PBLA Gala 2020

Eight highlights of the yearly celebration and fundraiser


Saturday evening under the bright lights of the Ritz-Carlton ballroom in Denver, Phillip Lindsay and Chauncey Billups sat in front of 400 people who soaked in their every word. 

Having grown up in the same at-risk neighborhood of northeast Denver, the Broncos running back and the former NBA All-Star addressed attendees of the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy Gala with a message of thankfulness — for arriving at such positions of influence. 

The high-profile pair expressed how fortunate they were to have parents who taught them the life lessons they needed to be successful. They know many students of PBLA — now in its 24th year teaching leadership skills to at-risk Denver youth — aren’t so lucky. 

“A lot of people don’t have two-parent households,” Lindsay, the gala’s keynote speaker, said. “A lot of people don’t have that father figure or that mother figure, someone to tell them ‘no.’ But with [programs like PBLA], you have that. You have someone there that’s with you, that wants you to do well. That makes a big difference in a kid’s life.”

Here are eight reasons why Saturday’s gala was important in affirming Lindsay’s message and supporting PBLA’s mission to boost the next generation of Denver youth. 

“[PBLA offers] high-powered education, and it makes all the difference in the world for these students,” said Regis University President John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J. “We want to be part of that. That’s the mission of Regis.”
1. The gala raised roughly $275,000 to provide leadership and academic training to at-risk youth. “If these kids could [only] see what you’re doing — it’s going to make a world of difference for them,” Lindsay said.

2. The gala offered examples of athletes using their influence for good. Billups and Lindsay spoke about how the sports platform helps them serve as humble role models for Denver-area youngsters. “Basketball was really just a vehicle in my life to get me to a place of influence, where I can now go back and give back, and reach the next generation,” Billups said.

3. The entire Denver community had an opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the impact PBLA has made on the Denver community for 24 years. PBLA co-founder and director Staci Porter-Bentley remembered the program’s first year in 1996, when her father and PBLA co-founder Lonnie Porter shuttled students to the academy himself. “We believed — actually, we knew — our kiddos would go on to become doctors, accountants, nurses, teachers, athletes and business owners, and our prayers were answered,” Porter-Bentley said.

4. Current PBLA students expressed the impact of a program that has taught them that their future is wide open. “PBLA is an escape from the reality we have to the reality we can have,” said 10th-grade PBLA student Navaeh Mitchell. 

5. Leaders from across the Denver area graced the evening to lend their support. Guests included state Sen. Rhonda Fields, former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, Shortline Auto Group President Don Hicks and Regis University President John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J. “[PBLA offers] high-powered education, and it makes all the difference in the world for these students,” Fitzgibbons said. “We want to be part of that. That’s the mission of Regis.” 

6. The program included auction items that allowed guests to support PBLA by bidding on life-changing experiences. Along with items such as signed sports jerseys, luxury gift baskets and tickets to citywide events, auction items included airfare and accommodations for destinations such as Las Vegas, Breckenridge, Aspen and more. 

7. PBLA’s recent success is astounding. One hundred percent of PBLA students have graduated from high school, and 158 have gone on to attend colleges and universities — including 31 who have graduated from Regis University.

8. The support raised at the gala helps the Regis University community enact its mission to inspire men and women who serve others. “I think PBLA epitomizes the mission of Regis and the Jesuits. To support PBLA is to support everything Regis is about,” Regis University lifetime trustee and former board chair Bill Fortune said.