By Jennifer McGrawSports Talk Philly Contributor 

“Will someone donate $5,000 to adopt a school in Philadelphia for our youth?”

“Count me in.”

This was the kind of uplifting energy felt all evening at The Art and Sole: Sneaker Ball Toy Drive on Monday, December 6, 2021 in the Arts Ballroom in Philadelphia.

In an event where sneaker culture met philanthropy, Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, alongside his wife Erika McLeod, hosted their inaugural Sneaker Ball Toy Drive to raise money for the youth in Philadelphia.

This event is apart of the McLeods’ foundation, “Change Our Future,” which focuses on empowering the youth through education, advocacy and awareness. 

The evening kicked off with a red carpet where attendees could get their pictures taken, showing off their sneakers they wore for the event. Attendees donned fresh kicks to compliment their outfit. 

Some notable people to walk the red carpet include Eagles players Jordan Mailata, T.J. Edwards, Darius Slay and many others in support of their fellow teammate’s mission.

“It’s a blessing, to be honest, just to see so many guys that I go to work with every single day committed to the cause, willing to step up to the plate,” said Rodney. “Guys like Jordan, Anthony, and a couple other guys stepped up and so many people around the building and that was on the floor stepped up here in the Philadelphia community, that’s what it’s all about.” 

Those in attendance could view the sneaker museum, which featured an array of colorful high-end sneakers. There were paintings and drawings up for bid as apart of the event’s silent auction. A bar, basketball area, and 3D selfies were open for attendees as well to enjoy.

DJ Aktive, tour DJ producer for NBC “That’s My Jam,” brought the fun to the dance floor as attendees danced the night away.

Rodney and Erika gave a beautiful welcome speech to thank attendees and their honorary co-chairs – those who have been active in building the foundation and its message. The co-chairs each made significant strides in their community to help the message of “Change Our Future” grow. 

Following the welcome, the live auction began, which would go towards building a stronger future for the youth. The host for the evening, Quincy Harris, started bids at $5,000. This donation would go towards adopting a school in Philly so children would have a chance to get a quality education. Besides the live auction, guests had the opportunity to make donations virtually by scanning a QR code.

The first person to pledge was Eagles offensive tackle, Jordan Mailata. Other people, including Eagles players, followed suit. 

Another notable donation was from Senator Anthony Williams. Williams promised a two-year commitment of $50,000 to keep the foundation growing.

In accordance with health and safety guidelines, the event consisted of air purifiers from the sponsor “Sanalife.” Attendees had to share proof of COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative COVID test.

The “Change Our Future” co-founders exceeded their goal of raising $75,000; instead, they raised a total of $203,000. This money will go directly to helping the Philadelphia youth to benefit their future, starting with education and advocacy efforts.

“We’re so thankful to see so many new faces in the room, faces that have supported us in the past, and we’re looking forward to seeing these people once again,” said Erika. “For us to come together for ‘Kids’ First’ to celebrate our first annual gala I think is going to be really great for events to come to see these faces and see them supporting us.”

“Now we need to do the same together, not only encouraging other people to get out and help our kids, but also to support our mission.” said Rodney.

For more information or where to donate, check out the Change Our Future Foundation website.

Author’s Note: This article is originally published on Sports Talk Philly, a Philadelphia sports blog.