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!
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.
The Atlanta Braves established a long term partnership with Daniel H. Stanton Elementary dating back to 2004. D.H. Stanton is located just around the corner from Turner Field in the Peoplestown neighborhood. Each year, we meet with faculty and staff to plan activities in an effort to motivate, reward, and improve the quality of education for the students. We specifically target the areas of reading, physical activity, decreasing absenteeism and increasing parent participation.
We enjoyed planning a variety of activities for the students, teachers, and parents throughout the school year. In the spring, we welcomed the graduating 5th grade class to Turner Field for lunch, a tour of the stadium, and a chance to sharpen their batting and pitching skills in Scout’s Alley. Daphne Lipson, an outstanding 4th grader, was recognized prior to the Braves vs. Oakland Athletics game during the Chick-fil-A All Star Student Achiever presentation for academic excellence. Additionally, we surprised the staff with breakfast and tickets to a Braves game during Staff Appreciation Week.
To kick off the 2014-15 school year, the Braves and Delta Air Lines employees joined forces for a “Braves Give” Saturday community volunteer project and assisted teachers in preparing their classrooms for the first day of school. The volunteers designed and decorated bulletin boards throughout the school, worked with the teachers to organize books and folders, cleaned classrooms, and created welcome back goodie bags for more than 200 students.
Our support for the students and teachers continued through our partnership with Arrow Exterminators as we hosted a school supplies drive at Turner Field and at local Arrow Exterminators locations. Together our staff created gift baskets with the items collected and delivered them to the classrooms. Each classroom was gifted with items including staplers, paper, pencils, folders, erasers, glue, crayons, markers, calculators, and much more. Our staff volunteers delivered the baskets to each classroom and took time to read to the younger students and talked to the 4th and 5th graders about college and careers.
In an effort to engage the parents, we are partnering with Goodwill of North Georgia to host a Career Workshop on November 5th. The workshop participants will receive guidance on resume building, interviewing skills, and professional image enhancement.
Over the years, we have truly enjoyed our partnership with D.H. Stanton Elementary and we are always thinking of creative and unique ways to give back to youth in the Turner Field community. Through the Braves staff, players, fans and our corporate partners like Delta Air Lines and Arrow Exterminators we were able to make an impact and look forward to continuing this tradition for many years to come!
Every year, we celebrate the lives of breast cancer survivors during the annual Braves Breast Cancer Awareness Day presented by Wellstar Health System and Kroger. On Sunday, September 21, over 250 courageous and brave survivors helped us paint the park pink during a very special day at the ballpark.
Our survivors started arriving early that Sunday morning to the ballpark to check-in and receive their tickets, a pink Breast Cancer Awareness Day shirt, and their fabulous satin survivor sash. To further promote this initiative, American Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer distributed information to Braves fans about breast cancer screening and detection. Additionally, members of GSU’s Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority gave out pink ribbons to the fans at the gates. Many new friendships were made that day as some survivors came with their support groups and some even attended by themselves.
Once checked-in, all survivors along with their family and friends entered the gates and made their way to the Breast Cancer Survivor Celebration reception. More than 500 guests enjoyed complimentary snacks and refreshments and the opportunity to fellowship with one another.
At the reception, survivors got the chance to hear some encouraging words from our guest speaker and host Lauren Hudson. Lauren is an Emmy winning reporter, motivational speaker and a breast cancer survivor. Not only was Lauren entertaining, but she was very honest as she talked about her battle with breast cancer, she was uplifting and delivered an inspiring message filled with optimism. Lauren even led everyone in a round of Take Me Out To The Ballgame!
Laura Taylor, Breast Nurse Navigator with WellStar Health Systems and Shari Henning with EVP with American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division also shared words of encouragement.
The most anticipated part of the reception was the announcement of the Diamond of Hope award winners. This extremely coveted award honors survivors who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer or assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. With the help of the Braves Wives, we selected 5 incredible women from all over Braves Country who were nominated by friends and family. The winners were: Kathi Shephard of Lexington, South Carolina, Diana Galloway of Fayettville, GA, Stacy Franklin of Jonesboro, GA, Maggie Davis of Roswell, GA, and Juanita Williams of Decatur, GA. These five lovely ladies all received beautiful award momentos presented by Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who came to the reception to spend a moment with all of the survivors.
Once the reception came to a close, it was time for the most exciting part of the day, the survivor “Walk in the Park” and on field balloon release! All decked out in pink, the survivors marched down to the field, received pink balloons and were then led onto the field by the Braves wives including, Tia Johnson, Anahi Peña, Leanna Floyd, Ashley Kimbrel, Nikki Russell, Gabriella Perez, Mariana Materan, Lisa Mendez. The survivors lined the outfield while the members of Zeta created a human breast cancer awareness ribbon around the pitcher’s mound, as a symbol of hope that a cure will be found and to remind the fans the importance of early detection. On the count of three, everyone released the pink balloons into the air. As you can imagine, there were a lot of hugs, cheers and even tears both on the field and in the stands.
