Baltimore Raven James Ihedigbo is known for his imposing presence on the football field. Like many of Baltimore’s professional athletes, Ihedigbo is also interested in philanthropy. His chosen cause is Africa, from which his parents emigrated.
Igedigbo’s HOPE Africa Foundation provides scholarships for students of African descent to attend elite American universities. According to HOPE Africa’s website, hopeafricausa.org, those students participate in service projects and community engagement endeavors while in the U.S. Then, armed with university educations and a cultivated desire to spread their success to those around them, they have the tools to return to their home countries and create “new and sustainable resources in the areas of education, health, medicine, human services, community structure, business or the environment.”
Next Monday, Dec. 10, Ihedigbo is hosting a fund-raiser, a “Celebrity Cruise and Charity Night” at the Inner Harbor. The cruise boards from 7-8 p.m. at Spirit Cruises, 561 Light St. Ticket proceeds–$75 in advance, $100 day-of—go to HOPE Africa. Tickets include dinner, open bar, $500 in casino money, and a chance to spend the evening with Ravens players including Ray Rice, Jimmy Smith, Ladarius Webb, Chris Canty, Terrell Suggs, Corey Graham, Art Jones, Chykie Brown, Jameel McClain and many more. Local celebs and other prominent local figures will also be in attendance. For more information and tickets, visit hopeafricausa.org.
In the meantime, Ihedigbo has answered a few questions from the Guide about the cruise, the foundation and football:
What made you choose a casino cruise for this fund-raiser?
I wanted to do something fun and interactive for the fans and supporters. I did a “Dinner with the Ravens” fund-raiser last year at a restaurant venue and it was completely sold out at capacity, that we couldn’t let more people in as people were showing up to buy tickets at the door–so this year, we wanted to make sure we created a more interactive and social environment with a Baltimore flair and of course much more space. When my team and I thought of doing a cruise and casino event, the first thing that came to mind was Spirit Cruises of Baltimore, and of course, they were on board 100 percent, so we definitely are excited about having their support and partnering with them on this special event. We also wanted to make it affordable and worth the fans’ money, so for $75.00, they get to cruise the Inner Harbor, play some casino, enjoy some great music and entertainment, eat some good food and have some cocktails, while hanging out with Ravens…what more can you ask for! But most importantly, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the foundation’s scholarship fund.
Have your fellow Ravens been supportive of your work for HOPE Africa?
Yes, definitely. Many of us have our own philanthropic foundations, so we all try to support each other, whether it’s showing up at fundraiser event or lending a helping handing in each others’ community initiatives. Last year, over 20 of my teammates came to support my ‘Dinner with the Ravens’ event and many of them are coming this year too, such as Ray Rice, Ladarius Webb, Jameel McClain, Torrey Smith and many more.
What’s your proudest personal moment/accomplishment on the football field?
It’s been my dream job to play for the Ravens organization, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. My proudest moment would be hoisting that Lombardi Trophy in the air after winning a Super Bowl last season.
What’s your biggest success with HOPE Africa?
Every student counts, so being able to plant seeds into a student’s education is always a big success for us, because that means it’s one less student having to struggle their way through college.
You’ve been in Baltimore for over a year now. What stands out to you about this city?
Just how everyone has embraced me. The RavensNation community are diehard for their team, so to get that love and support from the community has been very humbling for me.
by Erik Zygmont