In August, the Braves Wives hosted the “Favorite Things” auction, which is an annual event where the wives fill baskets full of their husbands’ favorite things to raise money for a charity of their choosing. The wives optioned to have all proceeds from their auction benefit Childhood Cancer research this year, raising more than $3,500.
In honor of September being Childhood Cancer Awareness month, we celebrated the lives and legacies of pediatric cancer survivors and fighters during Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. On September 13, we welcomed more than 200 children affected by pediatric cancer to Turner Field for a very special pre-game program. All proceeds from this event along with the money raised at the Wives auction benefited four nonprofits that raise awareness for pediatric cancer research, Rally Foundation, Camp Sunshine, CURE, and Curing Kids Cancer.
Participants started arriving early that Sunday morning to the ballpark to check-in and receive their tickets, commemorative “Going Gold” t-shirt and unique neon “Chop out Cancer” sunglasses. Once checked-in, all survivors/fighters along with their family and friends entered the gates and made their way to the Childhood Cancer Fighter/Survivor Celebration reception. More than 500 guests enjoyed complimentary snacks and refreshments and the opportunity to fellowship with one another. Children also got their faces painted compliments of the Braves and free Go-Go Squeeze Organic Applesauce.
At the reception, participants heard encouraging words from guest of honor and two-time Childhood Cancer Survivor, Taylor Scheibe. Taylor is a motivational speaker and entrepreneur from Jacksonville, FL. Her charity, With Love, donates toys to local hospitals and play rooms for children going through cancer treatment. After Taylor spoke, we recognized four extremely brave individuals on behalf of each organization who have survived cancer and been a light to the cancer community simultaneously. These honorees were deemed the “Diamond of Courage” award recipients and were presented their awards by Braves wives, Joanna Swisher, Jamie Lavarnway, and Gabby Perez. The following children were honored:
Madie Ice was selected on behalf of the Rally Foundation for her contagious smile and positive attitude during chemotherapy. CURE chose Grace Bunke as their award recipient because of her perseverance and positivity moving forward after having a leg amputation from cancer. Montana Brown was selected on behalf of Camp Sunshine for beating cancer twice at a young age and going on to study nursing at Georgia Regents College in hopes of being a pediatric nurse. Our only boy representative came from Curing Kids Cancer. Reece McPhail was chosen by his organization for his willingness to help others during his cancer treatments and for being an advocate for childhood cancer research through drives and fundraisers.
Once the audience gave our award recipients another round of applause, the reception came to a close and families and friends started lining up for the on-field parade. As the survivors and their families paraded around the field, many groups held and released gold balloons in honor of those lost in the pediatric cancer battle. Once the parade was over and game time was drawing closer, Braves Wives, Gabby Perez, Joanna Swisher, Chelsea Freeman, and Jamie Lavarnway joined the four Diamond of Courage award recipients and their nonprofit organization leaders on the third baseline for a special on-field ceremony and check presentation. Combined efforts by the Braves wives and fan donations, the Atlanta Braves Foundation was able to cut a check for $5,000 to Childhood Cancer research.
To round out the day’s festivities, nine children were selected to “take the field” with the starting lineup that day. The crowd gave a standing ovation to the kiddos as they ran out to the positions and waited for their favorite major league player to join them at their position. The following kids were chosen by their organization to participate in this activity: Mary Tipton Carter, Drew Kruszynski, and Audrey Arrowood on behalf of Rally, Elijah Ligon and Connor Meadows on behalf of CURE, Colton Moore and Josh Mack on behalf of Curing Kids Cancer, and Emmalee Watkins and Matthew McMahon on behalf of Camp Sunshine. Childhood cancer survivor, MaKayla Jefferson yelled “Play Ball!” on the field indicating it was time for some Braves baseball!
This is the start of something really beautiful for Childhood Cancer Awareness in the sports industry! We look forward to making this event bigger and better every year until we find a cure. We want to say a HUGE thank you to our beneficiary organizations who worked hard to help make this event go off without a hitch and another big thank you to our Braves Wives who raised so much money for such a wonderful cause!
