By Kerston Adams
Rodney and Erika McLeod prepare to hand out food baskets before Thanksgiving.
This year, Rodney and Erika McLeod will kick off their 12 Days of Giving with a brand new charity event, the Sneaker Ball. Guests can donate a new toy or pair of sneaker for kids in need.
It’s that time of year again. A time for salting streets, puffy coats, hot chocolate, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” plays on loop, everywhere. This year, one couple is bringing more than just your average holiday cheer. Kicking off their 12 Days of Christmas charitable acts, Eagles Safety Rodney and Erika McLeod are hosting their first Art & Sole: Sneaker Ball and Toy Drive on Dec. 6. The proceeds from this event will go to Rodney and Erika’s Change Our Future Foundation which supports Philadelphia youth development, education, and enrichment opportunities.
“Change Our Future really started from a passion and care for our community. One thing that Erika and I [share] is a passion for kids — our motto has been ‘kids first’ and that’s really just placing the emphasis on them, in every single facet. Particularly in education, healthcare, and also youth development. Change Our Future wants to help bridge that gap in those areas and we aim to do that through the programming that we have set out, which Sneaker Ball is going to help fund.” says Rodney McLeod.
The McLeods’ foundation has prioritized eliminating racial and economic barriers in Black and brown communities while creating opportunities for local kids and teens to be able to reach their highest potential. Change Our Future works to provide young adults with the tools they’ll need to be successful while leaving a positive impact on the city.
This year, the Sneaker Ball gala will act as the jumping-off point highlighting their second annual 12 Days of Christmas. Each day will feature a charitable act centered on giving back to the community with both small and large acts of kindness.
“This was a way to bring attention to not only what we’ve done in the past, but what’s to come. It’s a perfect way to introduce 12 Days of Christmas to a large room full of people who are willing to give, and so that’s why we’re asking people not only to attend the event but to bring a toy of choice or a sneaker of choice so that we’re able to donate that to a specific organization and really just support families out here,” says Rodney.
“It’s super fulfilling for us to see the impact that we’re having. It’s something that people are going to remember forever. Maybe it was a very dark place for them before, and something like this just uplifts their spirits and made their Christmas that much better, so we thought we need to share and spread the love, and that’s a great way to do it.” says Rodney.
While giving is a timely seasonal tradition for many, for Erika and Rodney, this is the work they’ve put their hearts into all year round. Whether it’s covering the cost of someone’s groceries or providing presents for kids, Erika and Rodney know that every small act counts towards making a greater difference in one’s life this season.
“The biggest thing is knowing what our purpose is, we have our careers, our day-to-day, but it’s what our passion lies in. And our passion lies in giving back to the city that’s shown us love for the past 6 years. How do we take advantage of such a great place and pour our hearts into a place where we want to leave our footprint. It’s important to us and it’s a very big core value to our relationship.” says Erika McLeod.
With 12 Days of Christmas followed by year-round service to underserved communities, it’s evident that although Santa may work hard, the McLeods are working harder.