AKRON – Recipients of the LeBron James Family Foundation efforts were on the field Friday night for a celebration of LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Approximately 800 children and their families identified by the Akron public schools for the program packed Summa Field along with Foundation volunteers. Each of them sporting different color "IPromise" buttons to signify their connection to James' non-profit program.
The 7:15 p.m. homecoming event at InfoCision Stadium and Summa Field boasted a sellout crowd, with estimates approaching 30,000 fans.
However, the King said the day was really "about these kids."
Volunteers with James' foundation, beneficiaries and even some people labeled "family" by the foundation were invited to the one of the biggest welcome home parties ever thrown in Akron.
"Founded in 2004, the LeBron Family Foundation's mission is to positively affect the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives."
Wheels for Education, a signature program for the foundation, focuses on third graders. The program tracks kids through graduation using teachers and after school advisers. The goal is to help improve graduation rates.
The children who bore witness to James, in some cases, for the first time, were totally in awe.
"That is just amazing. I am so psyched right now," Caleb Wilcon told Channel 3's Hilary Golston. "That's kinda awkward and awesome at the same time," Gavin Costilla told Golston.
Lily Maple's children have benefited from the foundation. She and her family jammed themselves in to get a peak at LeBron from the stage. "My daughter was the first one in the program and he gave them computers that first year," Maple said. "Then the rest of them come in and he gives them bikes… so he's done a lot." Maple couldn't be more grateful to LeBron on a night welcoming him back to his hometown of Akron. "Whenever he sees this, I just want to thank him. He's doing awesome. I loved him when he was down south and I love him even more now that he's back."