The 7th Annual Atlanta Braves Youth Baseball Classic presented by Bank of America was recently held at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA on July 17-19. The tournament hosted 71 teams from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee with 9 age divisions, 6U-16U. We refer to this tournament as the “Battle for the Tomahawk” because each winning team and runner up is presented with a carved and engraved wooden tomahawk.
It wouldn’t be a Braves baseball tournament if each team didn’t get some Braves swag. All players and coaches received an official Braves Youth Classic “Battle for the Tomahawk” t-shirt, tickets to the Braves vs. Cubs game on the second day of the classic, and a chance to participate in the pre-game parade around the warning track along with their coaches and families.
Thanks to the help from various volunteers from Bank of America, the Braves 400 Club, and Braves gameday staff, play started on Friday night under the lights. The excitement was felt throughout the park as teams battled for their first win and ultimately for the chance of winning the extremely sought-after wooden tomahawk.
We were set up and ready to go when the sun came up on Saturday morning in Alpharetta. By mid-morning the teams probably wished they were swimming in the Wills Park public pool. The summer heat was in full force as the teams continued playing in hopes of getting into that top seed spot.
At noon on Saturday, all play stopped for a Welcome Ceremony on the 13U field. Ericka Newsome-Hill, Director of the Braves Community Affairs Department, welcomed the players, parents, and families and asked that all participants take a moment of silence for 10-year-old, Cliff White, who was scheduled to play with the 10U Wyer Gamers out of McDonough, GA. Cliff and his sister, Allie, were tragically lost in a car accident just days before the tournament started. Alpharetta Mayor, David Belle Isle, addressed the crowd and welcomed everyone to Wills Park and the City of Alpharetta. Braves alumni Brian Jordan also said a few words to the group about teamwork and the importance of youth baseball. Jordan was at the tournament signing his children’s books for fans. The excitement was raised to a whole new level when Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler was introduced to the crowd. Wisler invited a player from the 10U Gamers team to throw out the ceremonial “first pitch” of the tournament. Matt was happy to switch trade in his glove for a catcher’s mitt and catch this special first pitch. After the ceremony was over, each team had their chance to meet Matt and take a team photo with him.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of teams finishing up their pool play games in hopes of being the highest seed possible for Sunday’s championship brackets. Once the final games were completed, the teams had a little time to go back to their hotels and get ready for the big parade and Braves game at Turner Field.
The on-field ceremony took place next with Bank of America SVP Cheryl Lomax, and several lucky Classic participants. The following players were randomly selected to represent their age division.
6U – Hayden Knop – Warner Robins Reds from Warner Robins, GA
7U – Jax Miller – Chattahoochee Valley Thunder from LaFayette, AL
8U – Landon Frisco – Base Knox Royals from Knoxville, TN
9U – Sheldon Haney – Macon Villains from Macon, GA
10U – Mackenzie White on behalf of her late brother, Cliff White, who was expected to play in the 10U division with the Wyer Gamers of McDonough, GA.
11U – Tyler Partain – Giants Baseball Orange from Alpharetta, GA
12U – Jameison Hudson – Savannah Spartans from Savannah, GA
13U – Jackson Watts – Georgia Rage from Covington, GA
16U – Jamarkist Barnette – FCA Urban Baseball from Atlanta, GA
Congrats to each lucky winner!
The Braves vs. Cubs game that night provided a great experience for all the teams, coaches, and families in attendance. Many had never been to a Braves game before and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Sunday started early again “under the lights.” The rest of the day, we inched closer towards the championships in each age division. Listed below is the list of champion teams and runner ups from each age division. Congratulations to all of our finalists!
