Behind the Scenes at Cam Newton's Charity Kickball Weekend – See the Exclusive Photos!
NFL Quarterback Cam Newton has had his share of personal milestones in the past few weeks.
First, there was the news that he had signed a five-year, $103.8 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, catapulting him into A-list NFL territory.
Then, if that weren’t enough, Newton talked with PEOPLE about fulfilling a promise to his mother to complete his degree at Auburn University.
On Friday, Newton had yet another milestone. His charitable outreach, The Cam Newton Foundation, held its second annual charity weekend, beginning with a celebrity kickball tournament in downtown Charlotte.
“It’s the ultimate field day,” Newton tells PEOPLE. “Kickball is competitive, but fun. Men and women can play it. It’s fun, energetic and relaxed.”
While fans were initially supposed to pay $5 to watch the tournament, Newton decided to waive the fee and make the event free to the public.
Newton, 26, was joined by former NFL players Bo Jackson, Eddie George and Warren Moon to play the schoolyard game to raise money to help disadvantaged youth. (The foundation has several programs, including mentoring, sports and SAT prep.)
There were 12 teams, each with a celebrity participant. The event, which was free to the public, lasted more than 10 hours in nearly 100-degree heat. To keep the crowd engaged, the NFL players took to the stands, passing out Gatorade, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
There was also another benefit to kickball: It’s the perfect sport for trash talk. “It’s fun to try to distract people as they play,” says Newton. (He’s right. Bo Jackson is merciless with trash talk. And Newton gives it right back to him. They really need their own sitcom.)
The next evening, Newton traded his cleats for a tuxedo at the gala, which raised more money for the foundation’s programs. About 300 people attended the black-tie event, learning more about the charity and celebrating its milestones.
The evening included a banter-filled live auction by Newton and ESPN anchor Trey Wingo.
The event culminated with a live performance by Gavin DeGraw, who supplemented his own catalog with impromptu renditions of old Motown hits.
For his part, Newton was thrilled with the event.
“The entire point of the foundation is to give kids opportunities that they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Newton tells PEOPLE. “Obviously, my influence has been in the Atlanta region where I was born, and in my second home of Charlotte, North Carolina. But there is need everywhere, all around America.”
According to Newton, there’s one overriding philosophy for his charity work. “Everyone matters,” he says. “We want kids to know that everyone has the power and ability to succeed, and we want to help them.”