BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Baltimore Orioles baseball icon Cal Ripken Jr. is bringing out the stars, entrepreneurs and some of the greatest athletes of all time Friday night.

He hosted his ninth annual Aspire Gala at the Marriott Waterfront.

Christie Ileto reports.

The event draws hundreds of people out, but it will only honor three for the work they’re doing to make their communities better.

It’s not about what these entrepreneurs and sports icons have done on their own, but what they’re doing in their communities that has them being honored Friday.

“Each year that our gala comes and our fundraiser, we’ve honored some great people in the past. And it seems like the bar continues to be set a little bit higher,” said Ripken.

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation helps underprivileged communities through sports programs. And this year, the Aspire Gala recognizes boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank as role models who are making a difference.

“Under Armour through Kevin really was amenable. We thought about him for a couple of years now and we wanted to honor the company and certainly Muhammad Ali. That opportunity was… everyone’s really excited about that,” he said.

“Cal calls and says ‘We want to help kids, can you help?’ And that’s not the kind of phone call you ever say no,” said Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.

Plank—a Maryland native—says the Baltimore-based company is more than just apparel.

“So we decided 80 percent of all the philanthropy we were going to give away, was going to stay right here in Baltimore City,” he said.

The retailer also promotes community programs like Win Baltimore.

As for honoree Ali, it’s not his right hook but his community outreach that’s winning hearts. And while Ali couldn’t attend for health reasons, Ripken shared his own story.

“When I met him, he was drawing a cartoon. And he communicates in his own sort of art way and with his poetry as well. So I have some boxing gloves at home, I have this drawing at home that’s very personal to me,” he said.

Muhammad Ali’s wife accepted his award. There’s also another honoree, his name is Robbie Colloway. He’s a local and a child advocate.

Past honorees include former Baltimore Raven O.J. Brigance and tennis legend Andre Agassi.


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