Mackenzie Lewis has worked at Red Ventures for almost 4 years as a Workforce Manager (and occasional Emcee for companywide events). Outside of work, he enjoys playing as much basketball as one human possibly can and spending time with his dog, Ro (short for Roanoke, VA – his hometown).
Oh — he also founded and currently leads “Y Me?” a nonprofit mentorship program committed to supporting young adults in low-performing schools and empowering them to reach their goals.
A few weeks ago, Mack successfully raised $3,000 for the program and even got 40 RVers involved in his cause. How? Like this:
It’s called Ping Pong. EVER HEARD OF IT?
Q: Congratulations again! To back up a bit – how did all of this get started?
A: Well, if we want to go WAY back – last September I volunteered with my good friend, Javin Daniels, at one “Back-to-School” event which supported kids at Thomasboro Academy in West Charlotte. As we were leaving, an older man approached us and said something to me that I’ll never forget:
“I think it’s great what you brothers are doing, but if you never come back again you’ll be doing these children more disservice than good.”
It hit me hard, because I realized just how right he was. Unfortunately, one of the only things these kids can count on to be constant in their lives is false promises. They see many more people drift in and out of their lives than those who remain constant. So, Javin and I decided we’d return to Thomasboro the following Friday – and we’ve been back every Friday since.
Q: And that volunteer time eventually evolved into launching your own nonprofit program, “Y Me?”
A: Right. We started YMe? because we noticed that several major life issues – like how to resolve simple conflicts, sex education, financial literacy – just weren’t being covered in school, and the kids needed a place to learn and talk about these things. Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe space for kids to ask tough questions, get advice from mentors they trust, and not have to deal with these issues alone.
Q: How many students do you mentor now?
A: Currently, we have 15 young men enrolled in our program. For now, we like being able to focus on a smaller group while we’re still building out the program and figuring out what works. A few weeks ago, I submitted a community involvement request at Red Ventures to see if we could raise any money to help expand our program’s activities – and that’s how the Ping Pong Tournament happened.
Mackenzie, Javin, and the whole Y Me? group at Thomasboro Elementary.
Q: Yeah… explain that part though.
A: Haha, so I can’t actually take credit for the idea. Ryan Ratcliffe and John Kirkpatrick (my coworkers at RV) approached me and pitched a companywide Ping Pong Tournament. They both already knew about my work with Y Me? and thought this would be a really fun way to raise awareness and get RV employees involved. Obviously, I agreed, and it turned out to be a huge success.
Q: Wait a minute – Ryan Ratcliffe – who made it all the way to the final championship game – was the one who came up with the idea? Sounds fishy.
A: Oh no, Ryan takes his ping pong VERY seriously. He put in a ton of practice before the title match and was super nervous, but rightfully so considering his competition. I mean – the new RV Ping Pong Champ, Matt Martinez, is known for playing with his wallet in place of a paddle sometimes!
The single most intense ping pong championship ever witnessed at RV.
Q: One last thing. Everyone saw the official “big check” presentation – but not many people saw behind the scenes, when you first found out how much money you’d raised. Can you tell us about that moment?
A: That moment was LIFE! I have kind of a reputation here for being a talker, but I was genuinely at a loss for words and completely overcome with emotion. I still can’t believe it. Just the fact that people believe in what we’re trying to accomplish with Y Me? with these children… and everyone was so generous in donating to our cause…. See? I’m still speechless!
(Mackenzie, Matt, Ryan, and John: RV Rockstars/Ping Pong Masters)
Q: Congratulations again! We can’t wait to see what Y Me? does next!
A: Thank you! This whole experience has been fascinating and an awesome learning experience. We are so grateful to everyone who participated in the tournament and to Ryan and John for sharing their brilliant idea with me (and for dedicating a lot of time and energy to this thing). Being able to raise money and do more for the kids is one thing, but being able to show them that people genuinely care about their future – that’s something really special.