On Monday evening, Denver Broncos linebacker, Shane Ray, hosted his first fundraiser for his Rays Awareness Foundation. It was standing room only at Ocean Prime where the gala was held, showing that he is man who has a vision others believe in.
The event raised around $60,000 going quite a bit beyond the outside projections. It’s no surprise if you’ve ever met Shane or his mother, Sebrina. They are a success story and not because Ray is a NFL player, that’s merely a bi-product of their character and what they believe, “Don’t let where you came from, define who you are”.
There are many articles about Shane’s background, including on this site, so I’ll be brief. Johnson and Ray come from one of the most dangerous areas in the country. Often, bad things happen to good people and helping hands from others can be the difference between making it out alive or not. Scared or whole. All too frequently tragedies carry over to the next generation. A cycle that both want to help break.
Ray believes this begins with helping and mentoring children. For many, the way up and out of tough circumstances starts with sports. Impoverished areas don’t have Pop Warner and other leagues that provide scholarship assistance to families in need. You either have the funds to pay and purchase all the equipment or you don’t. Rays Awareness Foundation is about the, “don’ts” becoming “do’s”.
When asked if there was a special message Shane wanted out there concerning donations, he gave a surprising answer.
I want people to know there is another life out there. For them to see another side. These places (where he came from) exist. Once you open your mind, you can help. Let’s change one life at a time.
This may be the very key as to why so many opened their hearts and wallets…he’s asking for those more fortunate to see and do on their own. Ray exudes a powerful force in his vision and passion that can be felt. He’s quiet and thoughtful, but has a glint in his eye that hints at a fun and devilish side. He and his mother make you believe through their personalities and determination that every life matters, that each life can be changed and together we can change the world.
The saying about the apple not falling far from the tree is true for Ray. Sebrina Johnson is a force of nature. Beautiful, brilliant and bodacious. She is the type of person that you won’t ever forget meeting because she says what she means and means what she says and it’s all about doing the right thing. Sounds like a quote from a movie, but she personifies it in real life.
“When you’re knocked down, you don’t stay down, you get right back up and fight.” That’s her mantra. Never quit. She will be the first to say she was shocked Shane became an athlete because he wasn’t setting the world on fire as a youth. However, when he exhibited sports was something he wanted to pursue, she did everything in her power to foster that. The duo faced every challenge, made every sacrifice to be “more than their circumstance”.
It is no mystery why so many in attendance, including several Broncos and cheerleaders, showed up and donated. Not just from the attendees, but the many vendors who wanted to give: including the alcohol, food, venue and the items from the live and silent auction. There was a sense of purpose at the event and it was palpable.
Rays Awareness Foundation was originally set up to help youth from the worst sections of Kansas City, MO, like the “Murder Factory” to receive not just sports equipment, but also life lessons. He’s branched out to Denver donating backpacks and shoes with the Denver Rescue Mission. Next will be a playground. Soon he will be teaming up with the Champa House, a shelter for homeless women and children.
The plans are to continue and expand the youth and parent camp Ray and Johnson started last year. They’ll be held in both Kansas City and Denver. This isn’t a short term goal for them, but a lifetime commitment.
There is another message Shane wants shared, he honors and respects the military and law enforcement. Both are dear to his heart, family members, like his grandfather, served. Football, in a way, is like the armed forces and the shield: each are a brotherhood where you have another’s back and only those inside can know. It’s a lifetime bond.
Below are the names of all the sponsors, please think about choosing one of them the next time you are in the market for any of their types of products. Let’s support those who support Rays Awareness Foundation.