By Ali Nicole

Fenix Youth Project Inc. wants locals to step out in their finest formal wear—and best kicks! The inaugural Sneaker Gala is coming to Salisbury to provide entertainment and benefit new and existing programs within Fenix Youth Project.

“We’re really excited to bring this type of event to the area. It’s new and it’s out of the box,” says Amber Green, Executive Director and Founder of the organization.

The inaugural Sneaker Gala is coming to Salisbury to provide entertainment and benefit new and existing programs within Fenix Youth Project (pictured).

The gala will be like any other in which everyone dresses up in their evening best and enjoys a night of music and mingling. Unlike other galas, however, the Sneaker Gala challenges guests to break out their most impressive pair of sneakers to round out their formal attire. The fun and unique celebration is the beginning of an annual fundraiser event, the first Fenix Youth Project has planned, as they expand on their community reach.

Green wants to connect with the local region and, “give the community something they can remember and look forward to every year,” with the advent of this gala. This year, the Sneaker Gala will be held on Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. It will include a 360 photo booth, music provided by youth talent, DJ and One, speeches by Fenix Youth Project’s board members, and a presentation on the accomplishments of the organization over the last year.

Fenix Youth Project has been operating as a non-profit for six years and making an impact on the community even longer through creative arts. They host open mic nights for youth—which are moving from virtual to in-person in the near future—youth poetry teams, arts and leadership workshops. Arts and creativity aren’t all this group has to offer.

Currently, Fenix Youth Project has a drop-in center specifically targeting homeless—or those at risk of homelessness—youth ages 13 through 24 and are building up the Rights of Passage Transitional Housing Program for young people in need. The drop-in center provides a place to go most of the day and evening and provides access to needs such as laundry care, food, resource navigation, peer support, personal care items, and a safe space. Beyond the drop-in center, Fenix Youth Project has plans for transitional housing for young people and is piloting a small program currently.

They partner with such organizations and programs as Wicomico Partnership for Families and Children, Salisbury Housing First, Lead4Life, Community Behavioral Health, and Shore Grace Family Wellness for funding and supportive services. However, greater funding is needed to access a larger residential space, which Green hopes could serve at least ten homeless young adults, and to expand hours in the drop-in center. 

Fundraising through the Sneaker Gala is one way the organization can further develop these community offerings. Green says their fundraising goal this year is $31,000, and they had raised over $4,000 before the end of July. Those interested in donating to expand these programs and take part in the Sneaker Gala have multiple options to do so, all listed on Fenix Youth Project’s website. Everything from bundles of tickets, meals, and marketing or event advertising to single ticket offerings are available. A special ticket price is listed for youth ages 25 and under. 

For those who want to support the causes and programming Fenix Youth Project brings to the lower shore, but can’t make it to the gala this year, the event page for the Sneaker Gala also has a link to donate.

“We understand that a lot of youth did not have the opportunity to celebrate prom or homecoming so we thought it would be great to do an end of the summer event that is specifically for youth, but also community members and donors to celebrate the end of the pandemic. It’s a way to start off the school year in a positive light,” Green explains.