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.
For the 5th year in a row, we continued our commitment of honoring local military families with our annual Holiday BaseBowl Bash. Over 100 servicemen and women along with their families were invited to participate in an afternoon of bowling, games, food and fun at Midtown Bowl on December 6.
Braves pitcher David Hale, pitching Coach Roger McDowell, Braves Alumni Marty Perez, Jim Nash, Johnny Estrada and Greg McMichael were there to spend some quality time with the families, sign autographs, and spread holiday cheer.
We kicked off the party with a special check presentation to five deserving military-supportive charities. Throughout the 2014 season, five Braves home games were dedicated to honoring the various branches of the military. The Braves players wore their red military appreciation jerseys during each of those games and their jerseys were then auctioned online to benefit the following charities: Wounded Warrior Project, BraveHeart: Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative, United Military Care, SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center, and the USO. With the support from Braves Country, we were able to raise more than $27,000 for these groups!
Much to our surprise, the Atlanta Braves Foundation received a special recognition award our support from the USO President & CEO, Mary Lou Austin and Chairman General Tom Wessels.
After the formalities, bowling commenced and the fun began! Prizes were awarded to the top overall male and female scores. A special drawing was held for five lucky military members to bowl against five Braves in a “Jocks vs. Joes” bowling contest . It was a very close game, but this year, the Jocks escaped with the win!
This event was a success due in large part to the Braves front office staff and the Braves 400 Club members who volunteered and helped distribute goodie bags and various prizes that were awarded throughout the afternoon.
We love hosting this event each year because it allows us to thank the military service men and women, and their families, for all of their sacrifice and dedication to our great country.
The families were appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to participate. A special thanks goes out to Midtown Bowl for hosting us again this year as well as to our Braves fans for the continued support of the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Braves Foundation, and the support of our military.
Happy Holidays from our Braves Family to yours!
This year, Braves staff completed more than 3,000 community service hours in conjunction with our monthly Braves Care Employee Volunteer Initiative. We would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time this year to give back to our community in a variety of ways. Below is a recap of our community service projects.
In January, we visited the Atlanta Community Food Bank where we sorted cans and restocked the in-house grocery store with assistance from Braves alumni players, Brian Jordan and Marquis Grissom.
In March, the staff cleaned out their closets and donated clothes to the Atlanta Union Mission as a part of the Spring Cleaning Clothing Drive. We also visited the La Amistad After School Program to help the students celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with fun arts and crafts activities.
On April 22, Earth Day, we helped clean up the Piedmont Park Conservancy. We focused our efforts on the garden area where Piedmont Park hosts field trips and we were able to give the garden a mini makeover, as we left our mark on Piedmont Park!
During the month of May, we partnered with the USO to collect items from Braves staff and fans for soldiers returning home from overseas. This effort to help welcome the courageous men and women back to the states was an initiative we called “Support the Brave.”
In June, we celebrated the wounded veterans of the U.S. military by inviting them to Turner Field for an extremely special Braves Care event. Braves staff welcomed about 35 warriors from the Wounded Warrior project to the ballpark where they took a tour of Turner Field, ate lunch with Braves President John Schuerholz, and took batting practice on the field with staff and Braves alumni players.
Christmas came early in July for the kiddos at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta! We surprised patients with room to room visits by Braves players, coaches and wives distributing brand new toys collected by the Braves wives during their annual toy drive. Braves employees participated in fun games and crafts at the Zone, the indoor activity center at the hospital.
At the beginning of August, Braves and Delta Air Lines employees teamed up to get our partner DH Stanton elementary ready for the new school year. We painted, organized books, designed bulletin boards and decorated classrooms.
We spent quality time with our four legged friends in the community during the month of August. We got to play with dogs that are up for adoption at PAWS Atlanta, a no-kill animal shelter just east of the city. We walked the dogs, interacted with kittens, and built new picnic benches for potential adoptive parents.
In September, we helped our friends at DH Stanton Elementary School get excited for the new school year. Throughout the season we partnered with Arrow Exterminators to collect school supplies from Braves staff, fans at Turner Field and Arrow customers. We surprised the students and teachers with brand new supplies for their classrooms and also spent a little time reading to the students.
