Nonprofit helps Atlanta youth experience the arts and sports through donated tickets

Student Zuri Nicole Byrd talks about seeing MJ The Musical as part of the MVK. (Photos by Terry Berger Photography)

Zuri Nicole Byrd, a student at Atlanta Youth Academy, has seen 10 shows through Most Valuable Kids’ of Greater Atlanta’s (MVK) partnership with The Power of Girls. Her favorite, so far, is the Michael Jackson-themed MJ The Musical because she met the cast after the show.

“MVK is fueling my passion for my future and my interest in the arts,” Byrd shared with 200+ attendees at MVK’s April 10 fundraiser at The Temple that raised more than $40,000.

Since 2017, MVK has distributed 62,000 tickets for sporting events, plays, ballets, museums, and more – each with an inspiring story like Byrd’s.

We allow kids to dream big by accessing donated tickets,”said co-founder Susan Banner.

Banner brought the MVK model to Atlanta in 2017 after the Thomasville Heights Boys & Girls Club director expressed concern that the Atlanta Braves move to Cobb County might preclude their youth from attending games.

MVK collects available tickets from season ticket holders, teams, venues, corporations and other partners and uses donor funds to purchase tickets at discounted prices to give to youth age 18 and under, distributed through its 120 school and nonprofit partners, like The Power of Girls.

The Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy Pink Steel Drumline performed at the MVK event.

“We are able to show girls cultural events and sports through trips to the theaters and other activities,” said Tameka Kee, The Power of Girls founder. “This opens theirs eyes to their unlimited possibilities. They cannot be what they don’t see.”

The April 10 celebration, chaired by Karen Luscher and Justine Rubin, included a video greeting from bestselling author-photographer Kate T. Parker. She shared insights from her book Force of Nature, which uses images to “celebrate kids for who they really are,” including Byrd’s friends from The Power of Girls. 

To further pump up the crowd, the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy Pink Steel Drumline performed. Thanks to two MVK donors, six lucky middle school students from the Academy and two chaperones received floor seat tickets to Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour last September.

MVK Board Members Denise Smith and Patricia Townsend presented the MVK Impact Award to Regions Bank Broadway in Atlanta for providing nearly 10,000 tickets to 44 different Broadway productions at the Fox Theatre over the past six years.

“The Broadway Across America mission is to be an organization that welcomes all,” said Russ Belin, Southeast Region Vice President of Broadway Across America who accepted the award. “Thinking about how impactful it is for these kids to share such an important experience with people from all different backgrounds, cheering and laughing together in the audience, is really at the heart of what we do.”

 MVK of Greater Atlanta Board Members

Longtime Braves fan William Hoyt has stepped up, too. Since 2017, he’s shared the magic of baseball with nearly 900 youth and their chaperones.

“I get thank you notes from the kids regularly,” Hoyt said. And there’s a greater chance of a Braves victory when MVK youth are at the ballpark, per MVK.

Each thank you tells a story.

“We recently heard from a Girl Scout from Ebenezer Baptist Church who attended the new Atlanta Vibe pro volleyball game,” said Dana Hudepohl, MVK board member. “She thought she was too short for volleyball, but after she saw a pro player her height, she felt inspired to keep working hard to make her volleyball dream come true.”

What’s less known, is that MVK goes beyond tickets. When live events shut down during the pandemic, the nonprofit started distributing donated books and quarts of soup from Souper Jenny’s Zadie Project to families in need. This practice still continues today.

Just last year, the nonprofit distributed nearly 13,000 tickets, 4,000 quarts of soup and 3,000 books to youth through its school and nonprofit network.

“Mayor Andre Dickens named 2023 ‘ATL Year of the Youth’,” Banner said. “We will continue honoring youth by connecting as many as we can to experience their first event or first time at a venue. Join with us to inspire youth one ticket at a time!”

Find out more and Donate tickets or funds at

Co-founders Susan and Brian Banner speak at the MVK event at The Temple.

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