Braves staff served lunch to 100 men at the Shepherd’s Inn homeless shelter at the Atlanta Mission in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday. The Shepherd’s Inn serves around 450 men every day, providing them hot meals, counseling, and a comfortable place to sleep.
Spending quality time with these men was an amazing way to kick off the season of giving! For more information about the Atlanta Mission and the Shepherd’s Inn, please visit http://www.atlantamission.org.
The Atlanta Braves Foundation operates as the nonprofit charitable arm of the Atlanta Braves and is committed to giving back to the community. Since 1994, the Braves Foundation has supported various Atlanta-based nonprofit organizations and has contributed more than $6 million in monetary and in-kind donations to the Braves Country community.
We are able to raise these funds through various fundraisers throughout the season such as the 50/50 Raffle, our annual Foundation Weekend memorabilia sale, in-game and special event silent auctions, online auctions, the Atlanta Braves Foundation Golf Tournament, and the Annual Leadoff Luncheon. Braves fans, players and sponsors play a huge role in helping us make a difference in our community by supporting all of these initiatives.
At the beginning of each Braves season, we invite non-profit organizations to apply for our annual grants program to receive funding to assist in their outreach efforts. The applicants must be youth-serving organizations that support education, recreation, and health initiatives. The process is very competitive, as there are so many great organizations in the area that are in desperate need of funding.
During the last week of the season and throughout the year, the Braves Foundation awarded more than $400,000 in grants to 48 deserving organizations. This funding will support initiatives including after-school programs, health and wellness initiatives, anti-bullying campaigns, athletic programs just to name a few. Listed below are our 2015 Atlanta Braves Foundation Grant Recipients.
- Alive Ministries – Will use funds to purchase food and toiletries for local children and families in need.
- Anti-Defamation League – Will support the “No Place for Hate” anti-bullying initiative in schools.
- Arthritis Foundation- Sustain and expand the Juvenile Arthritis programs and services.
- Atlanta Ronald McDonald House – Provide a comfortable “home away from home” for families traveling to Atlanta to receive medical attention for their children.
- Attachment & Trauma Network – Support an interactive Therapeutic Parenting Skills Building Weekend for parents of traumatized and attachment disordered children.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta – Will support initiatives for bigs and littles including college mentoring and healthy living workshops.
- Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta – Will integrate healthy living values into an edible landscape community garden at Anderson Boys and Girls Club.
- Brian Jordan Back to the Future Foundation – Hosts a free baseball clinic for more than 200 disadvantaged children.
- Bright Futures Atlanta – Integrate technology into the After School and Summer programs.
- Camp Kudzu – Will support the diabetes management overnight summer education program.
- Camp Sunshine – Will enrich the lives of Georgia’s children with cancer and their families through year-round support programs.
- Center for Pan Asian Community Services – Help disadvantaged Hispanic youth receive a high school diploma or GED and obtain meaningful work.
- Center for the Visually Impaired – Support programming specific to health and fitness education in the STARS After School Enrichment Program and STARS Summer Enrichment Camp for visually impaired students.
- Center for Working Families – Support the development of family enrichment and healthy relationship workshops.
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Will purchase 600 bike helmets to distribute during bike safety week.
- Christian Aid Mission Partnership – Will provide new shoes and backpacks filled with school supplies for disadvantaged youth.
- Cobb Alcohol Task Force – Facilitate a program in Marietta city schools focusing on social issues.
- Cobb Community Foundation – Provides diapers to families in need.
- Cobb County Public School Educational Foundation – Focuses on college readiness by providing tutoring for SAT and ACT exams.
- Cobb Health Future Foundation – Educates youth on media, physical activity and nutrition.
- Cool Girls, Inc. – Funds the Cool Fitness Program which supports the after school program, summer fitness initiative and Saturday field trips.
- CURE Childhood Cancer – Provides family meals at Aflac Cancer Center.
- East Lake Foundation – Fund educational materials for RISE after school program at Drew Charter School.
- Georgia Avenue Community Ministry – Will feed low-income families.
- Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation – Will fund programming which provides memorable vacations for families dealing with cancer.
- Just Us Girls – Increases educational support for girls including SAT and ACT prep and etiquette classes.
- E.A.D. – Supports the organization’s year-round baseball and life skills development program.
- La Amistad, Inc. – Provides flash cards and books for students to utilize during the school year and summer.
- Latin American Association – Will support the health and wellness component of the Latino Youth Leadership Academy.
- Lekotek of Georgia – Will provide children with limited mobility, access into the world of play using only eye movement.
- Lutheran Services of Georgia – Will support the week-long day camp experiences for refugee children impacted by trauma.
- Marietta Police Athletic League – Will fund the PAL EXCEL program designed to tackle the problems of childhood obesity and access to sports and recreation for low income families.
- Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School Athletic Boosters – will provide an indoor retractable batting cage system, a baseball L-screen, and batting tees for baseball and softball athletes.
- MUST Ministries – Will provide toys and essential winter items and school supplies during the holiday season for youth and families in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
- Piedmont Healthcare – Will support a low income family nutrition education program.
- Rally Foundation – the Family Emergency Fund will offers financial relief to families that have a child actively undergoing cancer treatment.
