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Diversity, General Information

Suits and Sneakers: NBA Star Supports Baton Rouge Youth and LSU

12/14/2011 01:53 PM

BATON ROUGE – On Friday, Nov. 11, the Tyrus Thomas Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by former LSU basketball player and current member of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats Tyrus Thomas, held "Suits and Sneakers," a benefit gala that took place at the Downtown Baton Rouge Hilton.


"Suits and Sneakers" benefitted Thomas' foundation and the LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative Fellows Program, and included entertainment provided by Shamarr Allen and the Underdawgs, a photo shoot with Dear World of New Orleans and a live auction. Attendees donned traditional formal wear, such as suits and cocktail dresses, accompanied by sneakers, a nod to Thomas' basketball career.


Thomas founded the Tyrus Thomas Foundation, or TTF, in 2009 to cultivate and improve the Greater Baton Rouge, Charlotte and Chicago communities by implementing programs geared towards youth outreach, enhancing the community through development and supporting other organizations with similar initiatives and goals. A native of Old South Baton Rouge, Thomas understands the need for financial support and positive role models in the community. Now a successful NBA player, Thomas has decided to give back to his hometown of Baton Rouge, as well as his adopted hometowns of Chicago and Charlotte.


Most recently, the TTF has partnered with LSU's Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI. The mission of BMLI is to improve the recruitment, retention, graduation and participation rates for black male students through mentoring, leadership development and academic support, a purpose that goes hand-in-hand with Thomas's philanthropy work in Old South Baton Rouge. BMLI Fellows and LSU juniors Joshua and Joseph Hollins were in attendance at the gala, accompanied by BMLI co-director Marco Barker, an LSU alumnus and assistant to the vice provost and director of Educational Equity for the Office for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach.


"Having Tyrus and the Tyrus Thomas Foundation affiliated with the Black Male Leadership Initiative is a great fit and a move in the right direction in supporting black males across the community," said. Barker. "Having a notable athlete and philanthropist like Tyrus demonstrates the power of positive role models and the importance of giving back to build community."


During the LSU Homecoming football game against Western Kentucky on Nov. 12, Thomas, along with his wife Jaime and TTF CEO and LSU alumna Sevetri Wilson, presented a check for $18,000 to the LSU Foundation in support of the LSU Summers Scholars Program and the BMLI Fellows Program. LSU Chancellor Michael Martin and LSU freshmen Michael Carpenter accepted the contribution on behalf of the two programs.


"I am honored to be able to come back to Baton Rouge and be embraced by my LSU family," said Thomas. "In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest, and to give opportunities to all minority students, we must support programs like the Black Male Leadership Initiative and Summer Scholars at LSU."


The BMLI Fellows Program began in Spring 2010 and includes 20-25 sophomores and juniors. Barker and Chaunda Allen, an LSU alumna and director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, along with graduate coordinator and doctoral student Jared Avery and graduate intern Ray James, operate the Fellows Program. Recently Thomas attended a BMLI event, where LSU hosted black male youth in the seventh, eighth and ninth grades for LSU Preview Day.


Also in attendance at the gala was Kellie Irving, LSU National Diversity Advisory Board member and director of diversity and inclusion with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. Event sponsors included Hancock Bank, State Farm Insurance, Coca-Cola and The Shaw Group.


The Tyrus Thomas Foundation supports community involvement as an integral part of the educational and developmental goals of the foundation. To learn more about the Tyrus Thomas Foundation, visit For volunteer opportunities in Baton Rouge, email


The Black Male Leadership Initiative is an initiative of the LSU Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. For more information on BMLI, or to support BMLI through the Power of 50 annual fund campaign, contact Barker at 225-578-5736, by email at or visit the BMLI website at

LSU Media Relations