If Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s appearance at Monday night’s third annual Hope for Tomorrow Charity event was the feather-capped flourish that surprised and delighted the packed crowd, safety Kurt Coleman was the backbone.
Coleman, the event’s host, was folding t-shirts to give guests and donors as they filled up Fahrenheit, a restaurant in uptown Charlotte.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to have Kurt host this thing,” said New Orleans safety Roman Harper, whose charity will receive the proceeds. “You got to understand, this is nothing for Kurt. Who he is and everything he does, he does 100 percent.
“When he puts his name on it, it’s got to be outstanding. So just knowing that right there, that for Kurt to pick this up for us has been amazing and we love and thank him for it, truly.”
Harper played for the Panthers in 2014 and 2015.
Coleman was involved with nearly every part of the event while balancing his NFL schedule. He said being so new to Charlotte himself as a member of the team since 2015 inspired him to get involved with the community.
“Last year I was very new to the system, so I was able to go in and be a part of a lot of guys’ charities,” he said. “Last year I did this as a server, I met a lot of great people and I saw what they were doing after this event, which means they were out there in the community helping so many different families at so many different events. ...Really, just meeting these people. It makes everything more gratifying for myself, because I get to know these people on a personal level.”
Coleman recruited a number of his teammates, including linebacker Luke Kuechly, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and Newton to be servers to the crowd of about 200. Newton’s appearance drew gleeful hoots and screams as he sauntered from room to room in a suit and high-topped, feather-capped hat. After introductions were made, the quarterback -- amid chants of “MVP! MVP!” -- picked up plates of food and began serving guests alongside his teammates.
A spokesperson for the event estimated before its conclusion that it had raised nearly $80,000, a jump from the $62,000 raised in 2015. Proceeds will benefit the Harper’s Hope 4*1 Foundation, which strives to empower and motivate youths.
Harper mingled with guests and checked on the players as they balanced dishes on their arms and jockeyed for tips.
“The city of Charlotte is so near and dear to me,” said Harper, who returned this season to the Saints, who drafted him in 2006.
“Just being able to come here and put this thing on, it’s been great. It seems like more and more people want to be a part of it every year.”