It was the start of this week-long monsoon in lower Manhattan, but that didn’t stop a sellout crowd from assembling at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday night to celebrate the spirit of the Olympics, and raise funds for a distinctly New York division of a global initiative 20 years in the making.
The event was “The Big Red Ball,” and it celebrated the 20 year vision of Johan Olav Koss, who leveraged his triple world record-breaking gold medal wins at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Games and a visit Africa to create a platform which leveraged the power of sport and play to help disadvantaged communities around the world. Koss’ Olympic success led to the founding of Right To Play in 2000.
This week, over 25 Olympic athletes, from legends like Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair to local heroes like Sarah Hughes, Tim Morehouse and Jazmine Fenlator came to show their support for Right To Play, and to raise funds for Play At The Core, an inner-city program in New York which will help create education and athletic programs for at-risk young people.
“We are very thankful to those Olympians and all of our guests who joined us on this historic night for Right To Play USA,” Kloss said in a statement. “Our mission is to use the power of sport to change the lives of children around the world, and the amount of money donated showed that we have some great support in our mission, with more exciting things coming soon.”
How successful was the three hour event? It raised over $1.6 Million for the program, with a large part coming from the live interactive donations that were placed on tablets by those in the packed audience. The Big Red Ball is Right To Play’s signature fundraising event that happens every Olympic year in New York City. The Ball is a seated dinner event and program highlighting the organization’s successes over the past year.
Right To Play is a global organization that uses the transformative power of play to educate and empower children facing adversity. Through playing sports and games, Right To Play helps children in more than 20 countries to build essential life skills and better futures, while driving lasting social change. Their programs are facilitated by 600 international staff and more than 13,500 volunteer coaches.
While a good amount of the programs Right To Play is known for have assisted youth in the far corners of the world, the event served as a great reminder that there remains plenty of young people in the New York area who are also in need to learn the values that athletics can bring to their lives, and Tuesday night went a long way in brightening the future of kids in our community, even on a dark, rainy end of April night.