6U Age Division
Champion – Eastside Youth Wolfpack from Atlanta, GA
Runner Up – Diamond Simcox Academy Orange from Knoxville, TN
7U Age Division
Champion – Irish from Chattanooga, TN
Runner Up – East TN Mets from Athens, TN
8U Age Division
Champion – Chattanooga Dodgers from Chattanooga, TN
Runner Up – ESBA 8U All-Stars from Marietta, GA
9U Age Division
Champion – HEAT Baseball from Athens, TN
Runner Up – Jasper Jays from Jasper, GA
10U Age Division
Champion – Sandtown Red Sox from Atlanta, GA
Runner Up – South Gwinnett Rattlers from Decatur, GA
11U Age Division
Champion – Diamond Academy Legends from Rocky Face, GA
Runner Up – All-Star Baseball from Maryville, TN
12U Age Division
Champion – Whistlin Dixie Canes from Eastman, GA
Runner Up – Savannah Spartans from Savannah, GA
13U Age Division
Champion – Full Throttle Baseball from Dublin, GA
Runner Up – Georgia Rage from Covington, GA
16U Age Division
Champion – TnT Hustle from East Point, GA
Runner Up – FCA Urban Baseball from Atlanta, GA
Congrats and a big THANK YOU to all of the volunteers and teams that participated and made this tournament fun and competitive. Also, thank you for the feedback!
“I just wanted to say thank you for all you did putting on this tournament. Excellent run tournament and a great time had by all. Sign us up for next. Thanks again.”
– Josh Sylvester, 6U Warner Robins Red All-Stars, Warner Robins, GA
“It was an amazing experience and can’t wait until next year!”
– Kevin Hunley, 10U Base Knox Royals, Knoxville, TN
“Thanks so much for providing such an incredible opportunity to the Young Guns! This past weekend, like the previous years ended with many great memories for our players! This event is one that parents, players and our player’s siblings look forward to every year. You and your staff work really hard and it shows! The Young Guns thank you!”
– Hope Hines, 12U Young Guns, Milledgeville, GA
The Braves, Wills Park, the City of Alpharetta and Turner Field enjoyed hosting you! We look forward to seeing you again next year!
In loving memory of Cliff and Allie White.
On Wednesday, June 10 the Braves Wives hosted the annual She Can Play Fitness Festival at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at the Villages at Carver YMCA. She Can Play is a free, health and fitness initiative that focuses on teaching young girls about healthy living and encouraging them to become involved in sports by demonstrating the importance of leading an active lifestyle. This is one of three components to the brand new She Is Brave initiative which educates, empowers and inspires girls through a series of programs that promotes self-esteem, healthy and active lifestyles and leadership skills.
More than 300 girls ages 8-12 joined us from organizations including the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, City of Atlanta, Girls on the Run, The Salvation Army, and CHOICES.
Decked in their “She Can Play” t-shirts, the girls participated in seven different fitness stations, hosted by local health and fitness organizations. Participants learned everyting from Zumba and hip-hop dance to yoga and kickboxing. They also attended an interactive healthy living workshop hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta called Strong 4 Life.
This year’s festival had a different look and feel, with each station rotating throughout the Braves Baseball Academy. In patio area, Kandice from KFit Zumba was playing today’s Hip-Hop hits and girls got the chance to learn exhilarating new dance moves.
Torch Fitness had things kickin’ with Amy Miller, wife of Braves Pitcher Shelby Miller, on the John Smoltz field with kid-friendly kickboxing. Participants learned different types of kicks and punches while others learned agility drills. This station tested the girls’ strength and got them ready for the next station.
On the Chipper Jones Field, former Miss Georgia contestant, Carly Gill, from Daily Does It Fitness along with Chelsea Freeman, wife of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Veronica Ramirez, wife of Braves coach and alumni Horacio Ramirez, taught girls the ins and outs of strength training. Participants did lunges, squats, jumping jacks, sit-ups and much more.
The wives stopped to talk to a couple of news stations and our very own Braves Vision team about the She Is Brave initiative.
Grace Snell and Caitlin Griffey stretched it out at the Yoga station on the Mike Hampton Field. At this station the girls focused on the art of being calm while working out their bodies and their minds. For 8-12 year old girls, staying still and relaxed is not as easy as it sounds!
Former Auburn softball player Maris Medina and volunteers had the girls on the Brian Jordan field swinging for the fences at the softball station! Girls learned how to throw and catch and hit off a tee. Each girl left this station with a brand new bright yellow softball to take home and practice with!
On the lower pavilion, professional dancer Cat Viger had a different kind of dance station going on. Cat and her assistant from Gotta Dance Atlanta taught the girls a dance routine to the song “Fun” by Pitbull. The girls loved learning this dance and hearing Cat’s stories from being a dancer for famous artists like Beyonce!
