CEO Cleveland scores big with recognition from an NBA affiliate team

Mar 16, 2023   |  By Emily Montgomery

It’s not unusual for CEO employees to be highlighted for their hard work by supervisors, coworkers, and family. But it is a special occasion for their efforts to be acknowledged by a professional sports team.

On Friday, February 24, the Cleveland Charge recognized the efforts of CEO Cleveland employees and participants in a ceremony at their Black Heritage Celebration Game. The Charge is an NBA minor league basketball team affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"It was an amazing honor," says CEO Cleveland's site director Devon Hickman. "I was thrilled to have members of my team who could make it on the court to receive that honor together."

The relationship between CEO Cleveland and the Charge began a few months ago. Thanks to a sponsorship from CVS Health, CEO was able to rent out a suite at a Charge game for a holiday party for participants and their families. Members of the Cavaliers’ Social Impact and Equity division spoke with the participants about employment opportunities within the Cavaliers organization. According to Devon, this was a significant connection because the entertainment sector is Cleveland’s second-largest industry, with several major and minor league sports teams, and Playhouse Square, the nation’s second-largest theater district.

After that game, Devon stayed in conversation with Charge representatives, who told him they wanted to continue the relationship between organizations. The Cavaliers organization has been providing tickets to participants and their families for Charge games, which Devon says is a chance to reward participants and their families for their hard work and to give them a great experience in their community.

Then a unique offer came from the Charge: they wanted to feature CEO Cleveland at their Black Heritage Celebration Game. Devon, of course, said yes.

CEO Cleveland staff and participants watched from the stands as organization leaders were recognized on the court. Standing alongside Devon—and Charge team mascot, Pozzie the Positive Charge—were outreach specialist Jermol Martin, job coach Yvette Herod, and site supervisor Thomas Dooley.

“To see families there at the event, cheering on and celebrating not only CEO as an organization but, more specifically, their moms and dads who brought them to this game—it made for an epic moment,” Devon said.

Charge Chief Operating Officer Rocco Maragas says, "At the Charge, we try to work with as many different community partners as possible who impact Northeast Ohio. Center for Employment Opportunities does a lot of good in the area by helping individuals get back on their feet, and that’s something we wanted to recognize and support.”

As part of the ceremony, the CEO team received a basketball signed by members of the Charge. Devon is working on getting a display case to give the prize a special place in their office.

"We're really honored and looking forward to where this honor and recognition will take us as an organization. And ultimately, what that means for the people we serve," Devon added.

This wasn't Devon's only memorable moment of the night, though. Devon's son, Devon Jr., was chosen to play in one of the half-time games in which he and another teenager raced to complete silly tasks and then score a lay-up. While the other boy was ahead of Devon Jr. for most of the race, he missed his lay-ups. So Devon Jr. caught up to him and scored to win.

“The first thing he said to me,” Devon shared, “was, Dad, I didn’t give up.” Devon, who began as a CEO participant himself, connected this to the example he’s tried to show his son that if you keep working hard, you can overcome your challenges and achieve great things. Devon believes the recognition of the CEO Cleveland team at the game shows that, too.