Meet our MVPs - Most Valuable Philanthropists - the rising stars in the sports philanthropy industry. These individuals are recognized for their innovative approaches to philanthropy and their impactful strategies to effect change through sport.
Alicia Gonzalez is from Chicago (Pilsen and Little Italy communities) and is the Founding Executive Director of Chicago Run, a local non-profit that provides free physical activity programs to Chicago Public School students as a means of promoting health and wellness, digital learning, social inclusion, and cross-community relationship-building. She helped launch Chicago Run as the first staff member in 2008 and has built and led the organization to its current size of serving over 17,000 students in 44 Chicago Public Schools in 30 low-income neighborhoods across the city – a 750% program participant growth and a 450% budget increase.
Prior to Chicago Run, Alicia served as the head of Hispanic Business Development for First American Bank, where she oversaw the expansion of private-public partnerships in the Latino community. Alicia’s roots are in the community and prior to working in the private sector, she held positions as a community organizer and youth development program director in both Chicago (Enlace) and Boston (Hispanic Office of Planning & Evaluation).
In addition to Chicago Run, she serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy, and is also on the Board of Directors for Heartland Alliance Human Care Services, Instituto del Progreso Latino, the Good Sports Foundation Board, the Board of the Chicago Life Science Consortium and the Enlace Legacy Board. Alicia is a recipient of the 2016 President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition Community Leadership Award, the Latina Entrepreneur of the Year (2012) from the Chicago Latino Network, the 35 Under 35 Chicago Leadership Award (2009) from the Community Renewal Society, and the 2009 Emerging Health Leader from the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group.
Alicia is a graduate of Stanford University Business School’s Non-Profit Executive Leadership Program, a fellow in the 2013-2014 American Express NGEN Fellows Program with the Independent Sector, a Fellow in the 2011 Leadership Greater Chicago Class, and a fellow in the 2012 Latino Leadership Academy with the Latino Policy Forum. Most recently Alicia was a Fellow in the 2016-2017 German Marshall Memorial Fellowship Program. Alicia graduated with honors in Latin American History from Brown University.
Shanette D. Buford-Brazzell is a young and innovative event planning/management and community relations professional, with six years of diverse experience successfully planning, executing and measuring strategic collegiate athletics sporting events nonprofit fundraising events. She is currently the Manager, Special Events for United Way of Greater Cleveland.
In her position, she oversees the development, planning, and execution of all United Way special events such as the Annual Meeting, campaign kickoff, Hometown Huddle, leadership donor’s recognition events, and other ancillary events. She also collaborates with the Resource Development and Engagement Center on the philanthropic initiatives and engagement opportunities for the organization’s corporate and community partners and work to increase revenue from existing events through sponsorships.
Her professional background and experience lies in event planning/management, community relations and marketing communications in the sports and non-profit industry. Her previous experience includes working with America SCORES Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, and The Jerome Schottenstein Center/The Ohio State University.
With a passion for philanthropy, sports and Northeast Ohio, Shanette is a member of various professional organizations such as WISE Cleveland (Women in Sports and Events), where she is a board member and serves on the programming committee and Association of Fundraising Professionals Cleveland Chapter (AFP Cleveland Chapter).
She currently holds numerous volunteer leadership positions with the CSU Young Alumni Council, the Junior League of Cleveland, and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Foundation Associate Board.
Shanette is a 2013 graduate of Cleveland State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Journalism and Promotional Communication degree, from School of Communications, with a concentration in journalism and public relations, and minor in Black Studies. In 2016, she was a member of the George Washington University’s Sports Philanthropy Executive Certificate Program spring cohort, where she successfully completed the program.
Megan Mendoza is the Community Relations Coordinator for the National Football League. She works on league-wide community initiatives which include the NFL's youth health and wellness program called NFL PLAY 60, Salute to Service, which recognizes and honors military, and the Crucial Catch breast cancer awareness campaign. She received her Associate of Arts degree from Edison State College and graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University (Go Eagles!) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with a concentration in Sport Management in May 2013.
Megan is the first in her immediate family to graduate with a four-year college degree. Prior to her job at the NFL, she worked part-time in the Miami Dolphins ticket sales and guest service departments, as well as successfully completed a season-long internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, working in their community relations department.
Megan has always been an avid sports fan, so combining the ability to make an impact through sports is a dream come true for her. In her spare time, she volunteers locally at her church, Hillsong Church NYC, and serves with their City Hope street teams which provide food and clothing to the homeless each week.
Matt Kirinovic is the Director of Major Gifts in the Midwest Region for the University of Michigan. He is responsible for coordinating overall major gift strategy in the region (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pittsburgh) as part of the University of Michigan's $4 billion Victors for Michigan capital campaign. Matt also manages two campaign councils, in Cleveland and Columbus, of major gift donor volunteers who advocate on behalf of Michigan in their regions.
Prior to working for the Office of University Development, Matt was the Associate Director of Major Gifts, Midwest Region, for Michigan Athletics from 2012-2015. He was part of the team that launched Michigan Athletics' largest-ever campaign goal of $355 million. Prior to working at Michigan, Matt was the Associate Director of Annual Giving in the University of Memphis Athletic Department.
Matt received his Master of Business Administration and his Master of Sports Administration from Ohio University in 2009. He is a 2007 graduate of Hope College in Holland, Michigan.