Black tie intersected athletic fashion on Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Christian Roberts Foundation Sneaker Ball at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia. The inaugural gala was an event to raise awareness about combating gun violence, a fundraiser for efforts such as sneaker donations and scholarships, and a celebration of strength and resilience even in the face of grief and despair.
The foundation’s namesake, Christian Roberts, a son, brother, uncle, boyfriend, basketball player and do-gooder, was killed along with his friend Jordan Radway in January 2019. The young student-athlete was not only dedicated to basketball and his family, but to helping others, such as the unhoused.
“I just want to give back,” the young man said in a video from a donation drive he hosted years ago, which was played at the ball.
Christian, who died at age 24, loved to provide one of his favorite fashions– sneakers. His parents, Donald and Wanda Roberts, are continuing his legacy.
“The foundation is all about supporting Christian’s vision in reaching out to the community, and that’s what he was about– reaching out to the community, giving back to the community and community-centric,” Donald Roberts, Christian’s father, told the Informer.
Wanda Roberts, a mother and now grandmother, said her youngest son, “had a love for sneakers and a love for people.”
“The purpose of being here this evening is to further our mission of helping to prevent gun violence, provide scholarships to students who have been victims of gun violence, and also help the homeless in providing sneakers and other supplies,” Wanda Roberts, president of the foundation, told the crowd.
While the Roberts miss their son tremendously and seek to continue his legacy, they emphasized that the sneaker ball is about more than remembering their beloved Christian. As vice president of the organization, Donald Roberts weighed in why the Christian Roberts Foundation prioritizes giving back and combating gun violence.
“There’s this adage, that if you are broken as a person… our community is broken,” he said. “We live in a community where there’s violence, and any type of violence that’s our [broken] community, and we need to make it whole. And that’s what Christian was all about, making it whole.”
In an evening that included an engaging band, led by saxophonist Sharon Thomas, dancing, food, and a sneaker step-and-repeat sponsored by Sneaker Mat, for guests to take photos, the night certainly was a celebration. However, it also allowed for the community to come together and honor the strength of those affected by gun violence.
“While we’re here, we want to be able to support the people that are living to give them hope, and for the dreams that they have in the future, let them know that they’re not alone,” Donald Roberts said.
The honorees, parents of children who died as a result of gun violence, were given the “Overcomer Award,” for their resilience and work to fight gun violence. Award winners included: Peter and Tina Radway, the parents of Jordan Radway; Marie Yvette Thomas, the mother of Lorenzo Freeman; LaTisha Johnson, mother of Demetris Johnson, Toni Cole and Hobart Wilson, parents of Akira Wilson; Amber Wilson, mother of Noelle Wilson; and Anita Hall, mother of Rondell Wills and Arvel Wills.
“Being an overcomer, I actually had to look up the word in Webster’s dictionary. ‘Is that me? An overcomer? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ But I actually have overcome some of the grief and the heartache that I have encountered,” said honoree Amber Wilson, whose daughter Noelle was killed three years ago. “I continue to push past the pain, push through the pain, and it’s all a healing process.”
Amber Wilson said part of healing is continuing her daughter’s legacy and fighting against gun violence.
“We have to continue to live through the spirit of our loved ones,” she added.
At the end of the evening, the foundation presented a $2,500 scholarship to Akira Wilson’s brother, Amari Wilson, who has some big dreams.
“The 2023 award goes to a student who attends Jackson-Reed High School in Washington, D.C. He enjoys nature, photography and volunteering in his community. His desire is to attend North Carolina A&T University,” said Christian’s brother Marcus Roberts, who serves as director of program management for the foundation.
Shayla Caldwell, Christian’s sister and the foundation’s director of operations, said the ball will help continue efforts to provide scholarships and resources.
“My brother was huge into the community, and giving back,” said Caldwell. “When he passed, we really wanted to continue that effort and provide scholarships to families and students who have been affected by gun violence. So the sneaker ball was a good way to raise money and to continue those efforts.”
Source: Washington Informer