child ambassador from each class escorted each of them to different classroom where the spoke about their personal journeys that led them to this point in their careers, and answered questions. Students who asked great career oriented questions were rewarded with Braves Bobbleheads! After rotating to different classrooms the ambassador escorted them back to the media center for lunch with all of the special guests.
What a fun way to start the morning, encouraging the students! We hope to continue to see great things come from our friends at DHS, and we know their futures are extremely bright!
This Halloween, Braves front office staff members visited the students at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center as part of the Braves Care employee volunteer initiative. Jacob’s Ladder is an accredited private school which serves students Pre-K through 12th grade with neurological disorders from down syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injury, learning disabilities and genetic disorders.
We helped some of our new friends create candy corn paintings using homemade paintbrushes and we surprised each child with a Halloween themed goodie bag filled with small toys and school supplies. After everyone finished with their paintings, we delivered Braves baseball caps and Tomahawks to the children in the school that were unable to participate in the arts and craft project.
After meeting each child at the school, Braves volunteers were treated to a tour of the Jacob’s Ladder facility which includes a goat farm, chicken coup, and a bunny cage! It is truly an inspirational place for students to call their own, and we can’t wait to see our friends at Jacob’s Ladder in the future.
In celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the Braves Care employee volunteer initiative also visited the City of Refuge to serve lunch to the residents and students at the on-site school, Bright Futures Atlanta Academy.
The Braves have supported the City of Refuge and their efforts for years, and we love to go visit and see the difference that they have made in our community. The City of Refuge is a non-profit organization dedicated to community development efforts that lead to the stability and sustainability of the local community. Their services span multiple areas of need – from food, clothing and shelter to job training, placement, housing, healthcare and education.
One group of volunteers worked in the City of Refuge 180 Kitchen where they served lunches to the women and children that were on-site during lunch hours. We got the chance to interact and eat lunch with the residents. The other group of volunteers visited the on-site private school, Bright Futures Atlanta Academy, a Christian-based, year-round program academy that offers after-school programming during the school year and camp during the summers. This unique school is focused on helping inner-city, at-risk children by providing them with the spiritual, educational, and family support that will help them become productive members of society and role models to their peers. Braves staff visited the school, got a tour of the colorful facility, served lunch to the students and engaged in a fun teamwork activity.
Overall, it was the perfect way for the Braves front office staff to give back to our community during the Thanksgiving season!
A professional sporting event is just the ticket to strengthen a mentor/youth match. The MLB umpires offer memorable baseball experiences for children through the UMPS Care Charities BLUE Crew Tickets program. Since its beginning in 2006, these charitable umpires have hosted more than 6,000 children and their mentors at games across the 32 ballparks.
This season, the Atlanta Braves facilitated four UMPS Care events with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, a mentoring organization that serves over 3,390 youth in Metro Atlanta. The organization pairs children and their families with caring adults that can provide strong and encouraging friendships that impacts children’s lives for the better.
The honored guests were greeted with goodies bags filled with Braves swag and snacks courtesy of the Braves and UMPS Care Charities. The guests were given a short behind-the-scenes tour through the Braves tunnel and escorted to meet the umpires on the field before game time.
On the field, the umpires showed them their positions during the game, answered questions and discussed the favorite parts of their jobs as well as the difficulties. Each visit culminated with a group photo on the field and a quick trip to the umpire tunnel to take a look at the instant-replay booth.
Many thanks to the MLB umpires for taking the time to treat the “bigs and littles” to a priceless, one-of-a-kind experience and a different side of baseball!
During our annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day Celebration in September, we presented the Diamond of Hope Award to five empowering women who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer and have assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. We will be highlighting these incredible ladies throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month and sharing their stories with you.
Kathi Shepherd from Columbia, SC, has risen above the challenges put before her during her fight against Breast Cancer, and has been cancer free for four years. She gave up her teaching job to become a motivational speaker and help inspire others going through their own struggles with breast cancer. She works every day to support those going through similar battles that she once fought.
