3rd Annual Sneaker Ball Raises Awareness

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David Gomez accepting the SmashBro Big Brother Award at the 3rd Annual Sneaker Ball on Saturday evening.
David Gomez accepting the SmashBro Big Brother Award at the 3rd Annual Sneaker Ball on Saturday evening.

EL CENTRO — The 3rd Annual Sneaker Ball took place on Saturday evening at the Vacation Inn. Hosted by the MAG (Mothers & Men Against Gangs) Coalition, guests were able to enjoy the night while wearing sneakers to support a greater cause.

“The overall goal of tonight’s event is to raise awareness about victims of crime,” explained Yulil Alonso-Garza, founder and president of MAG Coalition. “We wanted to make sure that we all understand that we have the power to change that and making sure we reduce the amount of crimes that happen and how many victims are affected.”

“I realized that even though I don’t want to admit, or perhaps accept the fact, that I will be victimized or was victimized, I am a victim of crime. My son was murdered,” said Garza. “But I refuse to let that be the end result. I refuse to be victimized again and I’m not going to live in fear. I want to make sure we have a safe community. I realized there was a national week to recognize this and made it my goal to do something in my son’s memory and to consider all the things that he loved. He loved collecting Jordan sneakers, he loved dancing, he loved loving people, and giving people something from his heart. So what better way than to organize a dinner/dance and to raise funds for other kids.”

Along with semi-formal attire, guests were required to wear sneakers in honor of the late Martin Alberto Garza and his love for sneakers. The event was also to kick-off National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Each April, the office for Victims of Crime helps lead communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), which will be observed April 10–16, 2016. Silent auctions were also available at the event with all proceeds benefiting the MAG scholarships.

“We gave 73 SmashBro bears to CASA. We wanted to make sure that those kids receive that love that we gave tonight,” said Garza. “Everyone hugged that bear and everyone gave that bear an opportunity to send that love back to them. They’re no longer alone if they have a SmashBro bear with them. It’s the perfect way for us to commemorate.”

“This is the third annual event,” explained Garza. “When I first organized it, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. The idea was in my head and my heart to do the right thing. We only had about 25 people present, and half of it was probably the Board and close friends, the other half were some of the recipients.”

The Sneaker Ball recipients were give unique sneaker trophies for their accomplishments. Many awards were given at the event such as the MAGnificent Sponsors Award, won by Les and Terri Rogers of Rogers & Rogers Autos, and the Big Brother Award, won by David Gomez of Sunbelt.

“Each one of those awards has a symbol to our son,” said Garza, “It embraces his life, but at the same time the focus is on them that they have done something to create a focus for MAG. When I started creating these awards, it was initially just to recognize everyone who allowed MAG to exist for a year. Then the next year came up and my goal was to just double. We wanted to make sure we go from 25 to 50. We did, then this year, it’s a little bit tougher but thankfully there’s so many people supporting our cause who came through and made donations.”

“Tonight’s outcome was amazing,” commented Garza. “I’m speechless in regards to God’s plan because this would not have happened without him. Tapping people on the shoulder, telling them that they need to go to this or asking people to make a donation. I think that we’re overall successful, perhaps some may think because we didn’t have a 500 person full room it’s not successful. To me, if people were here it’s a success already. What we hope is that more people will partake in this event and make it happen for everyone. I took it upon myself to invite my students from my school that I thought would benefit from being here and hearing our message. And I hope that in the future we even double how many kids attend. We had a lot of kids attend the event today which I hope people recognize that it’s a family event. What we want is to see everyone help in doubling because next year our goal is 200-plus. We had about 100-plus people here tonight. We can’t do that alone, it’s going to take our community, advertising, media, and the private sector to donate their time and incline services because that’s how this happened today. And I’m really proud of the fact that we all came together to recognize the victims of crime and to give back to our students by raising funds for their scholarships.”

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