The recent kickoff event for Project 88 Foundation looked like a Houston Texans reunion.
Former Texans Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, James Casey and Chris Myers (and their wives) came to show their support for Project 88, a non-profit organization designed to change the social fabric of poverty through education, leadership, and empowerment. It is the vision, mission and purpose of Texans tight end Garrett Graham and his wife (“Blonde Bombshell”) Ericka.
“Sometimes I just wish she’d chill at home and relax with me, but she’s always been 100 percent committed,” Garrett said of his wife.
Current Texan players Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, Jon Weeks, Duane Brown, Ben Jones, Randy Bullock and others were decked out in neon cocktail attire for the fun night. Chester Pitts with his neon socks and Devi Dev in a floor-length gorgeous green dress emceed the event at Ecclesia Church.
Dinner, which was family style, was led in prayer by Chris Seay, Ecclesia’s pastor and member of the foundation’s board of directors.
“Her spirit and her smile can fill the stadium,” is how Devi Dev introduced the night’s hostess, Ericka Graham, and the crowd stood in applause. Glowing in her neon pink cocktail dress, you’d never guess how many sleepless nights she spent organizing the evening.
It’s been no secret (especially if you follow the Grahams on social media) that Ericka has been working long days and long nights to put together this gala as well as finalize the plans and mission of the foundation. “Sometimes I just wish she’d chill at home and relax with me, but she’s always been 100 percent committed,” Garrett said of his wife.
With the Rockets playoff game playing in the lobby with open bars on either side, the night was full of festivities, including performances from speed painter Dan Dunn who has had his theatrical artwork showcased on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Dunn started with a four-minute painting of Ray Charles (bid on and won by Kareem Jackson), came back on stage later to paint Toro the mascot (bid on and won by Hannah and Cal McNair), and finished the evening with a portrait of JJ Watt (start to finish in nine minutes), which was later auctioned off to include a short meet and greet so Watt could sign the painting. Though Watt wanted to be there in person, this was the next best thing.
Dunn started with a four-minute painting of Ray Charles, and finished the evening with a portrait of JJ Watt (start to finish in nine minutes).
Players and their wives weren’t the only guests at Neon City Lights. A group of EMERGE students also attended the event. EMERGE is a program that helps underserved high-achieving students at HISD and targets students that will go to Ivy League schools.
“We selected 10 EMERGE students to join our Project 88 Young Leadership Board. Students on our board will attend a leadership summer camp this summer in Kentucky, and they will come back next year to lead our Project 88 summer camp in 2016, in Houston,” Ericka said.
“We are providing these students with leadership opportunities, as well as a chance to serve on our board for one term. Board meetings will discuss ways to be agents of change in their community, and we will create an action-plan,” she continues expressing the important roles these kids have in the foundation’s mission.
The night was all about change, which is what the foundation is strongly based on. “I don’t want them to just feel good – I want their whole life to change,” Ericka said about their mission.
With the sold out brightly lit gala in the books, the Grahams and Project 88 had one more event three days later – the Tee off Fore Success Celebrity Golf Tournament at Blackhawk Country Club.
After seeing the party's success, you can bet that Project 88 Foundation will in fact be an agent of change here in Houston.