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Education awareness is focus of Hamels' event

Hundreds help support pitcher and wife at their fifth annual charity fund-raiser

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Education awareness is focus of Hamels' event

PHILADELPHIA -- The message strewn across the T-shirt being given away depicted the evening's mantra: "Education Is The Answer."

Cole Hamels got the win at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon, but on Thursday night, he and his wife, Heidi, were different kinds of heroes. The couple played host to the fifth annual "Denim and Diamonds" charity event at Vie to benefit The Hamels Foundation.

Five hundred pro athletes, celebrities, corporate sponsors, businesses and generous individuals donned their favorite pair of jeans and enjoyed an evening of cocktails, dinner and a private concert featuring Lady Antebellum. Guests also had the opportunity to win diamonds and designer jeans and bid on a variety of auction items relating to restaurants, travel and designer accessories -- all in the name of raising funds and awareness for education.

According to The Foundation's website, it has a "dual purpose to provide support for quality education in the United States and establish a school in Malawi, Africa."

Many inner-city programs in Philadelphia have been given the building blocks for a strong education thanks to The Hamels Foundation. In 2013, that included grants to three schools for new musical instruments, library renovations and supplies for an art program.

"It's a great thing to be able to give support back to the community that's given us so much support on the field and to affect the lives of so many kids," Hamels said.

The website also spotlights a statistic: There are more than 1 million orphans due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Malawai. "The Hamels Foundation is dedicated to building a primary school (Grades 1-8) that will educate nearly 2,000 boys and girls in the Mulanje District of Malawi. The first step towards breaking the cycle of AIDS is education, as well as tending to basic needs such as shelter and food. Our goal is to provide the first step in improving the lives of thousands."

"Education can literally turn around this country," Heidi Hamels said.

"It's the backbone of who you are as a person and the knowledge that you have which really gets you out of situations or can propel you to achieve your dreams," Cole Hamels said. "If we're at least able to help get people to the starting point in that area, we feel like people can really go out there and better the world. Achieving their dreams a little bit more than what they're able to do right now."

Members of the Phillies organization showed up in full force on Thursday to support a cause that hits home for many of them.

"Everywhere I've gone, education has always been first. That was the biggest thing with my parents," outfielder Ben Revere said. "I couldn't go out and play with my friends or go play sports unless I had my homework done."

"Everything starts with education. I think you have to have that," said Larry Andersen, former Phils relief pitcher and one of the team's current radio broadcasters. "That's a big problem in the world right now, is that a lot people lack an education."

"It was a big deal in my family because my parents were the first two on both sides of the family to graduate from college," relief pitcher Mario Hollands said.

"School was absolutely the most important thing in my life growing up," infielder Reid Brignac said. "Without making good grades, there was no baseball. There was no sports. My parents were really strict on education being first. This is a great cause."

"Denim and Diamonds" is in its fifth year, but the event is still running on the same amount of steam that powered it during its inaugural year.

"That's everything," Heidi Hamels said. "The Philies from the top down provide that atmosphere.

"We're not out to change the world or change the school system. But really to be a key element in these kids' lives. And they can go, 'That person noticed me. That person noticed me.' That's all we're for. We're just here to support our community that really does support Cole everyday at the ball field."

Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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