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NCAA names Women’s Final Four Cleveland 2024 Legends and Legacy Community Award recipients

Gail Dent, NCAA

The NCAA has named five individuals in the Cleveland area as its 2024 Legends and Legacy Community Award recipients. The award recognizes activists who commit their time, resources and influence to improve and invest in their communities. The honor is given in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four, which will be held April 5 and 7 in Cleveland.

The Legends and Legacy Award acknowledges and celebrates individuals who are making a difference in and around their city. The honorees exemplify selflessness, strive for excellence, and render extraordinary and valuable service within their local community. They have had a major impact on athletics, gender equity, government, health and safety, higher education and/or social justice in their communities and field of work. 

"A review of the bios of the 2024 Legends and Legacy recipients reinforces that concerned citizens positively impact our world every day," said Felicia Martin, NCAA senior vice president of inclusion, education and community engagement. "These deserving honorees dedicate their talent and resources and commit hours to causes and issues that impact their neighbors here in the Greater Cleveland area. Their philanthropic efforts are the best examples of investing in your local community and leading with purpose. Congratulations to each 2024 Legends & Legacy recipient.”

The Legends and Legacy Award is given annually at both the NCAA Women's and Men's Final Fours. Honorees are featured on NCAA communications platforms, celebrated at a special ceremony and acknowledged at one of the Final Four games during halftime.  

The NCAA inclusion, education and community engagement division has leveraged the March Madness platform to elevate the importance of service and helping others as a core value of the Association. Recognizing that basketball is an environment for broad representation and elite competition, the award focuses on bridging communities and businesses in conjunction with the Final Four experience.

The 2024 NCAA Women's Final Four Legends and Legacy Community Award honorees are:

• Barbara Anthony. Anthony is a licensed clinical social worker and the co-founder and executive director of Play Gap, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing opportunities and connections in sports for adult women. Anthony's commitment to advancing equitable spaces in sports for women of all ages stems from growing up in a family of athletes that encouraged her to embrace all types of competition and roles in sport. Her grandfather, a Youngstown-area coach, ran an open gym for adults to play pickup basketball. From a young age, Anthony would visit often and help out. 

Empowered by these experiences, Anthony has served as a youth coach of various sports, incorporated athlete well-being into her social work career and has become an advocate for safe spaces in sports for all. In 2020, Anthony and Elise Bigley formed Play Gap to create connections for adult women to experience the physical, social and mental health benefits of sports. The volunteer organization evolved to also address the challenges experienced by adult women in sports. 

Additionally, Anthony is part of the 2024 cohort for the International Olympic Committee's Mental Health in Elite Sport Diploma Program. She earned Academic All-American honors in water polo at Mercyhurst and today belongs to a Cleveland-based rowing team.

• David Gilbert. Gilbert is the president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, an organization dedicated to making Greater Cleveland a foremost destination for amateur sporting events and activities, and Destination Cleveland, the region's destination marketing and management organization. Through his leadership, the sports commission has attracted over 210 events, including the NFL Draft, MLB All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Weekend and NCAA Women's Final Four, in addition to the upcoming 2024 Pan-American Masters Games. 

Gilbert also leads his Destination Cleveland team to carry out the organization's mission of stimulating economic growth by attracting people and connecting them to experiences that illustrate Cleveland's diversity, creativity and contagious passion. Under his leadership, efforts to promote Cleveland as an exciting, vibrant destination have contributed to a 20-percent rise in visitors and a 40-percent increase in visitor-generated direct sales. 

Gilbert also dedicates his time to local organizations and serves on national and international boards of directors. He has been recognized with numerous honors, including being selected as one of Cleveland's "30 influencers of the past 30 years," as Entrepreneur of the Year and as a Cleveland Business Executive of the Year. He earned his marketing degree from Ohio State and his MBA from Cleveland State. 

• Matt Kaulig. Kaulig is the executive chairman of Kaulig Companies Limited, a diverse spectrum of businesses, spanning sports and entertainment, marketing and events, private equity, real estate and philanthropy with a focus on children and families. His sports ventures include Kaulig Racing, a multicar NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series team, and he is a minority owner of the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, as well as the sponsor of the PGA Championship Tour Kaulig Companies Championship. 

Kaulig is also an award-winning entrepreneur, business owner and philanthropist. Additionally, he is the founder of Leaf Home, a contractor business he started out of his home in 2005, which is now one of the largest direct-to-consumer home products companies in the United States and Canada. Kaulig's philanthropy work is also notable, as he has been a major contributor to the Cleveland area since his college days, when he led the Akron football team at quarterback. 

He is the founder of Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs, which has over 300 nonprofit partnerships that focus on children and families in need. Supporting the well-being of children and developing partnerships with like-minded nonprofits are key to Kaulig, who believes one of the best investments that can be made is in children, as our future depends on their leadership. 

• Renee Powell. Powell is the head golf professional at Clearview Golf Club and a former player on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. Considered by many to be one of the world's most recognized ambassadors for diversity in golf, Powell is the second Black woman to compete on the LPGA Tour and has set several milestones. She is the first female golfer to receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree in the 600-year-plus history of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and her name is chiseled into the stone of one of its campus facilities, Powell Hall. She is also one of seven women named an honorary member of the 260-year-old Royal & Ancient Golf Club. 

Additionally, Clearview Golf Club named its Powell Education Building in her parents' honor. Powell's father, William, designed and built the course in 1946 with the help of her mother, Marcella. Today, Renee and her brother, Larry, a lifetime member of the Golf Superintendents of America, carry the torch. 

Powell was a captain for Ohio State's women's golf team prior to joining the LPGA Tour. She competed in 250 professional tournaments worldwide and was the first woman named head professional at a private golf course, Silvermere, in the United Kingdom. Completing her tour career, she taught golf in Africa and Europe and later returned home as a PGA Head Professional at Clearview, which is a member of the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, Powell founded Clearview HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the nation's first year-round all-female veterans rehabilitative golf program.

• Ron Soeder. Soeder is a widely respected community leader who has proven effective in leading successful youth programs. As director of the telos leadership foundation, he leads the team to deliver unique leadership development experiences for underserved youth in an effort to help them develop into positive and emotionally and socially aware leaders. 

Prior to telos, Soeder was president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland for 14 years after spending nearly three decades as a senior executive in the consumer products industry. Through his dynamic leadership and passion, Soeder helped transform the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland into a powerful, life-enhancing force for young people. During his tenure, the organization achieved significant growth and was able to double the number of children served. Soeder also played an instrumental role in merging BGC organizations in three neighboring counties, completing one of the largest mergers in BGCA history. With the merger, the new organization had 39 clubs and served more than 2,000 children and teens. 

Soeder, who holds a bachelor's degree from Baldwin Wallace, considers servant leadership an important part of his makeup. As a mentor to young people, he is respectful and supportive, and challenges them to reach their full potential. 

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