Rise in Style: Fashion for the Future, Presented by Annexus

Rise in Style
by Cody Cunningham

Lights, Camera, Fashion!

The Phoenix Suns traded in the hardwood for the runway on Saturday for Phoenix Suns Charities’ inaugural fashion show, Rise in Style: Fashion for the Future, presented by Annexus. From Frank Kaminsky’s cowboy hat to Kelly Oubre Jr.’s cape, the players arrived dressed to impress for a night that was all about giving back.

Each player was paired with a young fan from a local nonprofit organization to share the spotlight with and build everlasting bonds and memories. (Full list of children, their organizations and their stories below). But just as it was a once-in-a-life-time experience for the kids, being able to bring smiles to their faces meant just as much to the team.

"It means everything," Oubre said. "This is who we do it for. We represent the city. We go out every night and we play basketball and just do the right things for the city. So, just to do something that's not basketball related is amazing."

The man known as Tsunami Papi has arguably the most drip in the NBA and has turned into a fashion icon across sports, but some nerves still set in as he prepared to co-chair the event. Oubre credited his fashion sidekick, 13-year-old Tysean Bailey from Free Arts for Abused Kids, for assisting in getting him ready to hit the stage.

"I'm super excited," Oubre said. “What makes it comforting is seeing this guy here next to me and being able to share this with me. I have jitters, obviously I'm a little nervous. He told me he was nervous all day, but when he saw me, he got excited. So, I'm excited now."

It was a similar feeling for Head Coach Monty Williams who arrived with flowers in hand to surprise 7-year-old Brooklyn Bennett from HopeKids.

"Once I met Brooklyn, I was more excited about the event," Head Coach Monty Williams said. "I wasn't even going to walk until I saw that smile and that was all I needed. Obviously, the night is for an unbelievable cause, but when you see these faces it's more than just a cause. I'm glad I get to spend some time with Brooklyn."

The night was co-hosted by media personality Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and sneaker aficionado Jacques Slade who made their grand entrance on a Lamborghini to tip-off the event. Guests were treated to a cocktail reception with heavy d’oeuvres, a silent auction and, of course, the electrifying show itself.

The funds raised from table and ticket sales, sponsorships, and the silent auction go back into the community, helping not only the organizations represented on stage, but the more than 140 who are Phoenix Suns Charities beneficiaries annually.

Following the live auction that raised more than $20,000 alone, it was time for the players and their kids to take the stage and show-off their strut.

Some outfits were more casual and comfortable while others shined with flair as each player and their kids were able to put their personalities on display and circle around the audience on the runway. General Manager James Jones led the way first down the raised platform with Leah Johnson from A New Leaf and Trinity Henry from City of PHX - Jr. Suns on each side.

The players proceeded one-by-one interviewing upon entrance and then continuing around the stage displaying their drip and giving the audience a few dance moves. And who else to close it out at the end than Oubre himself with Tysean, wearing matching orange sweaters and parachute joggers with black converse, fanny packs and hats topped-off with chains from Oubre’s personal collection.

"We worked together picking the outfits," Oubre said. "It was super fun. He's an amazing kid. So, it was just dope to do this whole experience with him."

The proceeds raised at the event combined with the Suns $10 Million commitment to the city of Phoenix, including the Devin Booker Starting Five (Booker’s pledge of $500,000 annually to five different youth-serving nonprofits in Arizona), all comprise a large part of their mission to give back to the community that supports them.

“It was an unreal event,” Williams said. “I was just so happy for those kids and those families. Mr. Sarver and Devin, to put that kind of money back into the community is something that I have not seen in my time in the league. It’s impressive. I told Devin yesterday that it’s astounding. I’ve never seen a player give back that kind of money to a community. I was blessed to be a part of it. Our fans that came out [Saturday], they were awesome. That kind of support is not only great in games, but it’s really important to those kids that come out and have been through so much. It really says a lot about our fan support.”

Phoenix Suns Charities will use these proceeds to work to improve the lives of youth and families throughout Arizona by actively creating and supporting programs which focus on education, recreation, and health and human services. Since its inception in 1988, Phoenix Suns Charities has distributed more than $32 million to local nonprofits and organizations in need and the entire Suns organization has embedded itself locally by supporting community efforts through hundreds of player appearances and thousands of volunteer hours by Suns players and staff.

Brooklyn Bennett from HopeKids & Coach Monty Williams

Brooklyn is only 7 years old, but is wise beyond her years. She has a big heart and is a friend to everyone. Brooklyn was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of four. She underwent two and a half years of intense treatment and is currently 1 Year and three months cancer free!

Brooklyn loves to dance and is always jamming out to her favorite songs. She loves horses and playing with her dog, doing arts and crafts, playing American Girl dolls with her sister, and exploring nature.

Brooklyn’s favorite color is teal and she loves to eat steak and chocolate. Brooklyn loves to live life to the fullest and can light up a room with her spunky and witty personality. 

