Stars kick off Sneaker Ball

LOS ANGELES – Kicks. Sneakers. And tennis shoes! Whatever you call them, athletic footwear was on full display at the 17th annual Evening Under the Stars Sneaker Ball. Presented by civil rights attorney and child advocate Areva Martin and the Special Needs Network (SNN), guests were encouraged to wear their flyest gear at the charity event, held on October 19, 2023, at the Beehive in South Los Angeles.

Nike. Reebok. Converse. Adidas. The sneaker game was tight with everyone rocking their favorite style of street footwear. Hosted by Emmy-nominated actress and SNN board member Kym Whitley, the Evening Under the Stars Sneaker Ball attracted a diverse crowd of 500 celebrities,  business executives, community leaders, philanthropists, autism advocates and elected officials.

SNN also celebrated a major milestone – that is,  the grand opening of the Center for Autism and Development (C.A.D.D.) at the Jaqueline Avant Children and Family Center in South LA.

Designed with a mother’s touch, the state-of-the-art facility will provide tens of thousands of young people and their families with a range of services, including comprehensive medical and developmental services and early intervention therapy programs.

As a special nod to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop music, hip-hop violinist Joy Black set the mood as people enjoyed the evening with cocktails, light bites and a soulful dinner. Still, the highlight of the evening was a special performance by Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker – the protégé’ of iconic gansta rapper Ice Cube and a Grammy-nominated rapper, actress and activist.

She rapped some of her chart-hitting singles, including the classic, “You Can’t Play With My Yo Yo.”  Plus, DJ JxHoney (Jibri Bailey) and DJ Shu-G (Aono Shuji ) spinned and scratched it out during an East Coast vs. West Coast battle. After the spin-to-win battle, attendees danced the night away to their favorite old school school jams.

This year, the sneaker ball recognized the following individuals for their tireless work in the special needs community:


  • Isaac G. Bryan,assembly majority leader, represents District 55 — recipient of the Trailblazer Award
  • Lindsey P. Horvath, Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 3 — recipient of the Trailblazer Award
  • Dr. David Carlisle,president of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – recipient of the Vanguard Award
  • Mia and Larry Humphreys, founders of the Behavioral Autism Therapies practice and owners of the Special Needz Coffee mobile coffee business – recipient of the Everyday Advocate Award

Top Photo:

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 19: (L-R) Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker, Areva Martin and Kym Whitley attend Special Needs Network and Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin’s Evening Under the Stars Sneaker Ball at The Beehive on October 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for Special Needs Network)

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