The last station the girls visited was Strong 4 Life, an interactive healthy living workshop hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They gave tips such as adding more veggies and fruits to their plates, being active for 60 minutes a day, limiting screen time to one hour, drinking more water and limiting sugary drinks.
To cap off the afternoon, all participants grabbed a sandwich, water, and Go-Go Squeeze applesauce along with some Braves swag on their way back to their chaperone.
As you can see we certainly had fun at “She Can Play” this year, and we hope our participants did as well!
Every year around Mother’s Day, Major League Baseball celebrates baseball fans that have been affected by breast cancer and are determined to defeat the disease. Tracy Chitwood, the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, was recognized at the game on Friday, May 22.
Tracy was nominated by her son for her incredible faith during the trying times of living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Even after undergoing numerous surgeries her strength hasn’t wavered. Tracy is an active organizer in many Susan G. Komen and American Cancer Society events, and has inspired families to continue in the fight against Breast Cancer.
In honor of being named the Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl, Tracy arrived early for the game for an on-field up-close-and-personal batting practice experience where she met her favorite player, Freddie Freeman. She was given a pink and white personalized jersey from Braves wives Victoria Young and Theresa Tosca, and presented a pink MLB wooden bat by Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin. She got her pink bat autographed by some of her other favorite Braves players such as Andrelton Simmons and Nick Markakis. Tracy concluded her VIP pre-game experience by being the Braves Honorary Team Captain for that night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers
and where she went on the field for the pregame lineup card exchange with both team managers and umpires. Tracy enjoyed a truly special experience at Turner Field, and we were honored to help bring a smile to her face.
Last Friday, in honor of Armed Forces Month and as part of our monthly Braves Care front office staff volunteer initiative, we welcomed members of the Wounded Warrior Project, a veteran service organization for wounded veterans, to Turner Field for the 2nd Annual Wounded Warrior Classic.
The Warriors arrived at the ballpark around 10 am for a VIP all-access tour of the Braves Museum, ballpark, press box and the Braves Clubhouse. Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, surprised the warriors while they were exploring the Braves museum and joined them for the remainder of their tour. At the conclusion of their tour, the Warriors were joined by our front office staff and Delta Air Lines volunteers, who were waiting to serve and eat lunch with our special guests.
We had a couple other exciting surprises in store for the Warriors. Following lunch, we informed our guests that they would be going down on the field to take batting practice from home plate! They couldn’t hit live batting practice on a Major League baseball field with just any equipment, so we announced that Mizuno Baseball donated brand new equipment for them to use during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Each Warrior walked away with their choice of a top of the line aluminum bat or baseball glove, a pair of batting gloves and batting helmet. With new equipment in hand, Braves staff and Delta employees escorted the Warriors down to the field for batting practice.
Once they took the field, Braves alumni Greg McMichael, Jim Nash, and Ron Reed joined Johnny Estrada as batting practice coaches for the Warriors.
Like the big leaguers do before each major league game, each Warrior had an opportunity to take about 10 hacks from the tortoise shell. When they weren’t hitting, they were able to run around in the outfield and shag fly balls with Braves staff while mingling with our alumni players.
Our Braves Alumni gladly signed autographs and took photos with the Warriors, and at the end of their visit, our special guests gathered by the Braves dugout for a group photo and final remarks.
It was an honor to have these exceptional men at Turner Field for a fun day with the Braves Staff!
To kick off Armed Forces Month, we dedicated our Braves Care front office volunteer event to our friends in the military by serving lunch at the USO of Georgia and by collecting items for troops returning home from overseas.
On Friday, May 1, we started our day off at the USO of Georgia facility at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport preparing for the arrival of new soldiers returning home from basic training. The USO of Georgia is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale, welfare and recreation services to military personnel and their families. They are open every day for soldiers who are passing through the Atlanta airport to stop in and have a hot meal and a quiet place to regroup. Every Friday, the USO anticipates the arrival of a few hundred brand new soldiers from Fort Benning in Columbus, GA headed to their next destination. These young men and women spend 14 weeks at basic training with little to no interaction with the outside world.
We were so excited when the first bus arrived that Friday morning from basic training, as we waited for them with “Welcome Home” signs. It was evident that they had not had access to electronics or the simplest things like caffeine as they rushed off the buses and straight to the newsstands in the airport to grab a soda and snacks. As we caught up with them, we directed them upstairs to the USO facility where Braves front office staff and Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, were serving sandwiches for lunch. Johnny was happy to sign autographs for all of the service men and women and visit with them while they readjusted to civilian life.
As the facility filled up with young gentlemen in their dress blues, we unleashed another surprise on them… Braves player Jonny Gomes would also be joining them for lunch. Gomes accompanied by his wife Kristi, who happens to be a from military family, signed autographs and took photos. Many of the soldiers gathered in the USO conference room with Gomes and Estrada for a Q&A. The Gomes’ even delivered the cutest thank you cards for the soldiers that their kids made at home!
This was one of the most fun and rewarding Braves Care events, as we got to talk to and serve so many truly courageous young men.
In celebration of Armed Forces Month, that weekend we collected items outside of the ballpark for the USO to use at their facility. Fans brought everything from paper products and utensils to fruit snacks and granola bars. The USO uses all of these items to serve soldiers when they stop in on their journey either back home from deployment or to their next post from basic training.
We have the pleasure of partnering with the USO on different occasions throughout the year through our military outreach efforts, and we always enjoy working with them. For more information about how you can get involved in the USO’s outreach efforts, visit www.usogeorgia.org.
The first week of Braves Caravan was super exciting and loads of fun, and it was just a warm up to what was to come in week 2! Here’s an exciting overview of the second week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Monday, January 26 – Hudson K-8 Anti-Bullying Rally – Birmingham, AL
Week 2 of Caravan took us to west to Birmingham, Alabama to visit students at the Hudson K-8 School. We partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to host a “No Place for Hate” anti-bullying rally with 100 middle school students. Braves players Andrelton Simmons, Ian Thomas, and Ross Wilson shared their thoughts on the importance of accepting one another and finding common interests with their classmates. They also answered questions from the students on teamwork, peer pressure, and goal setting. The rally concluded with the Braves players signing a “No Place for Hate” banner in which they pledged to do their part to combat prejudice, hate or ignorance and make our community a safer place. To conclude the visit, each class in attendance got to take a photo with the Braves players to remember this extremely special visit to their school. We are planning to host another anti-bullying rally at Turner Field this season as part of our ongoing partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and in hopes of striking out bullying in schools all over Braves Country.
Tuesday, January 27 – Norcross Elementary School – Norcross, GA
Norcross Elementary School received a surprised visit from the Braves Country Caravan. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Lucas Sims paraded the halls of Norcross Elementary where students were decked out in Braves spirit wear, from hats and face paint to hand-painted Braves t-shirts. The Braves players ended their tour of the school in the gym where they interacted with 3rd – 5th graders who rotated through fitness activity stations. Students showed off their baserunning skills at the running station, took some hacks in the simulated batting cages, and tested their arms at the throwing station. Once the fitness unit concluded, the players answered questions from students who wanted to know how they stay active and physically fit during the offseason. While the “big kids” were in the gym, the Kindergarten thru 2nd grade classes enjoyed an interactive reading activity with Tomahawk Team and our mascot Homer. Students listened carefully to a story about Braves legend Hank Aaron’s life and answered questions about the book. Students who answered correctly were rewarded with a Braves bumper sticker and Tomahawk. In all, this was such a fun stop along the Caravan adventure. We were able to see a lot of students and teachers and get our fans excited about the Braves season to come!
Wednesday, January 28 Baptist Health South Hospital – Montgomery, AL
Back on the bus we went on as we ventured back to Alabama to visit patients at the Baptist Health South hospital in Montgomery. Braves players Tyrell Jenkins and Braeden Schlehuber along with Braves coach Bo Porter and alumni Ryan Klesko went room to room to bring smiles to the faces of children and adult patients. Each patient got an autographed hat from the players and coach along with a Braves t-shirt and Tomahawk. We were happy to see a number of ecstatic fans throughout the hospital, as our mascot Homer caused mass excitement per usual.
Thursday, January 29 – Ron Clark Academy – Atlanta, GA
Next we stopped by the always-spirited and extremely energetic Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta! When the players Christian Bethancourt, Cedric Hunter, Phil Gosselin, alumni Javy Lopez, Marquis Grissom, Charlie Liebrand, and Coaches Bo Porter and Terry Pendleton exited the bus, they were greeted by an enthusiastic welcoming committee. They walked into a very unorthodox library, complete with a bungee trampoline in the center, where students were dancing and singing to top 40 hits. From there, Ron Clark welcomed the group and introduced the players to some all-star students who would be guiding them on a school tour. It would be nearly impossible to describe the incredibly designed facility that Ron Clark and close to 100 students call home. The players enjoyed the school tour, catching glimpses of the breathtaking and stimulating learning environment. They visited the newest building inspired by Harry Potter, where they popped in on Ron’s math class and saw the mastermind at work. The students in the class were learning extremely difficult mathematics through song, and the Braves players were not shy to join in. By the end of the math lesson (themed around baseball), we played a little competition with big stakes. Liebrand’s team won, entitling him to push a special “red button.” See below for what happened when he pushed the button: (just a hint: Lopez and Pendleton danced on the tables to “Turn Down for What”)
Friday, January 30 – Bright Futures Academy – Atlanta, GA
We saved the best for last as we stopped by Bright Futures Academy in Atlanta, located on the City of Refuge campus, and focuses on changing the trajectory of many inner city youth’s scholastic goals. Braves players Shelby Miller, Chris Johnson, and Christian Bethancourt joined the student body of about 60 middle to high school students in their state of the art recreation facility for an extremely fun Friday full of activities. Players competed alongside the students in cornhole and four square games, threw batting practice to them in their full size batting cages, and taught them how to throw at a soft toss station. As the teens rotated from station to station, the competition seemed to get more fierce, especially with Chris Johnson ruling the four square court. Once the rotations were over, the players had one extra treat for the kids… a pizza party! Miller, Johnson, and Bethancourt all sported stylish hats and plastic gloves as they served pizza to the students. And then there was just one more surprise… an ice cream sundae bar! The players all made ice cream sundaes to order for the students after they finished eating their lunch. This was truly a fun way to end such an amazing two weeks!
After 11 days and thousands of miles covered traveling across Braves Country, it is easy to see why the Atlanta Braves have the best fans in all of baseball. The Braves Caravan was truly a unique experience for all that had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of it.
That wraps up Caravan 2015!
Each January, we visit fans all over Braves Country to get them excited about the upcoming Braves baseball season during the Braves Country Caravan presented by Academy Sports and Outdoors. On the 12 day journey across the southeast, the Braves Caravan themed tour bus gives fans and members of the community a unique experience to get close to Atlanta Braves players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters. In addition to stopping at Academy Sports + Outdoors locations to sign autographs, the journey consisted of several community outreach appearances at schools, hospitals, and a Habitat for Humanity build as we continued our mission to make a positive impact in the community.
Here’s an exciting overview of the first week in our two-week Caravan journey.
Tuesday, January 20 – B.E.S.T. Academy High School – Atlanta, GA
The 2015 Braves Country Caravan kicked off its’ first community stop at B.E.S.T. Academy High School in Southwest Atlanta. Atlanta Braves players Todd Cunningham, David Hale, Josh Outman, and Alex Wood spent their morning talking to the school’s baseball, football and basketball players about what it takes to become a successful professional athlete. The panel discussion was moderated by former Georgia Tech and Detroit Lions football player, Ryan Stewart. Students had the opportunity to ask the players several questions about how they got to the big leagues, why they chose baseball and obstacles they’ve had to overcome. We ended the visit with some Braves trivia and a group photo. We wish the best to our friends at B.E.S.T. as they start their spring baseball season!
Wednesday, January 21 – Mountain View Elementary School – Marietta, GA
The Braves Country Caravan stopped at Mountain View Elementary School in Marietta. Braves players Todd Cunningham, James Russell, Braeden Schlehuber, and Mountian View alum Stephen Janas started their visit by parading the halls where students were waiting to high-five them and cheer them on with homemade signs, Tomahawks, and Braves spirit wear.
Their journey around the school ended in the media center where the players joined two 2nd grade classes in completing a Jackie Robinson-themed scavenger hunt on iPads.
The Braves players then took over the Mountain View morning announcements to read a few hand-selected letters (one from each grade) that students had written in hopes of receiving a classroom visit. Braeden visited Juliet from Ms. Edwards’ 3rd Grade class, and she made him a special piece of artwork to take home. Stephen and James popped in Mr. Aumann’s 4th Grade class to visit with Matthew, a huge Braves fan! Sydney from Mrs. Somerville’s 5th Grade class got a special visit from Todd. The players visited the classrooms and answered questions about playing in the big leagues. Janas made sure to stop in and visit all of his former teachers including his mom, the school’s PE teach, while visiting his alma mater. This visit was certainly one that these students will never forget!
Thursday, January 22 – Habitat for Humanity Build – Atlanta, GA
The Braves bus rolled onto Clark Howard Lane to help build three homes for well-deserving families. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca joined players Jason Hursh, Mike Minor, A.J. Pierzynski, Joey Terdoslavich, and MLB Hall of Famer turned radio personality Don Sutton as they turned in their batting helmets for hard hats and bats for hammers. The group jumped right in to help cut 2x4s and nail on aluminum siding onto the homes. They also met with the matriarchs of the families who will be moving into their beautiful homes in early April, and presented them with Braves gift bags. These under construction homes are amongst six other Habitat-built homes on the street. Clark Howard Lane gets its name from syndicated radio talk show host Clark Howard, who has funded the building of over 50 Habitat homes in Atlanta. Howard was broadcasting live from the build site the day of our visit and even brought some of our guys on the air to talk Spring Training and season preparations. This visit was truly a unique opportunity for the Braves players and coaches to engage in hands-on community outreach. What a fun day!
Here’s a video from this special community service project:
Friday, January 23 – Drew Charter School – Atlanta, GA
5th grade students at Drew Charter School in Atlanta had a surprise visit from the Braves Caravan for a morning fitness unit in their brand new recreation center and gym. Braves players Craig Kimbrel, David Hale, Shae Simmons, Jason Hursh, and pitching coach Roger McDowell joined the kids at various physical activity stations including hula hooping, jump roping, jumping jacks, burpees, and dizzy bat racing in an effort to encourage students to be active. Each group moved from station to station after 2 minutes of activity while listening to fun music. After the fitness stations were completed, Braves broadcaster Don Sutton moderated a fitness themed Q&A session between the players and Drew Charter baseball team. Students asked the players and coach questions about their favorite healthy snacks and their secrets to staying in shape during the offseason. Our visit ended with a group photo of the Drew baseball team with their heroes, the Braves players.
Saturday, January 24 – Fullers Park Ribbon Cutting – Marietta, GA
On Saturday, we headed out to Cobb County for the ribbon cutting and dedication of the newly renovated baseball field at Fullers Park, home of the Eastside Baseball Association. This ribbon cutting marked the second of several field refurbishments gifted to Chipper Jones upon his retirement by the Atlanta Braves. Ed Mangan, the Braves Head Groundskeeper, had his work cut out for him, as he and his team worked diligently to re-grade the infield, laser-grade the field for proper drainage, rebuild the pitcher’s mound and install on-deck circles and new backstop netting.
Hundreds of Cobb County residents came out for the ceremony which included remarks from the Braves and Cobb Officials, a proclamation to the Braves from Cobb County Officials and a ribbon cutting. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, pitching coach Roger McDowell, players David Hale and Mallex Smith, and broadcaster Don Sutton were all in attendance. Braves Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, Derek Schiller spoke on behalf of the Braves organization and Chairman Tim Lee presented the Braves with a special proclamation. We look forward to visiting Fullers Park in the spring to see the Eastside Baseball teams in action!
This is just a recap of one of the two exciting weeks that we spent on the road as part of the Braves Country Caravan. Stay tuned to our blog to see the rest of our journey!
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.
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!