This event brings inspiring women, and even men, from all over Braves Country to Turner Field every year for one purpose; to bring awareness to a life-altering disease that thousands of people struggle with every day. We were so honored to have the survivors with us on this special day to celebrate their survivorship. We wish all of our participants happiness and the best of health in their journeys and we look forward to see each and every one of them again next year!
Learn more about our Diamond of Hope Winners as we highlight them in upcoming blog posts during Breast Cancer Awareness month!
The Braves Wives invited 25 special military moms-to-be to Turner Field recently for an unforgettable baby shower to help them celebrate their upcoming journey into motherhood.
Thanks to Lennie Rubin with United Military Care, Inc. we were able to invite ladies from military bases all over the state of Georgia including Ft. Stewart, Ft. Benning, Robbins Air Force, Ft. Gordon and Georgia National Guard. Most of these women are married to brave men from different branches of the military, and two of our moms were both in the Navy. We also had one expectant mother give birth early and attend the shower with her five-day-old baby boy.
The eager young mothers and their guests arrived at Turner Field and were escorted to the 755 Club and directed into the private party where they were greeted by the Braves Wives and enjoyed a lavish buffet and beautiful three tier vanilla cake donated by Tommy Rhodes of Rhodes Family Bakery. The Braves Wives in attendance included Pam Gonzalez, Nikki Russell, Angie Fletcher, Theresa Tosca, Leanna Floyd, Ashley Kimbrel, Tia Johnson, Carman Walker and Gabriella Perez. Greer Howard, BravesVision host and a military wife/mom herself, served as emcee and Braves President John Schuerholz addressed the men and women in attendance, thanked them for their service to our country, and congratulated them on the pending arrival of their babies.
As they anxiously awaited the start of the shower, we wasted no time in getting the games started by asking each attendee to guess the number of diaper pins in the baby bottle. Each shower game had many great prizes at stake donated from wonderful companies, which brought out the competitive side in everyone.
First on the agenda was a baby word search and a celebrity baby name game. Winners were rewarded lovely gift bags filled with necessities to get them through the first few months of motherhood. Some of the prizes included Pediped baby footwear and giftcards, delightful luxury European Pacapod baby bags, and the cutest little baby wetsuit by Konfidence USA.
Next, Pam Gonzalez led the expectant mothers in a game where they were asked to guestimate how much toilet paper it would take to go around the mommy-to-be’s pregnant bellies. This game got a few husbands in trouble. The winner of this game walked away with the coveted Babyhome Eat highchair.
Next, the ladies joined the Braves Wives in a circle of chairs to play a baby shower favorite, “Pass the Dirty Diaper.” They passed around a diaper filled with chocolate pudding, to the rules of hot potato. When the music stopped, the woman holding the dirty diaper was removed from the game. As the circle got smaller, the competition got more heated and eventually dwindled down to two ladies. After the last round, a winner was named and she walked away with a Naturalmat Coco Mat crib mattress valued at $400.
In-between all of the fun shower games and activities, there were many raffle prizes to be won. All of the moms and theirs guests got the chance to win awesome prizes such as assorted items from MAM USA such as pacifiers, baby bottles and teethers as well as autographed Braves memorabilia.
Finally, the winner who guessed the correct number of diaper pins in the baby bottle at check-in was revealed and received a Duux Air Humidifier.
To round out the festivities, the Braves Wives presented each mom with large gift baskets filled with everything they will need to get them through the first couple of months after the babies are born. The gifts inside these beautiful baskets included: B.Box travel bibs and diaper wallets, Silikids silibibs, MAM feed and soothe bottle gift sets and pacifiers, Honest Company arrival sets, Target and Babies’R’Us gift cards purchases by the Braves Wives, Baby Blanket music CDs, Brian James Footwear giftcards, Konfidence baby swimwear and roll and go baby changers, and scrumptious chocolate chip cookies provided by Sensational Baskets and multiple boxes of Huggies diapers and wipes. Many of these gifts were secured through Hilary Abbott, CEO of Hilary Abbott Communications, Inc. and high profile publicist. You can find many of her clients in publications like People Magazine!
The shower ended just in time for some Braves baseball! The women and their guests all left their goodies with us while they enjoyed the magic of Turner Field. Overwhelmed with gratitude and all of their new precious goodies, the ladies were all very appreciative as they anticipate the new additions to their families.
