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SportsBall 2018

Games for Grown-ups, Futures for Kids

Story by Bill Bannister  | Photos by Don Perry 

In Memphis as many as 45,000 kids between the ages of 16 and 24 fall into the category of youth who are not in school and not working. It is those “opportunity youth” who are served by the many programs implemented by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South (BBBS). The SportsBall is the biggest annual fundraiser for BBBS and this year’s event was held at the Memphis headquarters of Nike. 2018 SportsBall hosts were local sports writer/reporter Geoff Calkins and his producer Jeffrey Wright.

The event brought together more than 500 supporters who walked the red carpet of the Oscar -themed venue in black tie and sneakers to kick up their heels and raise money for the important work of providing resources that enhance the quality of life for so many area young people living on the margins of our society. 

Each guest was greeted at the entrance to the festively decorated Nike Gymnasium with a coupon redeemable for $50,000 in play money that could be used at the various gaming tables set up and staffed by employee volunteer dealers from Caesars Entertainment. Partygoers then made their way to bars that lined the room for a favorite libation before browsing the hundreds of treasures on the silent auction tables. Goodies up for bids included an autographed lithograph of movie star Butterfly McQueen, an authentic Carl Perkins Sun Records display, classic concert posters featuring Bob Dylan and Ike and Tina Turner, round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines and a digital electric meat smoker. 

Along with blackjack tables and other grown-up games, there were arcade favorites like Super Cars and Sno Cross, along with basketball and photo booths where guests could choose whimsical hats and other accessories for a memorable picture souvenir of the party. Culinary delights included mouth-watering shrimp po-boys with fresh remoulade sauce, chopped smoked brisket on Hawaiian rolls, seafood gumbo on a bed of fluffy rice, couscous-stuffed mushrooms with marinara sauce, smoked sausage with au gratin potatoes, a delicious pork Brunswick stew with southern cornbread and a smoked turkey carving station. Desserts included fruit cocktail and Black Forest shooters, Grand Marnier parfaits, Key lime pie, and a tempting assortment of cheesecakes. All the delicious food was courtesy of Horseshoe Casino master chef Bala Tounkara who said, “We inspire grownups to play so that kids can have brighter futures.” 

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