By Richard Foster-Shelton
LOS ANGELES — Publicly, All-Star Weekend is notable for being a time when celebrities descend on the host city to enjoy a work-free weekend. Privately, one woman worked tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make sure the gathering of big names was not in vain.
On Thursday, Leah Cher Pump, president and CEO of the LadyLike Foundation, hosted the inaugural NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Bowling Classic at Lucky Strike Lanes at L.A. Live. The event, which featured appearances from celebs such as Paul Pierce, Isiah Thomas, Terrell Owens, benefited the non-profit organization.
It seems the planning for such an event would have waited until the NBA announced this year’s host city of Los Angeles, which was March of 2016. But Pump explained to Medill Reports that this moment was years in the making.
Medill Reports: How important is it for young women to see positive role models that they can emulate?
Pump: It’s so important, especially right now. When you look at society, how many real role models do they have? I was raised by great role models. My mom and grandma were educators for over 40 years. They instilled in me values and morals. I think every young lady needs that and even if they don’t have that at home, I want to be that for them.
Medill Reports: How hard was it to grow from humble beginnings to organizing events of this stature?
Pump: Well, I started my foundation out of my backyard and for it to grow like this is just God, I promise I didn’t map it out to be like this. I just wanted it to be my little circle of girls and God saw fit to open up doors and make ways for it to get bigger.
Medill Reports: With this event being your biggest thus far, have you thought about expanding across the country?
Pump: My husband wants to do it. This is the first one and he wants to take it to every city. I met my husband a few years after I started my foundation and he’s really entrenched in sports. With his foundation, he honors athletes of every sport and so when he saw my dream, he said he was going to help me take it to another level and it’s been a journey ever since.
Medill Reports: Along with your husband, who else would you give credit to as key members of your support system?
Pump: My board is amazing. We like to keep it diverse with great women of all different colors, Black, Asian, Caucasian. I also have the producers of my events. They are the ones who put this whole event together from videos to the red carpet to the aesthetics. Everything.