Write on Sports celebrates remarkable Literacy Champions at 14th Anniversary Gala
NEW YORK CITY, NY – Write on Sports held its 14th Anniversary Gala at the renowned Yale Club of New York City. Over 170 attendees gathered in the Grand Ballroom to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2019 Literacy Champions: John D. Goldsmith (Chairman of the WoS Board of Trustees), Eric LeGrand (#TeamLeGrand) and Sam Ponder (Sunday NFL Countdown, host, ESPN).
NBC Sports and fellow WoS trustee Peter King returned as EMCEE this year. King opened his remarks with gratitude for the support shown to Write on Sports over the past 14 years and acknowledged the large crowd as a sign of encouragement as the organization grows. Attendees included several students from this summer’s flagship programs at St. Benedict’s Prep and Prudential Center in Newark, the Oranges camp and Clifton/Hawthorne camp at Montclair State University. Alumni and teachers along with representatives from WoS affiliates also attended.
Following a video story on NJTV News about Write on Sports, Founder and Executive Director Byron Yake expressed his gratitude for the program’s progress over 14 years and enthusiasm for what the future holds. “It all began with each of you. Your amazing support over these 14 years continues to sustain and grow us. You make the difference. You are the catalyst for the important outreach we do and our ability to grow and build and engage more students,” said Yake.
WoS student Mariam Gebril spoke about her experience at camp and how it will have a lasting impression. “Write on Sports provided a door of self-expression and opportunity,” she said. “Thank you, Write on Sports, for lifting me up, making me better and continuously giving back.” Kristie Keleshian, a WoS alumna and former intern, said WoS impacted her career choice, helped guide her to pursue a degree in Television and Digital Media from Montclair State University. “One of the most important parts of this camp is you get to learn different aspects of digital media and these are things we learned in college, This camp gives us the chance to do that before we even get into high school, and that is so valuable,” remarked Keleshian. She currently works as a field reporter for Fios 1 News.
Honoree John D. Goldsmith, a founding member of the WoS Board of Trustees, was instrumental in establishing the non-profit status for WoS and has been its legal counsel for its 14 years. “His contributions have been significant,” Yake said.
The tables were turned on ESPN host Sam Ponder as Peter King interviewed her, asking about her journey into sports journalism and her biggest message to the students: “I had parents early on, and people around me, who encouraged me to step into the fear and follow my dreams. I was so naïve, in terms of what it would take to do this job. I’m actually realizing now that naiveté was a gift,“ she said.
Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers football player, was paralyzed in a game in 2010. He has become a voice of inspiration in the ensuing years. He brought the audience to its feet as he shared his passion for seizing opportunity, no matter the challenging circumstance. “It’s about putting yourself in uncomfortable situations but feeling comfortable doing it,” he said. “ Live out your dreams. Adversity will hit, it, but how you handle it will ultimately define you. Go out there each and every day, live by my definition of success, which is the peace of mind you get knowing you did everything you could to be the best you could be.”
WoS, a not-for-profit organization, receives funding from individuals, foundations and corporations. Students attend tuition free. It has programs in three states, including Indiana, Rhode Island and New Jersey.
Write on Sports alumni and students at the 14th Anniversary Gala on October, 17, 2019
2019 Literacy Champions: (from left) John D. Goldsmith, Byron Yake (WoS Founder and Executive Director), Eric LeGrand, Peter King (MC) and Sam Ponder
WoS Board of Trustees: (from left) Jenny Vrentas, Dev Gandhi, Peter King, Louis LaSalle, John D. Goldsmith, Byron Yake, Steven Beck, PJ Johnson. (not pictured: Rose Cali, Dr. Ada Beth Cutler, Robert G. Ottenhoff, Douglas Lavanture, David W. Lohuis)