For our October activity we celebrated Halloween at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School in Roswell. We helped students create unique handmade candy corn paintings with homemade paint brushes and delivered Braves hats and tomahawks to students that were unable to take part in the activity.
In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we served lunch to the homeless at the City of Refuge and to the students at Bright Futures Academy.
We will round out the year with our December initiative, the Annual Angel Tree Project. We will partner with the Second Wind Dreams “Gift of Light” program and “adopt” senior citizens from a local nursing home. The seniors will be provided with holiday gifts to help make their spirits bright!
We want to thank all of Braves staff members that helped make the Braves Care events this year a huge hit! We are so grateful to have co-workers that are always eager to help out.
A special kudos to Terrence Willoughby and Elizabeth Jimenez for being our 2014 “ACE in the Community” Award Recipients for being the most active Braves Care employees in 2014!
Check out the gallery below for more 2014 Braves Care photos!
Last week our partner school, D.H. Stanton Elementary, hosted their annual Career and Education Day, an opportunity for community members to share with students their experiences in their field of trade.
Braves Community Affairs Trainees Kathryn Bennett and Stephen Bailey were honored to share their unique experiences while working with the Braves and emphasized the importance of attending college. They were among 20 other guest speakers from many different lines of work including attorneys, National Treasury, APS School Board members and an anchor from Fox 5 Atlanta.
A child ambassador from each class escorted each of them to different classroom where the spoke about their personal journeys that led them to this point in their careers, and answered questions. Students who asked great career oriented questions were rewarded with Braves Bobbleheads! After rotating to different classrooms the ambassador escorted them back to the media center for lunch with all of the special guests.
What a fun way to start the morning, encouraging the students! We hope to continue to see great things come from our friends at DHS, and we know their futures are extremely bright!
This Halloween, Braves front office staff members visited the students at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopmental School and Therapy Center as part of the Braves Care employee volunteer initiative. Jacob’s Ladder is an accredited private school which serves students Pre-K through 12th grade with neurological disorders from down syndrome, cerebral palsy, brain injury, learning disabilities and genetic disorders.
We helped some of our new friends create candy corn paintings using homemade paintbrushes and we surprised each child with a Halloween themed goodie bag filled with small toys and school supplies. After everyone finished with their paintings, we delivered Braves baseball caps and Tomahawks to the children in the school that were unable to participate in the arts and craft project.
After meeting each child at the school, Braves volunteers were treated to a tour of the Jacob’s Ladder facility which includes a goat farm, chicken coup, and a bunny cage! It is truly an inspirational place for students to call their own, and we can’t wait to see our friends at Jacob’s Ladder in the future.
In celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the Braves Care employee volunteer initiative also visited the City of Refuge to serve lunch to the residents and students at the on-site school, Bright Futures Atlanta Academy.
The Braves have supported the City of Refuge and their efforts for years, and we love to go visit and see the difference that they have made in our community. The City of Refuge is a non-profit organization dedicated to community development efforts that lead to the stability and sustainability of the local community. Their services span multiple areas of need – from food, clothing and shelter to job training, placement, housing, healthcare and education.
One group of volunteers worked in the City of Refuge 180 Kitchen where they served lunches to the women and children that were on-site during lunch hours. We got the chance to interact and eat lunch with the residents. The other group of volunteers visited the on-site private school, Bright Futures Atlanta Academy, a Christian-based, year-round program academy that offers after-school programming during the school year and camp during the summers. This unique school is focused on helping inner-city, at-risk children by providing them with the spiritual, educational, and family support that will help them become productive members of society and role models to their peers. Braves staff visited the school, got a tour of the colorful facility, served lunch to the students and engaged in a fun teamwork activity.
Overall, it was the perfect way for the Braves front office staff to give back to our community during the Thanksgiving season!
A professional sporting event is just the ticket to strengthen a mentor/youth match. The MLB umpires offer memorable baseball experiences for children through the UMPS Care Charities BLUE Crew Tickets program. Since its beginning in 2006, these charitable umpires have hosted more than 6,000 children and their mentors at games across the 32 ballparks.
