Answers don’t come easily, and Malique Micenheimer knows that. But the former Fresno State running back found something that at least makes sense to him at a time when so much across this country just doesn’t.
It’s something that worked for him and he hopes will work for the community where he has spent the past five years, went to school, graduated, grew up. It walked right up to him one day and will be realized Aug. 19 on Live United Night as part of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies game that night at Chukchansi Park.
I want people to come together, not to ignore what’s going on in the world, but to set it aside for a couple of hours and enjoy peace, a setting of love, in an environment where you know you’re secure with your family, friends, associates.
Ex-Fresno State running back Malique Micenheimer on Live United Night, Aug. 19 at Chukchansi Park
Working for the minor-league team in group sales while pursuing a master’s in kinesiology/sports administration, Micenheimer called Robert DeLaRosa, the marketing director for the Fresno Madera United Way. It was a cold call. That’s the job – meeting, selling. Business owners. Charitable and neighborhood organizations. School and youth groups. They get a night out at the yard, a welcome message on the scoreboard. Maybe the home team wins, maybe not.
The initial response? DeLaRosa chuckled a bit. “I said, ‘Noooooo … my budget is so low I don’t even want to waste your time.’ ” DeLaRosa recalled. “But Malique, he was like, ‘Well, let’s talk and try to figure something out.’
“I told him, ‘Sure, no problem, but I know you’re in the business of making money,’ and he just said, ‘Maybe this is not the time to make money; maybe this is the time to do something for the community.’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
When they met, DeLaRosa was wearing a shirt bearing the United Way slogan: Live United.
It struck a chord in Micenheimer because of too much mistrust, too much unrest, in too many places.
“I want people to come together, not to ignore what’s going on in the world, but to set it aside for a couple of hours and enjoy peace, a setting of love, in an environment where you know you’re secure with your family, friends, associates,” he said. “In looking at the city of Fresno, a couple of weeks ago we had a couple of hundred protesters get together on the streets and walk the streets and whatnot, and I feel like it’s not the same in that aspect.
“We’re not coming here to protest; we’re just bringing people together in a positive light. It’s all about unity. With everything that’s going on, there’s so much separation and so much divide that we need something positive. We need togetherness. We need one.”
They hatched a plan for a Live United Night.
It became something bigger than what we initially planned, but that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It’s really good timing as far as what’s going on within the United States right now.
Andrew Hacnik, Fresno Grizzlies inside sales manager
“We thought it would be a cool way for everyone to get together and be together, especially with all the stuff going on in the world,” DeLaRosa said.
Micenheimer took it to the Grizzlies, who gave him the freedom to run with it – something he has done before, and not just on the football field.
As a student-athlete at Fresno State, Micenheimer was involved a number of community service projects. He was in the Big Heroes/Little Heroes program at Children’s Hospital, which is coordinated by the Rotary Club. He read to elementary school students.
“He’s one of the guys that just got it. He understands the big picture,” said Terence Wan, the former academic adviser for the football program who helped coordinate community service projects. He is now in the advising and career development center for Jordan College on campus.
“He’s a really ambitious guy, and he really knows how to communicate with companies and organizations really well, and once he sat down with them, he realized that there was something a little bit bigger there, something here we could partner up with them,” said Andrew Hacnik, the Grizzlies’ inside sales manager.
“It just grew from there. It became something bigger than what we initially planned, but that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It’s really good timing as far as what’s going on within the United States right now. To be honest, we were looking to do something bigger for next season, but we were able to pull something off for this year, so it has been really nice.”
For Live United Night, when the Grizzlies will host Omaha, the team has added a championship hat giveaway along with a voucher for a ticket to a game on its final homestand. For every ticket sold, $3 will go to the Fresno Madera United Way.
Micenheimer, Hacnik said, turned a cold call into a community event, which is what they all want to see at Chukchansi Park. They have reached out to church and community groups and law enforcement.
“For me, I feel like Fresno is composed of people who come here for many different reasons, whether it be for school, whether it be for job opportunities or housing, because it’s a lot better price than Northern California or Southern California, so I feel like people need to embrace Fresno as their home and as a community we need to be together,” Micenheimer said.
“This event is that. It’s an opportunity to show other people in Fresno this is how we feel about our city. This is a message of love. This is peace. This is not hate and things like that are going on in other places. It’s an opportunity to come together and show everybody that we’re one.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
Live United Night
FRESNO GRIZZLIES VS. OMAHA
- Aug. 19: 7:05 p.m. at Chukchansi Park
- Ticket information: bit.ly/Grizzlies-UnitedWay