Charlotte Hornets Foundation Honors Community Leaders At 13th Annual Hornets Heroes Gala

by Quinton Wash

October 9, 2021 – After more than a year of virtual events, Hornets Sports & Entertainment President & Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield welcomed guests to Spectrum Center tonight for the 13th Annual Hornets Heroes Gala. The black-tie fundraiser supports the Charlotte Hornets Foundation and features attendees sporting sneakers with their finest formal wear. Guests enjoyed an evening that included entertainment, a silent auction and a sneaker contest, along with and delectable menu options provided by Hornets partner Levy and several local, minority-owned restaurants.

In addition to raising funds for the Charlotte Hornets Foundation, the Hornets Heroes Gala celebrated local artists and community leaders who are making a significant difference in the lives of their neighbors. This year’s honorees were Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (Education Hero), Community Culinary School of Charlotte Executive Director Ron Ahlert (Hunger Hero), Veterans Bridge Home Executive Director Blake Bourne (Military Hero) and Novant Health Vice President of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer for the Greater Charlotte Market Kelli Sadler (Wellness Hero).

This year’s Education Hero, Mayor Vi Lyles, is in her second term as the 59th Mayor of Charlotte, having been elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2019. She is known for her strong commitments in the areas of workforce development, job creation and economic mobility. She is also an advocate for affordable housing, safe, livable neighborhoods, increased transportation alternatives and improved access to public transit. Under her leadership, the City of Charlotte continues to grow into an epicenter of commerce and a thriving market for technological advancement.

This year’s Hunger Hero, Chef Ron Ahlert, is the Executive Director of Community Culinary School of Charlotte, a position he has held since 2006. Founded in 1997, CCSC provides tuition-free culinary and workforce development training and job placement assistance to adults who face barriers to long-term successful employment. The school aims to help break the cycle of homelessness and poverty throughout Charlotte and increase upward mobility for its students by teaching culinary arts, job-readiness skills, life skills and goal setting.

This year’s Military Hero, Blake Bourne, is the Executive Director of Veterans Bridge Home (VBH), a Carolinas-based nonprofit organization that bridges the gap between Veterans and their community during often difficult states of transition. A former U.S. Army Infantry Officer, Bourne and VBH continue making Charlotte a national model of public-private partnerships that assist in transitioning our nation's returning Veterans.

This year’s Wellness Hero is Kelli Sadler, RN, the Vice President of Nursing and Market Chief Nursing Officer for the Greater Charlotte Market for Novant Health, representing all the nurses who have played such an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic. During her more than 20 years with the company, she has held a wide variety of roles, working bedside with patients, leading critical initiatives and investing in the organization’s culture. Throughout the pandemic, Novant Health has helped the community through education, testing, antibody treatment, and administering vaccines in both clinics and mass vaccination sites.

The theme of this year’s Hornets Heroes Gala was, “Celebrating Charlotte’s victories, everything large and small, this past year and throughout 20-TwentyWON.” As attendees mingled and danced, they observed four local artists – Makayla Binter, DeNeer Davis, Garrison Gist and LaDara McKinnon – create unique pieces of art to further celebrate each of the night’s Heroes that the honorees received after the event.


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