Leah Johnson from A New Leaf & James Jones

Leah comes from a single parent household also raised by her mother and rarely spends time with her father. Leah has an older brother and a younger brother. Originally from Alabama, her family moved to Arizona for more opportunities. They struggled with finding a home and making ends meet and ended up in a shelter. Eventually with the help of resources Leah and her family found A New Leaf. They were able to move into supportive housing here at the La Mesita property. Now with her family able to have support Leah is able to participate in many opportunities she never had before such as Teen leadership here on campus as well as the After School Program. She loves eating orange chicken, reading, and anything that has to do with Marvel characters. 

Trinity Henry from City of PHX - Jr. Suns & James Jones

Trinity is the 3rd child and has a smile that will light up any room. She always has a smile on her face and a twinkle of mischief in her eye. She isn’t shy, but can take a few minutes to warm up to new people. She loves to play basketball and is often called Little Tia by her sisters coaches who she hopes will coach her one day too. Like most 8 year olds, she loves to watch YouTube videos of people opening “blind bags.” Her favorite vacation spot is the beach where she enjoys boogies boarding, hunting for shells, and maybe this year she will give surfing a try. She just started reading the Harry Potter series and hasn’t gotten very far yet. She has 2 cats (Riggs and Murtaugh) and a Liver Dalmatian named Hondo who she adores.

Quincy Dailey from Ryan House & Dario Saric

Quincy is an 8 year old kid that NEVER gives up! Quincy currently is a youth at Ryan house, which serves children and their families navigating life- limiting and end-of-life journeys through many of resources. He faces every challenge head on with so much determination. Quincy is inquisitive & loves learning. He loves reading books. Junie B. Jones is his favorite, because she is mischievous just like him. He also likes to bounce balls, any type of music (drums, guitar) & DANCING (Thriller is his favorite move). He has recently started walking & loves to go on long walks with his friends. The sky is the limit for Quincy!

Lizzy Groth from Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children & Ricky Rubio

Lizzy is 11-year-old whose favorite food is chips. She’s an advanced reader and loves legos and animals.

Tysean Bailey from Free Arts for Abused Kids & Kelly Oubre Jr.

Tysean is an incredible 13 year old young man who has experienced many hardships throughout his young life. He was removed from his biological mom when he was young due to her drug addiction. At the age of 7, he and his sister were fostered by Ms. Davis. When they fell into hard times, she took her family to live at Homeward Bound (A homeless shelter), which is when he got connected with Free Arts AZ. Tysean has participated in a number of Free Arts’ Camp Programs and has since learned that he is a natural performer, and fell in love with performing arts. Tysean now participates in the alumni program where he gives back by helping other youth that are going through situations similar to his.

Olivia Curcuru from Ability 360 & Elie Okobo

Olivia suffered a life alter accident at the age of three resulting in paraplegia. She sustained a spinal cord injury at levels T4-T6. Her first outing in rehab was an NBA/WNBA wheelchair basketball clinic, she loved it! Three days out of rehab she attended her first wheelchair basketball game and eagerly wanted to join the game. Today Olivia plays for Ability360’s youth wheelchair basketball team and is super excited to be on a traveling team. Olivia loves to draw, dance, listen to music, swim shoot archery and is a national champion. She plays wheelchair basketball for Ability360 and she also likes to game with her friends online and watch YouTube videos.
Her favorite place in the world is Disney Land. She loves giving back and is interested in peer mentoring and has recently reached out to a newly injured 9 yrs. old girl.

Khalon Johnson from City of PHX - Jr. Suns & Jalen Lecque

Khalon is a 14 year old young man who loves playing basketball, playing video games, and eating sweets! He started playing organized basketball in 2015 via Park and Recreation at the age of 9, and has played in the recreation system all the way up until 13. He currently attends Shadow Mountain High School where he is currently a Freshman playing on the Junior Varsity and Varsity Basketball Team. He hopes to one day play on the Collegiate and Professional level.

Jane Danger Schilling from Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center & Frank Kaminsky

Jane is a very fun and friendly 10 year old girl. Jane is on the Autism spectrum which presents challenges with learning, attention and “typical” responses. But that doesn’t stop her from being wildly social with anyone she meets. She loves playing any kind of video games, anything Disney related, and any kind of music. Jane plays on the Miracle League of Arizona baseball team, which is an organization dedicated to providing a safe, successful and enjoyable baseball experience for children, teens and adults with disabilities or special health care needs.

Malik Hollis from UMOM New Day Centers & Tyler Johnson

Malik is a 12-year-old youth who is in the 7th grade. He has five (5) siblings, and is the only boy out of them all. Malik and his siblings were raised by a single mother, and he currently has no male figures in his life. He and his family were homeless for a year prior to finding their way to the UMOM shelter, where they spent 110 days. Just a month and a half ago, they moved into housing, and while their mattresses are still on the ground, and they still struggle, they are just happy to be in their own home. Malik deals with a lot of bullying due to his situation and clothing, but keeps a positive attitude. He loves to eat (anything!), loves to box and play basketball both in real life and through video games. He has a dream of one day playing in the NBA and buying his mom a home.