Kathi was kind enough to answer some questions for us in a recent interview and provide us with photos that represent her courageous journey. Read more about Kathi below:
When were you diagnosed? July 2, 2010
What is your occupation? Former teacher and now I am a motivational speaker and writer.
Where in the world are you the happiest? Disney World.
What do you do in your spare time? Take my Pet Therapy Certified dog to hospitals and nursing homes to visit with patients.
What is one thing you wish people knew about you? I love camping, fishing and kayaking with my family. I’m also a huge college football fan and can often be found on Saturdays attending a game!
Who has been your biggest support system through your journey? My 13 year old daughter Callie has sat through 7 surgeries, 25 rounds of infusion chemo, managed my chest drains, given me shots, traveled to cancer institutes all over the country with me for treatments. She is my rock! LAUGHTER HAS BEEN THE KEY INGREDIENT TO MY HEALING PROCESS. :)
What keeps you going through this period? My faith in Jesus knowing that He has a plan for me and loves me. I trust that He is in control and He will take care of me. The power of faith allows me to see the invisible and unbelievable to receive the impossible.
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “If God is for you, who can be against you” –Romans 8:31
How have you grown during this journey? I have grown tremendously with my faith and compassion for others. I had to learn how to humbly receive instead of always giving and serving. Prayers are truly felt and give me strength in my times of weakness!
Do you have any inspirational words of advice for others going through recovery? God made me be still so I could strengthen my relationship with Him. Others find joy in helping so let them! Ask the American Cancer Society for local resources in monetary assistance, meal delivery, and support groups. My breast buddies are my life line now! Go Pink!
Congratulations Kathi on receiving the Diamond of Hope Award! We wish you the very best and encourage you to continue inspiring others along their journey.
During this season, the Atlanta Braves and Kroger partnered to host a series of hunger awareness food drives to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Founded in 1979, the Atlanta Community Food Bank procures over 45 Million pounds of food and groceries each year and distributes it to over 600 hunger relief programs in 29 Metro Atlanta and North Georgia Communities.
Every Friday night at Turner Field, Braves fans donated canned food or made monetary donations in support of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and received an autograph from a current Braves player or alumni. This season’s participants included Phil Niekro, Mark Wohlers, Marquis Grissom, Leo Mazzone, Ramiro Pena, David Carpenter, Kris Medlen, David Hale, Aaron Harang, Cory Gearrin, and Craig Kimbrel.
Thanks to our Braves fans, players, and alumni in supporting this important initiative resulting in 1,145 pounds of food and $4,300 in monetary donations.
Thank you Braves Country for supporting our efforts in eradicating hunger in the state of Georgia. If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, please visit acfb.org.
The Braves 400 Fan Club is a non-profit organization of Braves fans dedicated to supporting the game of baseball at all levels for the past 40 years. These special members of our Braves family volunteer at numerous community events throughout the year and love giving back to Braves Country.
Every year, the Braves 400 Club purchases tickets for well-deserving, disadvantaged youth baseball fans in the Metro Atlanta area to attend Braves games throughout the season. Each month, the members invite an organization to come experience batting practice before the game, meet and greet the Braves players and enjoy dinner complimentary of Chick-fil-A.
To kick off baseball season, we invited Calvary Children’s Home to join us at Turner Field for this unique experience. Calvary Children’s Home, located in Powder Springs, GA, provides a safe, loving Christian environment for children needing placement apart from their families. They were treated to a visit by pitcher Aaron Harang during batting practice, who posed for pictures and signed autographs. Most of these children have never seen a professional baseball game, but have been Braves fans their whole lives.
La Amistad visited Turner Field in May for a 400 Club experience. La Amistad’s mission is to support Latino students and their families by providing a comprehensive support system through tutoring, mentoring, and resources. All of the kids received Greg Maddux bobbleheads and got to meet pitchers Shae Simmons and Pedro Beato, who posed for pictures and signed autographs. The chaperones whom accompanied these kiddos to the game all sponsor these well-deserving children in the La Amistad summer camp program as well as tutor them weekly at different Metro Atlanta locations.
