More than 600 people from Philadelphia's sports, fashion, legal and restaurant communities gathered at the Ballroom at the Ben on November 7, 2016 for the 3rd annual Zarwin Baum Fashion Touchdown, a fundraiser that raised $130,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region. With 1200 youth on the waiting list, Marcus Allen, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters independence Region, was delighted the event also recruited 25 or more new mentors or "bigs" in the nomenclature of the organization. The local Big Brothers Big Sisters currently serves 3781 children or "littles" in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some of whom walked the runway with their bigs before the athletes and their WAGS strutted.
Fashion Touchdown is the brainchild of Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer & Toddy, P.C, a mid-sized, full service law firm that has offices throughout the tristate region in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Marlton, Jersey City and Wilmington. Thirteen of the Philadelphia Eagles- Connor Barwin, Brandon Brooks, Trey Burton, Brent Celek, Chase Daniel, Zach Ertz, Najee Goode, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Maragos, Caleb Sturgis, Jaylen Watkins and former Eagle Todd Herremans - walked the runway in custom made suites from Robbini Bespoke and shoes from ToBox. Their wives and girlfriends debuted designs from the Nicole Miller Holiday 2016 Collection. Fashion designer Nicole Miller, who came down from Manhattan for the event, and her local franchisee, Mary Dougherty organized the fashion show. Saxbys Coffee and Yards Brewing Company provide some of the refreshments.
Zarwin Baum managing shareholder Mitchell Kaplan explained his firm's involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He said, "We believe in the positive impact of mentoring, as our attorneys have seen it first-hand. And by teaming up with members of the Philadelphia Eagles and Nicole Miller, who also believe in the power of mentoring, we get to help Big Brothers Big Sisters change as many young lives as possible." Evidence based surveys, administered by the organization pre and post entrance into the program, measures the positive impact of a mentor on a child. The annual report touts these impressive results for youth while they are in the mentoring program: 84% improved their outlook on the future; 86% improved their self-confidence, 97% advanced to the next grade, and between 95%-100% of those over the age of 10 avoided using drugs.
Allen attributes his staff's hands- on involvement for the low level, if any, narcotics use. He said, "While the kids are in our program, they avoid drugs. Each child has a Match Support Specialist, which is similar to a case manager, is assigned to them. That case manager is in touch with the little, the big, and the parents frequently while that kid is in the program."
He is excited about a new program, Bigs in Blue, that the national organization of Big Brothers Big Sisters is starting. "Bigs in Blue is a one- to- one mentoring program pairing a police officer with a kid in at risk community or school," said Allen. "We used to do this years ago. I started to talk to Pam Iorio, our national CEO, about it a couple of months ago. When we started seeing a lot of this police tension, we thought Big Brother Big Sisters should be part of the solution. Personally, my first mentor was a police officer. As a black man, and as someone who has directly benefited from having a police officer being his mentor, I thought it would be great for me to put police officers in the lives of the other kids as mentors. We decided to start this program with the goal of raising $5 million to support it around the country. We have Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross as our national spokesman for this program."