We spoke with Brett Taber, Executive Director of Social Impact for the Minnesota Vikings, Natalie Minckler, Executive Director of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, ran down the top plays in sports philanthropy, and brought you new MVPs in this month's edition.
Hanna Sprague is the senior manager at MILE 44, a PR, digital and creative agency dedicated to fueling journeys. She leads digital and creative activations for MILE 44’s client roster and the agency.
Prior to joining MILE 44, she launched her career in collegiate athletics as an Athletic Communications Student Assistant at Michigan State University where she served as the primary media contact for the women’s gymnastics and field hockey teams and secondary contact for the women’s basketball team.
She spent two seasons with the Detroit Tigers where she had a hand in the planning and execution of the Detroit Tigers Foundation events and initiatives, including Miguel Cabrera’s Keeping Kids in the Game, Willie Horton’s Batting for Kids and the Tigers’ Wives Auction sponsored by Fox Sports Detroit.
She was recently named to the The Front Office Sports Rising 25 (Class of 2017) and has become a One Young World Ambassador following the 2017 summit in Bogotá, Colombia.
Hanna is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Michigan State University in 2016.
president & ceo
elle grace consulting
Chloe Barnes is a former Division I Women’s Basketball player (Ball State University, 2012) turned entrepreneur, writer, broadcaster, and advocate whose world turned upside down after she was forced to retire from the game of basketball prematurely. Determined to prevent as many student-athletes as possible from feeling the confusion that she felt after it was time to leave the game behind; Barnes decided to start her own company, Elle Grace Consulting, LLC (EGC).
EGC is a Red Eye Big Idea Award Winner and combines Barnes’ purpose (helping athletes navigate the “What’s Next?” phase post sport) and her passions (using social platforms to build community through storytelling and inspiring civic action through education) to impact athletes, coaches, and administrators across the country. EGC creates programs and resources that are designed to help athletic entities prepare their athletes for lives of thoughtful leadership and meaningful service beyond athletics.
In addition to her local involvement in student-athlete development, Barnes has also received national recognition for her work as well. She was recently named one of the country’s “Top Sports Professionals Under 25” by Front Office Sports and was appointed to the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals (N4A) Professional Development Institute (PDI) Curriculum Development Committee as Committee Co-Chair.
When Barnes isn’t traveling to meet with clients or promote her company, she serves as a contributing writer for Front Office Sports, is a color analyst for television sports broadcasts, is a member of the Steering Committee for the Illinois State Council on Women and Girls and is a fearless advocate for the rights and opportunities of marginalized groups around the world.
Neal Bendesky is not your normal 59-year-old sports marketing professional when it comes to overcoming the odds for his wellness journey. As a motivational speaker for corporate wellness groups and events, he is known as the 199GUY based losing over 199 pounds starting at 450 pounds, tipping the scales under 199, and going 199 straight days in the gym after surviving a life-threatening event from a pre-existing condition. In fact, Bendesky, Orangetheory Fitness world's biggest documented (winner) has started ChiRunning half marathons and is having fun helping others with their wellness journey!
Bendesky who has previously managed major celebrity fund-raising events benefitting Children’s Home Society, Dade Schools Athletic Foundation in Florida, United Way, Lauren’s Kids and the Boys & Girls Clubs. He recently celebrated his anniversary for surviving a heart attack by running a marathon distance as a fundraiser for the Children’s Museum at the American Heart Association in Phoenix, Arizona.
199GUY currently is part of a Game Plan, Inc. which has started programming for child obesity awareness and better nutrition in the schools. For bookings and school programming, visit www.199guy.com
athletes for hope university
Suzanne has served as an Evaluation Consultant to Athletes for Hope (AFH) for the past three years and in January will join the team full time to become the Director of Athletes for Hope University program, connecting University athletes to charitable opportunities across various communities. She helped develop measurement and evaluation tools for AFH which helped provide feedback and continuous improvement opportunities for the organization. Athletes for Hope is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same.
Suzanne started playing soccer as a young girl and ended up a lifelong fan and soccer player. Her love of sports evolved when her oldest son, who has autism, became a Special Olympics athlete in Track, Basketball and Soccer. She sees the commitment and value that sports brings to kids of all abilities, and the incredible joy of Special Olympic athletes, coaches and volunteers when they participate in team events.
She was most recently the Executive Director for the Autism Society of Texas. She serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Texas, Austin School of Social Work and is Faculty at the George Washington University Sports Philanthropy Executive Certificate Program.
Suzanne has broad nonprofit and foundation experience, and worked as a funder for over a decade. Suzanne previously worked as a Program Manager for OneStar Foundation, LIVESTRONG as the Program Officer for Community Grants, and in San Diego at the San Diego Workforce Partnership as the Youth Program Manager overseeing the design, implementation and evaluation of federal Youth Workforce Investment Act funds. She graduated from San Diego State University with duel Masters in Public Health and Masters in Social Work, with an emphasis on Maternal and Child Health.