PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Eagles safety Rodney McLeod and his wife Erika have made it a continued effort to give back to those in need.
For the first time, the two are gearing to take their philanthropy efforts to Center City with a mix of fashion and sneaker culture.
McLeod's nonprofit Change Our Future presents the official Sneaker Ball event called 'Fashion & Sneaker Culture Meet Philanthropy' at the Arts Ballroom on Monday, December 6, on the 1300 block of Locust Avenue.
They are encouraging the community to attend a celebration of sneaker culture and style featuring a silent and live auction, music, interactive stations, and the opportunity to connect with top professionals throughout our region.
The couple says the idea formulated behind this first-ever sneaker ball event from the fashion background they both share.
"We were planning our first true Change Our Future event. As a foundation, we usually are raising money around this time and doing something fun in the community to bring people together," said Erika McLeod. "We thought about a sneaker ball because of the fashionable background of both of us."
Rodney is the owner of a clothing brand called 'Back of House,' and Erika says she loved fashion since their days together at the University of Virginia.
"We thought of sneakers and fashion of being something that creates unity in a community of people," Erika added. "People are always surrounded and come together to show off their outfits on a red carpet, so this is an opportunity for us to emphasize not only unity in the sneaker or fashion cultures but unity amongst our community after a year plus of a pandemic."
The Change Our Future Foundation, which launched in 2020, has since hosted numerous campaigns geared towards youth development, education, health and wellness, and community empowerment.
Rodney says the mission behind this event is to bring people together to support local youth amid the growing concerns many face in Philadelphia.
Youth gun violence, poverty, and the lack of educational resources in Philadelphia public schools were just some of the concerns Rodney pointed out.
He believes a large area of focus to help address these issues surround creating more youth development programming opportunities.
"A lot of the work we do in Change Our Future is focused on kids first, and trying to create opportunities and resources for them," said Rodney. "What better way than bringing everyone out for a great evening, fashion-focused, but a time of giving and show our support for one another."
He says another key area he wants to help address is the lack of resources surrounding youth mentors, particularly in the City of Brotherly Love.
"We know that the gun violence is at large, and I think us all as a community is figuring out ways to get guns off the street and how we can prevent these things from happening. I think one of those areas is mentorship," Rodney added.
Erika says the biggest point she stresses is it's going to take more than the Change Our Future Foundation to achieve these goals.
"That's why we call the community to help us. We call on others that are in situations where they can help us create these opportunities and experiences for a child who might not have a parent who is home with them all the time to send them to extracurriculars," she said.
This effort also relates to the health disparities, Erika says. She aims to bring more Black and brown children into health care and STEM field careers.
Approaching almost a decade as a seasoned NFL veteran and spending six of those seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, McLeod says his passion for giving back has kept him focused on community work as a professional athlete.
"One thing that has always stayed true is the community plays a huge role for me. I look at it as fans support us so much. I feel like it's my obligation or duty in my heart to show the love back," he said.
Aside from the field, McLeod was named a Walter Payton Man of The Year Award nominee last NFL season.
Despite coming off a season-ending ACL injury last year, he hopes his actions of selflessness resonate with Philadelphia both as an athlete and person.
"I think what is important is the impact that you leave. People talk about legacy," he said. "I play a sport where what I do on the field is important, but I think the work I do off the field will last forever."
McLeod says this is the whole reason for creating the Change Our Future Foundation to leave a mark and help the next generation.
"Philadelphia is family. My heart is with this city," he said.
Aside from fundraising, The Change Our Future Foundation is always looking for helpful volunteers to be a part of the program's mission.