This event was very successful in large part to the Braves Wives and our amazing partners who donated tons of great items for us to use as raffle prizes and gift basket goodies. A big thank you to our donors:
- Atlanta Braves Wives
- Hilary Abbott Communications, Inc.
- United Military Care, Inc.
- Huggies http://www.huggies.com/
- b.box http://bbox.com.au/
- Babyhome http://www.babyhome.es/us/en
- Duux http://duux.com/
- MAM http://www.mambaby.com/us/
- Naturalmat http://www.naturalmatusa.com/
- Silikids http://www.silikids.com/
- Pacapod http://www.pacapod.com/
- Pediped http://www.pediped.com/
- Konfidence http://www.konfidence-usa.com
- Baby Blanket Music http://www.babyblanketmusic.com/
- Brian James Footwear http://www.brianjamesfootwear.com/
- Sensational Baskets http://www.sensationalbaskets.com/
The Atlanta Braves partnered with the Miracle League and the Fantasy Camp for Kids to host its 2nd annual Miracle League Fantasy camp. Both the Atlanta Braves and the Miracle League believe that “every child deserves to play baseball,” so one can imagine how excited both organizations were when the Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids were interested in partnering for a second Fantasy Camp for the Miracle League players.
There were over 40 participants from Miracle League teams all over Braves Country from Atlanta to Valdosta to Macon. The Fantasy Camp was held at Hunter Memorial Park in Douglasville, GA
The participants arrived at the park in the morning and received their very own, personalized Atlanta Braves jerseys, goodie bags, and tickets to that evening’s Braves game. The players and their families were greeted by Mayor Harvey Persons who then introduced our special guests for the day, Braves pitchers David Hale and Shae Simmons, infielder Tommy La Stella and Homer the mascot.
The Fantasy Camp started off with stretching session led by the Braves players. Shortly afterwards, the Miracle Leaguers were split up into 4 four groups and rotated to different stations to work on various baseball skills. Braves infielder, Tommy La Stella, led the hitting station where participants hit from a tee on the pitcher’s mound into the fence behind homeplate. Braves pitcher, David Hale, led the fielding and catching stations where the participants worked on fielding ground balls and pop flys. Braves pitcher, Shae Simmons, led the throwing stations where he showed the Miracle Leaguers the proper technique to throwing a baseball.
To wrap up the camp, participants all lined up to run the bases before enjoying lunch.
The Fantasy Camp was a huge success and everyone involved from the Miracle Leaguers to the Braves players were able to enjoy an experience of a lifetime!!
On Saturday, June 14, the Atlanta Braves Foundation hosted the winners of our annual Jerseys Off Our Backs Online Auction. This once in a lifetime experience gives fans an opportunity to win their favorite player’s jersey, RIGHT OFF THEIR BACK! The winners of each game-worn autographed jersey also received two tickets to the game on June 14th and the chance to take part in a post-game ceremony to receive their jersey. The auction was live online at http://www.braves.com/charityauctions from May 12th through June 4th and boy did the bidding war get pretty intense. Some jerseys sold for several thousand dollars!
After a long, hard fought 12-inning game by the home team, auction winners finally experienced the moment they had been waiting for all night. As each player came off the field, they signed their jerseys and the winners were brought onto the field for the post-game ceremony. Winners were presented with their game-worn autographed jerseys by Braves 3rd baseman Chris Johnson and also got to pose for a photo!
The auction was extremly special to the winner of the Johnson jersey who anxiously waited to meet him after the lengthy night. At the moment of the presentation, the winner approached Johnson with a smile on his face, shook his hand, received his jersey and expressed his excitement to the player. The evening was a memorable one for all winners!
The auction benefited the Atlanta Braves Foundation, the non-profit charitable arm of the Atlanta Braves. Through the Jerseys Off Our Backs Online Auction, the Braves Foundation annually distributes grants to nonprofit organizations that focuses on youth baseball, health, and children initiatives. We are appreciative and thankful for all of the participants that continue to support the Braves commitment to impact Braves Country.
Be sure to look out for next year’s Jerseys Off Our Backs Auction and don’t miss your opportunity to go on the field and meet your favorite Braves player!
We teamed up with RaceTrac and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund on Memorial Day for our annual equipment drive to support the growth of youth baseball and softball across the metro Atlanta.
Fans brought gently used baseball and softball equipment to the game and received raffle tickets for the opportunity to win autographed Braves memorabilia.
If you missed this drive, there is still time to donate to the following equipment drives taking place on June 14, July 19, and August 9 in Monument Grove. Visit braves.com/equipmentdrive for a list of items to donate.
