Right To Play's Big Red Ball raises more than $1 million in New York
Right To Play, the leading global organization committed to improving the lives of children and youth affected by conflict, disease and poverty, celebrated its annual Big Red Ball on Tuesday, April 24 at Cipriani 25 Broadway in Manhattan. Professional athletes and Olympic supporters in attendance included Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allyson Felix, Bismack Biyombo, Maia & Alex Shibutani, Hilary Knight, Hannah Brandt, Alana Nichols and Summer Sanders.
Hosted by NBC Correspondent Harry Smith, the Big Red Ball highlighted the organization’s efforts to positively impact the lives of refugee children through play-based learning. The evening also honored the inspirational work of African Youth Action Network founder Malual Bol Kiir and Bismack Biyombo of the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
Malual Bol Kiir was presented with Right To Play’s Champion For Children Award in recognition of his tireless efforts to support refugee youth in Uganda. A former child refugee from South Sudan, he participated in Right To Play’s programming in his childhood, and credits the organization for his survival. Kiir went on to found the leadership and peace-building African Youth Action Network (AYAN), which provides refugees a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas and build leadership skills. “I was inspired by Right To Play to be a peacebuilder and a leader. They showed me how to do it. Now, we (AYAN) use similar methods to organize reconciliatory meetings in refugee camps in Uganda where I work using sports and music festivals to encourage refugees to focus on our collective fate,” Kiir said.
Right To Play also recognized Bismack Biyombo of the NBA’s Orlando Magic with the Johann Olav Koss Humanitarian Award. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Biyomobo’s often tumultuous journey to NBA stardom instilled in him an innate desire to give back. He’s since returned to Congo to create the Bismack Biyomobo Foundation, focusing on sports, education and life skills, including hosting basketball camps, building schools and recently constructing an indoor basketball facility and gym. “Right To Play provides children with an opportunity to go to school and get an education so that once their circumstances change and an opportunity presents itself, they are ready to seize it,” Biyombo said.
The signature fundraising gala brought together donors, supporters and VIP guests to celebrate Right To Play’s impact of improving lives for children around the world. The more than $1 Million in proceeds raised through table and ticket sales, live and silent auctions and a pledge drive will support Right To Play's global educational programs.
Photos from the event are available here.