Local nonprofit fundraiser for enrichment programs

Supporters of Be A Champion, Inc. gathered at the University of Houston Alumni Center recently to raise funds for the organization’s K-12 child nutrition and after-school enrichment programs. The annual Holiday Party fundraiser drew a mix of guests with a common goal to mitigate childhood hunger, create a safe environment for youth after school, and increase the chances of a successful future. “Celebrating 15 Years of Serving Champions” – was the event’s theme.

Because Be A Champion knows a thing or two about nutritious, good food, party-goers were treated to Gulf Coast favorites by Chefs Mark Hawkins of Mark Anthony Private Culinary Services, Sean Perrodin of Southern Creole Foods and VERTS Mediterranean Grill. The culinary selections were perfectly paired with the international wines of Branwar Wine Distributing Co. Pianist Eric Wright with A Touch of Keys, and DJ Select were the perfect musical accompaniments to the holiday hors d’oeuvres.

With the founders of Be A Champion being prior University of Houston offensive linemen, it is no wonder that several sports celebrities also attended and supported the event. Olympian and University of Houston track coach Carl Lewis was on hand and live auctioned an autographed track and field baton, plus one-on-one track lessons. In addition, silent auction items were donated by NFL veterans Donnie Avery and Kevin Vickerson, also in attendance.

Other fun auction items were donated by KRIV Fox 26 VP and General Manager D’Artagnan Bebel. Bebel, who was also event host, live auctioned an official NFL Super Bowl LI game ball and a Fox Weather Kids experience.

During the event, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee phoned into the event from Washington, D.C., to personally bring greetings, while her staff delivered a special Congressional certificate of recognition.  Congresswoman Jackson Lee remarked, “Be A Champion is doing something special and needed in Houston and throughout Texas, and they are doing it in a big way. Feeding our children, assisting them with their studies through tutoring and other academic enrichment programs, and offering them college campus experiences are invaluable and worthy of our support. Their program is one of the largest of its kind in Texas and I only see them expanding in the years to come. Congratulations to Be A Champion on its 15th year anniversary.”

Customary during the event, founders Jaron Barganier and James Hong awarded individual and organizational leadership awards. This year’s recipients were: Richard Lazarou, head coach, Willowridge High School; James Williams, head coach, Thurgood Marshall High School; Zenae Campbell, VP, Program Services & Club Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston; Blanca Saldana, director, Raul Yzaguirre, Family And Community Engagement (F.A.C.E.); Leslie Haack, secondary education executive director, Lamar Consolidated ISD; South East Texas After-School Association; William B. Travis High School; and University of Houston Athletics. Bebel also received a leadership award for his never-ending support of Houston-area charitable organizations.

Among the other notables in the crowd were Will Blackburn, Kim Davis, Rita Garcia, Phyllis Geans, Warren Luckett, Ken Norman, State Representative Ron Reynolds, Matt Smith, and James Troutman.

Be A Champion is grateful for the supporters of this event, which include: KRIV Fox 26, Tim Boates, Café Express, Elaine Ebner, Houston Can Academy, Lexis Florist, Pepsico, Richard Walla, Revolution Foods, VERTS Mediterranean Grill, and the employees of Be A Champion, Inc., who participated for the first time in an employee giving campaign.

The organization has set the date for its next Holiday Party fundraiser. The 2017 event will occur on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at the University of Houston Alumni Center. Coordination has already started and is slated to be one of the top epicurean-themed fundraisers in the city.

About Be A Champion, Inc.

Founded in 2001 by two former University of Houston offensive linemen, Jaron Barganier and James Hong, Be A Champion, Inc. is a Houston-based nonprofit organization with a programming model that encompasses academic services, enrichment activities and the Champion Fuel Food Program for Texas youth. Be A Champion has been designated a “Cougar 100” organization by the University of Houston for three consecutive years. The Cougar 100 Program recognizes the most outstanding businesses owned or led by high achieving UH alumni. For more information regarding Be a Champion, visit www.bachamp.org or call 281-833-3129.