Nick de Weerd from Civitan & Cameron Johnson

Nick is a 14 young man that is charismatic and wise beyond his years. He experienced terrible seizures from the moment he was born and had to have brain surgery (a hemispherectomy) at 10 months old to ‘disconnect’ the left side of his brain where the seizures were coming from. Thankfully his seizures stopped after that (knock on wood) and his body could start developing using just one side of his brain. He’s doing phenomenal but does have a right side weakness (doesn’t use his right hand and has a limp), some developmental delays and vision restrictions but he can talk like nobody’s business, even understands Dutch (his native language) and can talk for hours about his favorite topic: Football.

Raven Morris from Luekemia & Lymphoma Society & Ty Jerome

Raven is a 6 year old who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells) in 2017 at the age of 3 years old. In the very first three days, Raven had surgery for placement of her port and chemo. The family learned to embrace the unexpected, as they were told she’d only lose her hair once, but she lost it twice. Over 75 days were spent in-patient, followed by chemo nightly shots at home, and 20 spinal taps and counting. Raven’s treatment end date was September 2019. Raven loves eggs, says her favorite superheroes are Harley Quinn and Devin Booker, and loves spending time with her brother Roman.

Kenny Ondo from Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix & Cheick Diallo

Kenny is 7 years old and is originally from Gabon, Africa. His mom has 5 siblings, but is the only one of her siblings that made her way over to America. Kenny’s single mother is a math tutor who simply loves to learn and teach her kids new things. Kenny loves the computer lab and the playground rotations and always looks forward to playing and watching soccer. Kenny’s favorite food is cheese pizza, his favorite subject in school is Math, and he can run really, really fast!

Leandra Brown from A New Leaf & Jevon Carter

Leandra comes from a single parent household. Leandra has been raised by her mother. She has an older brother and a younger sister. Her father has not been in her life. She has moved with her family from House of Refugee shelter to A New Leaf family shelters into supportive housing here at the La Mesita property. There have been many times where Leandra as well as the rest of her family were unable to get their basic needs met like food, clothing, shelter. Now that they have finally found a stable place to live, her and her family have become closer than ever and can have a peace of mind that they finally have a home. Leandra tries to better herself by staying focused in school and got involved with sports. She also participates in the Teen Leadership program here on campus.

Gabriel Fortune from Helping Hands For Single Moms & Mikal Bridges

Gabriel is a kind, smart, thoughtful young man. Gabriel has grown up with a single mother, who is currently attending college thanks to Helping Hands for Single Moms. They like to say he’s 10 going on 30. He holds doors open for strangers, uses manners, and will give others all of his possessions if it would bring them a smile. Gabriel LOVES Chipotle (just like Mikal!) and playing on his Nintendo Switch. His nickname is the Mad Scientist, because he loves to find random experiments and projects around the house.

Marcus Hodge from Special Olympics AZ & Devin Booker

Marcus is 13 years old and was born with Down Syndrome. He has participated in Special Olympics AZ since he was 8 years old and was old enough to start competing. Throughout the years, he has gained a ton of confidence, personality, and life-long friendships because of the inclusive sports and programs that are offered. Marcus is a very gentle spirit, extremely outgoing, kind, and truly loves everyone! his favorite food is pizza, and he really enjoys theatre.

Hayden Litchenberg from HopeKids & Aron Baynes

Hayden is an 11 year old rockstar who is full of energy and loves to dance. She will absolutely light up the runway! Also Hayden was born with VACTERL. VACTERL stands for vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies, and limb abnormalities. People diagnosed with VACTERL association typically have at least three of these characteristic features. And Hayden has all of them plus more anomalies that aren’t in VACTERL. She not only loves dancing, but loves editing the videos she makes on her phone!

Gabriel Olvera from Phoenix Children's Hospital & Deandre Ayton

Gabriel Olvera is an 8 year old, amazing heart hero! At 26 weeks gestation Gabriel was diagnosed with Critical Aortic Stenosis with evolving Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). At 27 weeks gestation he had his first heart surgery, in-utero fetal intervention, which preserved his left heart function and growth and prevented the development of HLHS. Gabriel has had 4 open heart surgeries, today his diagnosis is Critical Aortic and Mitral Valve Stenosis. Gabriel is the sweetest and most grateful child I know. He is a HUGE Basketball fan, with big dreams of becoming an NBA player. Gabriel loves Basketball and is always practicing at home to perfect his skills. Gabriel’s last two open heart surgeries were in October 2019 and we hope the repairs last many more years. He’s again stable and doing well.


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