For many of us, a good shoe can make or break a banging ensemble. For many others however, especially the inner city youth of Chicago, access to quality footwear is more a game of necessity and survival than fashion.
Justin Johnson saw this need and answered the call with the creation of his philanthropic organization, Kicks4TheCity. Born out of a relationship he’d formulated with a homeless man on the streets of St. Louis, Kicks4TheCity was created to raise money to purchase shoes for the homeless youth in Chicago. It has since become a powerful vehicle for driving change for the impoverished and giving back to the culture.
In a span of just 6 years, K4TC has collected over 70,000 pairs of shoes for distribution to the those in need across America. Additionally, partnerships with major players such as Athlete’s foot, Puma and most recently BMW have allowed the organization international expansion. Most notably is K4TC delivering 300 pairs of sneakers to the Asempanaye village of Ghana.
All of these efforts were celebrated this weekend as K4TC closed out their philanthropic year with their 3rd Annual AGORA SneakerBall, not only changing the way we see charity, but also putting its own unique flair on the traditional charity-style gala.
Upon receipt of the invitation, 5 words immediately stood out, confirming that SneakerBall 2018 would be a far cry from anything in the past;
ATTIRE: BLACK TIE AND SNEAKERS
The night’s attendees were perfectly dressed for the occasion, pairing perfectly tailored tux’s, gowns and multi-layered ensembles with equally mesmerizing footwear. Here’s a small glimpse at some of the High fashion meets comfort highlights of the night:
While dressed to the 9s, (or to the Retro 11s as some Jordan lovers would say), the impeccable style of the night’s gala attendees wasn’t the only highlight.
Chicago PD’s LaRoyce Hawkins, K4TC Ambassador and Master of Ceremonies for the evening, set the tone early. From the stellar comedic timing in his introductory address to him spearheading a party-wide electric slide powered by Frankie Beverly and Maze, his “House Rules” to the crowd were very clear: “Put your phone down and enjoy the moment. We ain’t wearing sneakers for nothing!” This, paired with DJ Jay Illa’s unmatched skills on the turn tables and a surprise performance by Chicago’s own BJ The Chicago Kid ensured we were all in for one heck of a night.
Sponsors for the night included Jack Daniels, Athleles Foot, Puma and Complex. Each brand dominated their own section of the venue with interactive surprises (my favorite was the Sega Genesis exhibit) and free booze, helping transform a simple charity function into a full on experience.
The ultimate highlight of the evening came during an address by Kevin Williams, BMW’s Head of Multicultural Marketing for North America. It was during his address that he made an on the spot commitment to K4TC and AGORA Sneakerball, dedicating an additional 5 years of service and partnership to the organization.
With corporate sponsorship and backing of this magnitude plus the night’s 500+ attendees, one can only imagine how much greater of an impact Justin and the K4TC team will be able to make, not only on the youth of Chicago but youth across the globe.
Looks like we’ll just have to wait for Sneakerball 2019 to see. What kicks will YOU be rocking?
Kiki Camille is a native Chicago Music and Entertainment blogger/journalist with over 7 years in the game. Having contributed to several high profile publications, the self-proclaimed “pop culture private eye” is also owner of the Chicago-based entertainment blog Nosey Girl , which debuted the Fall of 2011. @KikiCamille