This season, the Atlanta Braves facilitated four UMPS Care events with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, a mentoring organization that serves over 3,390 youth in Metro Atlanta. The organization pairs children and their families with caring adults that can provide strong and encouraging friendships that impacts children’s lives for the better.
The honored guests were greeted with goodies bags filled with Braves swag and snacks courtesy of the Braves and UMPS Care Charities. The guests were given a short behind-the-scenes tour through the Braves tunnel and escorted to meet the umpires on the field before game time.
On the field, the umpires showed them their positions during the game, answered questions and discussed the favorite parts of their jobs as well as the difficulties. Each visit culminated with a group photo on the field and a quick trip to the umpire tunnel to take a look at the instant-replay booth.
Many thanks to the MLB umpires for taking the time to treat the “bigs and littles” to a priceless, one-of-a-kind experience and a different side of baseball!
During our annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day Celebration in September, we presented the Diamond of Hope Award to five empowering women who have engaged in the fight against breast cancer and have assisted other survivors through their difficult struggle. We will be highlighting these incredible ladies throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month and sharing their stories with you.
Kathi Shepherd from Columbia, SC, has risen above the challenges put before her during her fight against Breast Cancer, and has been cancer free for four years. She gave up her teaching job to become a motivational speaker and help inspire others going through their own struggles with breast cancer. She works every day to support those going through similar battles that she once fought.
Kathi was kind enough to answer some questions for us in a recent interview and provide us with photos that represent her courageous journey. Read more about Kathi below:
When were you diagnosed? July 2, 2010
What is your occupation? Former teacher and now I am a motivational speaker and writer.
Where in the world are you the happiest? Disney World.
What do you do in your spare time? Take my Pet Therapy Certified dog to hospitals and nursing homes to visit with patients.
What is one thing you wish people knew about you? I love camping, fishing and kayaking with my family. I’m also a huge college football fan and can often be found on Saturdays attending a game!
Who has been your biggest support system through your journey? My 13 year old daughter Callie has sat through 7 surgeries, 25 rounds of infusion chemo, managed my chest drains, given me shots, traveled to cancer institutes all over the country with me for treatments. She is my rock! LAUGHTER HAS BEEN THE KEY INGREDIENT TO MY HEALING PROCESS. :)
What keeps you going through this period? My faith in Jesus knowing that He has a plan for me and loves me. I trust that He is in control and He will take care of me. The power of faith allows me to see the invisible and unbelievable to receive the impossible.
What is your favorite inspirational quote? “If God is for you, who can be against you” –Romans 8:31
How have you grown during this journey? I have grown tremendously with my faith and compassion for others. I had to learn how to humbly receive instead of always giving and serving. Prayers are truly felt and give me strength in my times of weakness!
Do you have any inspirational words of advice for others going through recovery? God made me be still so I could strengthen my relationship with Him. Others find joy in helping so let them! Ask the American Cancer Society for local resources in monetary assistance, meal delivery, and support groups. My breast buddies are my life line now! Go Pink!
Congratulations Kathi on receiving the Diamond of Hope Award! We wish you the very best and encourage you to continue inspiring others along their journey.
During this season, the Atlanta Braves and Kroger partnered to host a series of hunger awareness food drives to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Founded in 1979, the Atlanta Community Food Bank procures over 45 Million pounds of food and groceries each year and distributes it to over 600 hunger relief programs in 29 Metro Atlanta and North Georgia Communities.
Every Friday night at Turner Field, Braves fans donated canned food or made monetary donations in support of the Atlanta Community Food Bank and received an autograph from a current Braves player or alumni. This season’s participants included Phil Niekro, Mark Wohlers, Marquis Grissom, Leo Mazzone, Ramiro Pena, David Carpenter, Kris Medlen, David Hale, Aaron Harang, Cory Gearrin, and Craig Kimbrel.
Thanks to our Braves fans, players, and alumni in supporting this important initiative resulting in 1,145 pounds of food and $4,300 in monetary donations.
Thank you Braves Country for supporting our efforts in eradicating hunger in the state of Georgia. If you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, please visit acfb.org.