DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Building on the second year of partnership with the Daytona Tortugas minor league baseball team, the African American Entrepreneurs Association, led by CEO and founder Leslie Giscombe, hosted the inaugural Family Fest at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark on Sunday.
Welcoming nearly 200 friends and family to the free event, guests were invited to explore ‘The Jack’ as the ballpark is affectionately known to regulars, during the festival, allowing children to enjoy bounce houses and games while parents visited with businesses and organizations.
Taking the opportunity to interact with families, hometown football star and athlete Matthew Lewis, owner of Mental Athletic Training, was excited to help introduced locals to a piece of history right in their own backyards.
“One of my main reasons for being here was to support somebody who’s actually helped me get my business off the ground and further my career, my goals and what I want to do,” shared Lewis of working with the AAEA.
Actively involved in local athletics, Lewis knows how special the ballpark is to the community. He was surprised to learn during the family fest event how many people didn’t realize the historical significance of Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
“This is something paramount for our community. I was just talking to one of my friends and he didn’t even know Jackie Robinson played at this stadium and he went to Bethune-Cookman University. He went to an HBCU and they never drew that connection. I was happy I was able to get him to come out because he learned something just by bringing his daughter out.”
“I think it’s paramount to keep doing events like this. People can’t learn if they don’t have the opportunity. Once they have the opportunity to learn even though it might take them a year or two, the fact that it’s here, available for them to get it, maybe one day they’ll walk through the door and it will be the best thing they ever did in their life.”
Knowledge is Power.
Passing on knowledge is important to Lewis as he leads the next generation of athletes to success. Lewis found his own entrepreneurial success after joining the African American Entrepreneurs Association, where founder and CEO Leslie Giscombe guided him through the steps of officially creating his own business and brand, to continue serving youth in the area.
“I met Mr. Leslie and the first thing he did was talk to me about getting myself together, LLC’ing my business, getting my website, my brochures, stuff like. That is my own personal experience. He’s helped me go from step one to step five in a month. That’s big and I thank him for it. It means a lot to someone like me,” said Lewis.
Well-known in the Daytona Beach community, Lewis started with PAL, and was named one of the top 50 players in Florida as a youth basketball player. A two-sport varsity letterman in football and basketball throughout his time at Mainland High School, Lewis achieved not only All-State status as a sophomore, but All-American, recruited to play for the Hoosiers at Indiana University.
“I wanted to give someone the same opportunity I was afforded. To be able to come back to my community and give some of these guys the same experiences that I had and help them become something that they want to become, is very big for them.”
Giscombe says connecting entrepreneurs to resources through education is one of the association’s missions. Co-hosting events like the AAEA Family Fest with the Daytona Tortugas baseball team help bring it full circle, connecting entrepreneurs and the community to the history of the ballpark, and individuals who are making a positive impact.
“We happen to be in our second year of the minor leagues’ ‘The Nine’ initiative. This initiative supports Jackie Robinson and the contribution he had toward integrating baseball. Not just baseball alone, but all collegial sports in the United States. That significance is so important to the minor league that they wanted to make sure that that information was more disbursed within the minority community,” explained Giscombe.
“How could you have kids living a quarter mile, half a mile, a mile away, that’s close, and not know about the significance of their backdoor? The ones that came (today) that’s special. A lot of people learned things. This is not just a ballpark. It’s called Jackie Robinson Ballpark and Museum. Why are we forgetting the museum part? The youth need to know who they are, they need to know part of their history. I feel that a lot of new information was learned. That tells us that we have work to do and we have an opportunity to do it for our kids.”