The First & Goal Gala is adding to the NFL’s Pro Bowl weekend in Central Florida with a premier event that also benefits the Parramore Kidz Zone.
ORLANDO Imagine this: You’re spending your evening enjoying a drink at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando, surrounded by former and current NFL players during Pro Bowl weekend.
However, that’s not all: While you’re enjoying your evening with the pros, you’re also supporting kids in the Parramore community and helping invest in brighter futures for them.
Cue the First & Goal Gala, an event that combines an elegant evening with one of America’s biggest sports and ties the two together to raise funds for the Parramore Kidz Zone.
PARRAMORE AND PKZ
Parramore is Orlando’s highest-poverty neighborhood; in fact, at the start of the 21st century, about 73% of children and youth lived below the poverty line, according to a case study from America’s Promise Alliance.
The neighborhood’s high school, Jones, had received five consecutive Fs on its performance and held only a 66% graduation rate in the 2007-08 academic year. Additionally, the juvenile arrest rate in Parramore was 250% higher than the rate for Orlando overall, the study said.
With so few resources available to the neighborhood’s children and teenagers, it was time to bring resources to them. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was elected in 2003 and, along with residents and other elected officials, convened the Parramore Task Force and outlined key areas for improvement.
Lisa Early, then the mayor’s director of children and education, worked on multiple pilot projects to find what would best reach the children and teenagers in the neighborhood. Finally, in 2006, Dyer worked with her to launch an official initiative called Parramore Kidz Zone, also known as PKZ. PKZ invests in projects such as quality early-childhood education; after-school programs; programs that build family economic success; youth-development programs for teenagers; access to health care; mentoring; tutoring; and college-access assistance
And it’s working, too. According to the city of Orlando, by 2015, program evaluators had documented a 61% decline in juvenile arrests, a 56% decline in teen pregnancies and a 38% decline in child-abuse cases in the neighborhood since PKZ started. Additionally, more than 70 PKZ youth are in college, and all of them are the first generation in their families to attend.
Andrae Bailey, CEO at Lead Homelessness and co-host of the First & Goal Gala, first came up with the idea when the NBA All-Star game came to Orlando. Bailey remembers there were many events surrounding the hype, but none geared toward the local community.
“The event was started based on the Pro Bowl coming to Central Florida, and the idea that if it’s going to be here every year we’d love to have a local event for local leaders and folks that benefits a local charity,” Bailey said. “Last year, we did our inaugural event at the Citrus Club the night before the Pro Bowl and had about 500 attendees and 30 current and former NFL players.”
Because both Bailey and Dyer share the same vision for alleviating homelessness and poverty, Bailey decided to ask Dyer to co-host last year’s event with him. This year, the two will co-host it once again. They first decided on PKZ as the ongoing event beneficiary because of the impact it has on the lives of local children.
“PKZ is one of the organizations doing a lot of work in the inner city, helping those less fortunate with that hand up they need to build their future,” Bailey said. “For us, Orlando has grown into one of the most premier cities in America. We have so many blessings, if you will, and if in the midst of all the great things happening we can’t give back to those in need while celebrating our success, what does it mean? Having PKZ benefit from an event like the Pro Bowl coming to town, it’s a no-brainer.”
The football-inspired gala is hosted at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando and is an upscale party event with music, food, drinks, a silent auction and about 40 current and former NFL players — six of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — in attendance.
“You’ll get to come and have amazing food and hang out with some of the coolest people in Central Florida, but also rub shoulders with and get autographs from some of the greatest NFL players of all time,” Bailey said.
Last year, the gala raised about $25,000 for PKZ, and Bailey hopes to raise more this year.
“It’s not just about the game — it’s about how the community supports the game with all the other activities before and after,” he said. “The idea that this event is locally based, helps a local charity and adds to our attempt to having the most amazing Pro Bowl weekend the NFL has ever seen, it’s just very cool to be someone who has the opportunity to be a a part of it.”