In June, we were visited by the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association. Founded in 2006 by Marquis Grissom, MGBA is a non-profit organization that provides young athletes in underserved communities the opportunity to participate in a competitive baseball league. These young athletes, with hopes and dreams of one day becoming professional baseball players, watched the Braves take batting practice got the chance to a number of Braves players including Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, B.J. and Justin Upton, Andrelton Simmons, and Tommy La Stella, along with first base coach, Terry Pendleton. What a memorable moment. Not only did they see a Braves win over the Marlins, but they had the opportunity to meet some of their role models from the Atlanta Braves!
In August, the 400 Fan Club welcomed about 30 youth chaperoned by police officers from the Police Athletic League (PAL). PAL is a non-profit, public benefit corporation whose mission is to provide a safe environment for youth to reach their full potential through partnerships with the police and community utilizing athletics and other programs. Braves infielder, Ramiro Pena, signed autographs during batting practice then it was off to their seats to enjoy a fun evening of Braves baseball!
For the final “Reach Out, Be Our Guest” event of the 2014 season, and in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Braves 400 Fan Club welcomed ten incredible young cancer warriors and their families from the Rally Foundation to Turner Field. Rally Foundation was established nine years ago in response to a mother’s call for help to raise money for childhood cancer research and fund the best cancer research available. Since 2005, Rally Foundation has given more than $5.25 million in research grants, funding 75 cutting-edge projects across the country. Braves pitcher Kris Medlen, one of the local spokespersons for Rally Foundation, sat in the bleachers with the children and their families during batting practice. Kris posed for numerous pictures, signed autographs, and talked with the kids, letting them sit on his lap and try on his glove!
What an amazing season for our community outreach efforts with our lovely 400 Club members. Children met their heroes, enjoyed their first Braves game, and had the time of their lives! We owe a huge thank you to the Braves 400 Club who funded these incredible events and to Chick-fil-A who graciously donated dinner for all youth participants and their chaperones. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store!
This season, we teamed up with RaceTrac to collect gently used baseball and softball equipment as part of Major League Baseball’s annual Baseball Tomorrow Fund Equipment Drive. This initiative benefits disadvantaged youth baseball and softball organizations that lack the necessary equipment to successfully participate in the game.
We called on Braves third baseman Chris Johnson for a little help to spread the word throughout Braves Country. Chris served as the 2014 Baseball Tomorrow Fund player ambassador and used his Twitter page to promote the collection dates. With his assistance, we were able to collect hundreds of bats, gloves, helmets, bags, uniforms and other essential baseball equipment for deserving organizations in the Metro Atlanta area.
Through the four monthly collections that went hand-in-hand with the RaceTrac Nights at Turner Field, we were able to collect over 1,000 pounds of equipment from Braves fans.
After the final collection date, we hosted a special on-field presentation to recognize RaceTrac for their support and the equipment drive recipients, the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. Baseball Tomorrow Fund also presented the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta with a $5,000 check to use on their youth baseball and softball programs. Chris Johnson, Billy Milam, COO of RaceTrac, Melanie Bolch Isbill, RaceTrac Director of Marketing, and Kathi Bradley of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund were all present for this special on-field ceremony.
The following week, we made a special visit to the Samuel L. Jones Boys and Girls Club to drop off the donated equipment. Kristi Morris, RaceTrac Community Marketing Manager, and Justin Nix, RaceTrac Store Manager, joined us as we brought smiles to a lot of young faces who were excited and looking forward to playing baseball or softball with their new equipment. The remaining equipment was donated to the Atlanta Police Athletic League, Dekalb Police Athletic League, Carver YMCA, Creekside High School and Forrest Park High School.
As you can see, these equipment drives allowed Braves Country to show their support for youth sports by giving many kids the opportunity to play this great game of baseball and look good doing it!