- Reach Out and Read – Children’s books will be provided in pediatric waiting rooms to encourage literacy.
- Reconnecting Families – will supply furniture, clothing, camps for children, and other basic household needs for disadvantaged families.
- Ser Familia – will fund the Strengthening Families program which focuses on parenting skills, children`s life skills and family skills.
- Special Olympics Georgia – Will help offset costs for youth to attend the Special Olympic Georgia State games.
- The Center for Children and Young Adults – Will provide dining tables and chairs for a youth shelter.
- The US Fund for UNICEF – will support the UNICEF Kid Power by engaging kids in the U.S. to help kids around the world by getting active and ultimately providing food for malnourished children.
- Tomorrow’s Champions – will provide opportunities for girls and to learn the fundamentals of softball and life skills.
- True Colors Theatre Company- will provide free in-school theatre arts workshops for high school students.
- Villages at Carver YMCA – Will use funds to support the youth baseball initiatives at the Atlanta Braves Youth Baseball Academy.
- YWCA of NW Georgia – funds will support summer programming for the children in YWCA’s domestic violence shelter and transitional housing.
- Youth Empowering Through Leading, Learning, and Serving – the grant will cover the YELLS Community Action Cafe, Afterschool Program, and Summer Programs for youth.
- YWCA of Greater Atlanta – the funds will provide new materials for the Early Learning Academy.
As you can see, these organizations offer wonderful programs that will benefit a lot deserving young Braves fans. We are proud to be a part of making an impact in the lives of so many people. Congratulations to all of our 2015 Braves Foundation Grantees!
Each season, we celebrate the lives of breast cancer survivors during the annual Braves Breast Cancer Awareness Day presented by WellStar Cancer Network and Kroger.
This year, for the first time, we were able to host this celebration of survivorship during October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Despite the unfortunate weather forecast, more than 200 fearless survivors helped us paint the park pink on Saturday, October 3.
In an effort to make a huge impact and raise more awareness than ever at Turner Field, we included all of Braves Country in the fight against Breast Cancer. When fans started arriving to the game on Saturday, they received exclusive, one-of-kind pink tomahawks, presented by WellStar, an “I Go Pink for…” placard for fans to insert the names of loved one affected by breast cancer, and a pink ribbon from GSU’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Fans also had the opportunity to sign and take photos in front of the “Braves Country Goes Pink for…” pink wall located in Monument Grove.
Our survivors started arriving Saturday afternoon in the sprinkling rain to check-in and receive their tickets and pink Breast Cancer Awareness Day shirt. To generate additional awareness, various breast cancer organizations including WellStar Cancer Network, American Cancer Society’s Making Strides against Breast Cancer, I Will Survive, Inc., Loving Arms Cancer Outreach, and Zeta Tau Alpha were stationed in Monument Grove distributing information to Braves fans about screenings, early detection, and support groups.
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. where they had the chance to fellowship with one another.
At the reception, survivors heard encouraging words from our guest speaker and host Lauren Hudson. Lauren is an Emmy award-winning reporter, motivational speaker, and a breast cancer survivor. Lauren used her consistently inspiring and uplifting attitude to encourage the survivors, and even led everyone in a special version of Take Me out to the Ballgame! Georgia State Representative Dee Dawkins-Haigler, who is also recent breast cancer survivor, gave a very inspirational speech about her journey and the importance of keeping a positive attitude during treatment. Crystal Mantooth from Making Strides spoke on behalf of the American Cancer Society’s efforts to raise money for breast cancer research at their upcoming Making Strides Walk.
We were honored to round out the program at the reception with a special announcement of our Diamond of Hope winners for this season. This special award honors survivors who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer or assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. We selected 5 incredible survivors from different parts of Braves Country who were nominated by friends and family. The winners were: Michelle Hedman of Pensacola, FL, Rhonda Williams of McDonough, GA, Loretta Billingsley of Doraville, GA, Felicia Mahone of Union City, GA, and our very own Braves front office staff, retiree Brenda Hendricks, of Atlanta, GA. These five lovely ladies all received beautiful diamond-shaped awards presented by Braves outfielders Cameron Maybin and Nick Markakis, who have both been affected by breast cancer in their immediate families.
Once the reception came to a close, it was time for the most exciting part of the day, the survivor’s “Walk in the Park” and on field balloon release! All decked out in pink and with pink balloons in-hand, the survivors marched down the baselines led by the Braves wives including, Gabriella Perez, Chelsea Freeman, Bri Pugh, Lisa Castro, Keri Detwiler, and Camille Winkler. The survivors lined the base paths while the Zeta members created a 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. Fans “chopped out cancer” with their pink tomahawks as survivors hugged one another, cheered each other on and remembered those angels smiling down on us. This ceremony ended just in time for the grounds crew to rush the field with the tarp and just like that… the rain came falling down!
Although, we would have loved sunshine and clear skies for this special day, all survivors had a wonderful time and were able to attend a double header the next day! We are so grateful and thank you to all who made this possible Kroger, WellStar Cancer Network, American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the Braves Players and Wives, our volunteers from the USO, Georgia State University, Fort Benning and friends and family who sacrificed their Saturday night for a wonderful cause!
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!