Each Mother’s Day, Major League Baseball honors fans who have courageously battled breast cancer by hosting its annual “Honorary Bat Girl” contest. Fans around the league are invited to submit stories of individuals that have demonstrated resilience throughout their journey.
This year Mother’s Day we celebrated Lori Smith, a courageous Braves fan who “Goes to Bat Against Breast Cancer” in her daily life. As part of our continued support in bringing awareness to this disease, we were honored to present Lori as the 2014 Atlanta Braves Honorary Bat Girl.
Initially nominated by her twin sister, Lori was ultimately selected for her incredible journey and her strength to overcome breast cancer by a selection committee including our very own Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays, Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants, country music superstar and Atlanta Braves fan Jason Aldean, and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter.
Lori was only 35-years-old when she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and went through 20 rounds of chemotherapy. During this time, she worked two jobs, went through chemo during her lunch hour, and would then return to work never missing a beat. After her second week of chemo, Lori decided to shave her head and proudly sported her new look everywhere. This was her way of embracing her story and showcasing her bravery and fearlessness. Cancer never slowed Lori down, as it was simply a speed bump in the road on her incredible journey. She has been cancer-free now for two and a half years and continues to go in for regular checkups. Lori is a beacon of hope for those struggling through breast cancer recovery, with her positive attitude and demeanor.
Pam Gonzalez, wife of Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez along with Theresa Tosca, wife of Braves Coach Carlos Tosca met with Lori in the Braves Dugout before the game to present her with her very own MLB authentic pink bat engraved with her name, a pink laced baseball, and other goodies in celebration of her incredible journey. Lori was truly surprised when Freddie Freeman came out to meet her and give her one of his famous Freeman hugs. Braves pitchers Alex Wood and Kris Medlen also took the time to congratulate her.
If you or a loved one is a breast cancer survivor, join us for the Atlanta Braves Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Sunday, September 21 at Turner Field. Visit braves.com/bcawareness to register. Survivors will receive a complementary ticket, a pre-game walk on the field, and a commemorative pink Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirt. We are so proud of Lori and all of the breast cancer survivors in Braves Country!
On May 2- 4 the 2nd annual Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend celebrated Atlanta’s strong and rich history in the Civil Rights Movement and honored baseball’s role in affecting social change.
On Friday, May 2, the Annual Delta Champions for Justice Luncheon was held to recognize outstanding individuals who have made a lifelong commitment to overcoming industry obstacles and inspiring future generations. The 2014 Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Award recipients included retired NBA All Star Joe Barry Carroll, Olympic track and field gold medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Edwin Moses, and civil rights legend and recipient of the Medal of Freedom, Reverend C.T. Vivian. This event benefited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. More than 400 people came out to Turner Field to hear our honorees discuss the role of athletes in challenging discrimination and societal barriers. To culminate the luncheon, our very own Hank Aaron presented each of the honorees with the 2014 Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Award.
Later that evening, the honorees came back to the Ted for a special reception and pre-game ceremony. The award recipients were driven around the warning track in convertibles before the game allowing fans to show their support and admiration for these individuals and for the work they have done to affect social change.
On Saturday morning, we welcomed 200 youth ages 8-12 to the ballpark for the Heritage Weekend Youth Baseball Clinic led by Braves alumni, Johnny Estrada, Kevin Millwood, Jeff Treadway, Alejandro Pena and Titans Sports Academy. The children rotated to various stations including pitching in the bullpen, pop flies and ground balls in the outfield and hitting in the Braves batting cages. All participants were invited to return to Turner Field that evening to enjoy the Braves game.
Later that evening we hosted a Negro League Celebration honoring 18 Negro League players during special reception and pre-game ceremony in an effort to recognize all they’ve done for the game of baseball. These players represented the different Negro League teams from around the country including the Atlanta Black Crackers, Kansas City Monarchs, Birmingham Black Barons, Louisville Clippers, Raleigh Tigers, Indianapolis Clowns and the New York Black Yankees. We were excited to have Mr. Red Moore in attendance. He is the only living member of the Atlanta Black Crackers and at the age of 97, Mr. Moore gets around great and still looks good! The Braves and Giants players wore Atlanta Black Crackers and San Francisco Sea Lions uniforms to honor the Negro Leagues for the Heritage Game. Be sure to look for the Braves jerseys later this month online at braves.com/auctions. To round out the weekend, we capped off the night with an old school Kool and the Gang concert!
Overall, Heritage Weekend was a huge success in celebrating Atlanta’s roots and historical importance in the integration of Major League Baseball. For more information on the Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend please visit Braves.com/heritage and read the Heritage Weekend article featured on MLB.com at http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140502&content_id=74073896&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb.