UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball founder Billye Aaron raises $1 million in 2016

By Maria Saporta

For her 80th birthday celebration, Billye Aaron is continuing a tradition she started several years ago. In lieu of birthday presents, Billye Aaron is asking her guests to donate to her UNCF (United Negro College Fund) scholarship fund.

And her guests have responded. They have met her goal of $1 million in time for the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball, the annual fundraising gala. It will be held on Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Marriott Marquis beginning at 6:30 p.m.

UNCF Masked Ball

Left to right: UNCF Michael Lomax, Billye Aaron, Maurice Jenkins and-Sam Burston (Photo by Caselove Production)

The ball has a special meaning for Billye Aaron, the wife of baseball legend Hank Aaron and the first African-American woman to host a daily talk show in the Southeast. She also is a graduate of a historically black college and university.

In 1983, Aaron and then-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young founded the ball as a fundraiser for UNCF. Since then, every current mayor of the city has participated in the ball – raising unrestricted funds for UNCF’s support for local students.

Corporate Executives Brannigan Thompson, senior vice president of Voya Financial, and Donta’ Wilson, senior executive vice-president and chief client experience officer for BB&T, are serving as the honorary co-chairs of the ball.

Annual highlights of the ball include the VIP Masked Award Reception, Silent Holiday Auction, Red Carpet Parade of Stars and Dignitaries, Parade of Masks, dancing and live entertainment by percussionist and recording artist Sheila E.

Presenting Sponsors for the 2016 UNCF Atlanta Mayor’s Masked Ball are: the Coca Cola Co., Delta Air Lines, UPS and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

The UNCF is the nation’s largest minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness.

UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 20 percent of African-American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs.

Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”®

In the interest of full disclosure, Billye Aaron and Maria Saporta are paired up as friends as part of the Atlanta Friendship Initiative.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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