Some residents of Michael Vick's hometown are preparing a "celebration" for the former NFL quarterback, and Vick is expected to make an appearance at the event, an organizer said Friday.
The event is being sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC chapter president in Vick's hometown of Newport News, Andrew Shannon, said Vick is scheduled to speak at the event intended to promote Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings of nonviolence.
"We believe (Vick) has made atonement and we are hopeful that the public at large gives this young man a chance to move forward with his life," Shannon said.
He said he expects anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people to attend the family oriented event, which will feature face painting, pony rides, music and other festivities. Retailer DTLR was also among the organizers.
"It was his idea," John Eley, one of the organizers, told The Associated Press on Friday. "Vick wanted to give back to the community, like he always does."
The Aug. 8 event will include Vick, who grew up on the city's tough east side, Eley said. He said the city was providing a tent and chairs for the "Michael Vick Community Celebration."
Andrew Shannon, the local SCLC president, did not immediately return telephone messages left by The Associated Press. Calls and e-mails to Vick's attorneys and his family also were not returned.
Vick has been conditionally reinstated in the NFL after completing a 23-month federal sentence for running a dogfighting ring.
Eley said many in Newport News have remained loyal to Vick, who he said donated toys and sports uniforms to needy children in the community as his fortunes rose in the NFL.
"He's an awesome guy," said Eley, a hair stylist who described himself as a friend. "I think he deserves a second chance. We all make mistakes."
Eley said Vick's interest in the celebration was inspired, in part, by a "Community Hug for Michael Vick," a July 2007 event that was intended to show the city's solidarity with Vick. About 100 people attended.
It was held the same month Vick and three others were charged with federal dogfighting charges.