Kicks. Sneakers. And tennis shoes! Whatever you call them, athletic footwear was on full display at the 17th annual Evening Under the Stars Sneaker Ball. Presented by civil rights attorney and child advocate Areva Martin and the Special Needs Network (SNN), guests were encouraged to wear their flyest gear at the charity event, held on October 19, 2023 at the Beehive in South Los Angeles. Nike. Reebok. Converse. Adidas. The sneaker game was tight with everyone rocking their favorite style of street footwear.

Hosted by Emmy-nominated actress and SNN board member Kym Whitley, the Evening Under the Stars Sneaker

Ball attracted a diverse crowd of 500 celebrities,  business executives, community leaders, philanthropists, autism

advocates, and elected officials. SNN also celebrated a major milestone – that is,  the grand opening of the Center for Autism and Development (C.A.D.D.) at the Jaqueline Avant Children and Family Center in South LA.  Designed with a mother’s touch, the state-of-the-art facility will provide tens of thousands of young people and their families with a range of services, including comprehensive medical and developmental services and early intervention therapy programs.

As a special nod to the 50th anniversary of hip hop music, hip hop violinist Joy Black set the mood as people enjoyed the evening with cocktails, light bites and a soulful dinner. Still, the highlight of the evening was a special performance by Yolanda “Yo-Yo” Whitaker – the protégé’ of iconic gansta rapper Ice Cube and a Grammy-nominated  rapper, actress and activist . She rapped some of her chart-hitting singles, including the classic, “You Can’t Play With My Yo Yo.”  Plus, DJ JxHoney (Jibri Bailey) and DJ Shu-G (Aono Shuji ) spinned and scratched it out during an East Coast vs. West Coast battle. After the spin-to-win battle, attendees danced the night away to their favorite old school jams.

This year, the sneaker ball recognized the following individuals for their tireless work in the special needs community:


  • Isaac G. Bryan, assembly majority leader, represents District 55 — recipient of the Trailblazer Award
  • Lindsey P. Horvath, Los Angeles County Supervisor, District 3 — recipient of the Trailblazer Award
  • Dr. David Carlisle, president of the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – recipient of the Vanguard Award
  • Mia and Larry Humphreys, founders of the Behavioral Autism Therapies practice and owners of the Special Needz Coffee mobile coffee business – recipient of the Everyday Advocate Award

Proceeds from the night will benefit SNN’s new autism center at the Jacqueline Avant Child and Family Center on the campus of Martin Luther King Hospital. Donations can be made at


Special Needs Network (SNN) was founded by media personality and civil rights attorney Areva Martin, Esq. in 2005 after she was met with obstacles in accessing necessary services for her son, Marty, who was diagnosed with autism at two years old. SNN is one of the nation’s leading social justice, autism, and disability rights organizations. Based in Los Angeles, the organization provides innovative direct service and online programming, focused on supplying aid and resources to hundreds of thousands of families annually. Its mission is to combat the discrimination disenfranchised communities of color face in getting proper care and resources for minority children with developmental disabilities.

Under the helm of Martin, SNN opened the region’s first-ever comprehensive medical and developmental center called the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (C.A.A.D.). The state-of-the-art center held its grand opening on September 28, 2023 on the campus of Martin Luther King hospital in the Watts/Willowbrook community of South Los Angeles. C.A.A.D. will provide tens of thousands of young people and their families with a range of services, including comprehensive medical and developmental services and early intervention therapy programs; plus, an outdoor wellness center, promoting health and wellness through meditation, yoga, gardening and other fitness programs. For more information about SNN, visit


PHOTO CREDIT: Photos by Robin Marshall/Getty Images for Special Needs network