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HAMPTON ROADS, VA
Response to the inaugural Mayors’ Masked Ball fundraising event for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) on March 31 has assured organizers this annual Black-tie gala will become one of Hampton Roads’ most anticipated events.
Four-hundred and fifty people turned out at the Main Hotel in downtown Norfolk, including hosts, Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander of Norfolk; Mayor McKinley Price, DDS of Newport News; Mayor John L. Rowe, Jr., of Portsmouth; and Mayor Donnie Tuck of Hampton; all who signed on to support the arrival to Virginia of the popular UNCF signature event. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms also was a host mayor for the event.
Guests were greeted by Norfolk Mayor Alexander and welcomed by Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., President and CEO of the UNCF. Also attending were local corporate co-chairs Mark Johnson, who is Sun Trust’s Vice President, Community Development Manager for Hampton Roads, and Toiya Sosa, GEICO’s Regional Public Affairs /Community Relations. Celebrity Emcees for the evening were TV personality April Woodard and Rev. Adrian S. Woodard.
“The inaugural UNCF Hampton Roads Mayors’ Masked Ball was an impactful evening,” said Dr. Lomax. “Our historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and our students need our support more than ever before. With help from the community, UNCF can continue to invest in the next generation of leaders, securing better futures for us all.”
Tiffany L. Jones, Area Development Director UNCF, added, “Our goal is to make sure that students get to, and through college and they need our help, so we truly thank the Hampton Roads community for helping us to reach our goal and for making this year’s event a success.”
For Johnson and Sosa, spearheading the inaugural event was a rewarding and enriching experience. “The Hampton Roads community has a rich tradition of contributing to charitable causes that impact children and youth,” said Johnson. “When you are working with dynamic professionals like Toiya Sosa from Geico, a planning committee that represents some of the finest professionals in Hampton Roads and local mayors that were early supporters of the event, I knew we were going to be a part of something special.”
Sosa said, “Planning an event of this magnitude, not knowing how the Hampton Roads community would respond, was a lofty goal. But with Mark as my Co-Chair, and with the support of the mayors, I was confident that we would be successful. Ultimately, people want to invest in educational opportunities for our youth. That’s why in addition to sponsoring, GEICO awarded two scholarships that night to deserving students.”
The UNCF Masked Balls have been going on around the nation for more than 30 years in cities with large African-American populations to include Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. The oldest is Atlanta since 1983. They serve not only to raise funds for UNCF schools; but also, to educate local communities about UNCF’s continuing purpose, its mission and the colleges that are aided by the funds raised during the galas.
Presently, Virginia has only one UNCF school, Virginia Union University in Richmond. However, many Hampton Roads residents are UNCF graduates and have children or relatives who presently attend the 37 UNCF schools which are located mainly in states throughout the South. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country.
Five awards were given during the Hampton Roads gala; individual awards to Dr. L.D. Britt, EVMS, and Developer Bruce Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, Gold Key/PHR. Corporate awards went to the Access College Foundation, The Decker Family, and Sentara Healthcare,
Ball highlights featured a VIP Masked Reception; celebrity guests; a parade of stars and dignitaries; elegant dining and music by the NSU Jazz Band; and dancing by the Fuzz Band.
Next year’s UNCF Hampton Roads Mayors’ Masked Ball will rotate to Virginia Beach.