CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Charlotte Convention Center was host to hundreds in attendance as the Charlotte 49ers Athletic Foundation hosted the Ninth Annual Let Me Play Luncheon earlier Thursday afternoon.

The luncheon was held on the 40th anniversary of Title IX. A strong presence of current and former student-athletes, business executives, and Charlotte alumni packed the room to embrace the importance athletic participation can play in the development of young women.

Catherine Bessant, Global Technology & Operations executive at Bank of America, served as the event's chair this year and delivered the keynote address which discussed the importance that sports played in both her professional and personal life.

Dr. Sharonda Johnson LeBlanc, a former Charlotte track and field All-American delivered a message from a student-athlete perspective which entailed how sports gave her the confidence to become successful in nanoscale science.

"This event is very special to me," said Judy Rose, Director of Athletics. "We've been able to educate women who never knew the importance of what athletics can do for somebody other than just playing the game. They've seen how sports have added to qualities of time management, discipline, and other attributes and they keep coming back each year in support of this great effort."

Since Title IX was enacted in 1972 the picture of collegiate sports has changed. There are more women's sports programs, more women serving in administrative positions at the collegiate level, more financial opportunities for female athletes, more females competing in sports and more female coaches. This results in the need for additional funding to help support women's collegiate sports.

Last year, the luncheon raised in excess of $102,000 for the 49ers women's athletic program. With the help and generosity of countless individuals and groups, Charlotte has raised more than $722,000 for the women's athletic program through the first eight years of this event.

For more information about the Let Me Play event, please visit

The Let Me Play Luncheon is one of three major fundraisers hosted by the Athletic Foundation each year. In the spring, the 49ers host the 49er Club Golf Outing and the Great Gold Rush Auction.