WASHINGTON, DC - The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health held the 17th annual “Evening with the Stars” Gala on Friday to benefit Native Vision – a nonprofit youth initiative which mobilizes professional athletes to serve as mentors to thousands of American Indian youth in health and education programs designed by Johns Hopkins public health experts. Since its inception, more than 6,000 youth, 2,000 families and 25,000 Native community members have been served through the Native Vision initiative.
Of course, you can’t have an “Evening with the Stars” Gala without a few national and local celebrities. Former NFL great Brian Mitchell recommenced his position as host of the event, with help from actor Martin Sheen, who served as a special guest and honorary chair. Also in attendance was DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association; Francena McCorory, Olympic Gold Medalist; Ginuwine & Solé, hip hop and rap artists, and several former professional sports players.
One of the best quotes of the night came from “The West Wing” commander and chief, Martin Sheen, ”Acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.”
Great American Indian Dancers (GAID) also performed throughout the evening. With help from those in attendance – GAID concluded the Gala with an interactive drum dance. GAID has entertained children, heads of state and multicultural audiences around the world since 1988.
The event helped raise awareness for American Indian youth and their families. Proceeds from the silent auction that took place during the program will benefit Native Vision’s Sports and Life Skills program, a national initiative designed to promote healthy lifestyles and education for Native American Youth and families.
“For us, the opportunity for the 17th straight year, to do the Gala to raise money for such an important cause that our players love – we identify with it to make the lives of the kids better,” said DeMaurice Smith. “That’s something that it’s an honor to be a part of, and each year that we do this, I know that it makes our organization better. So, when you have the opportunity to make your organization stronger and certainly make a difference in the lives of ordinary kids – that’s something I’m going to always be proud of, and I can promise you that as long as I’m here, that’s something I’m going to be a part of.”
Native Vision’s aim is to help American Indian youth enjoy a healthy future, by promoting three integral areas of well being:
- Healthy Minds
- Healthy Bodies
- Healthy Families
Native Vision strives to encourages school completion, develop leadership capabilities, foster a strong sense of cultural identity and improving lifestyle choices. By focusing on those goals, they hope to make American Indian youth resilient to the prevailing risks and help them transition to a healthy, productive and fulfilling adulthood.
Written By Emmanual Benton
Photos by Kevin Koski