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BET Awards 2017 | Shine A Light Award Honorees

BET Awards 2017 honors Michael and Martellus Bennett for their exceptional accomplishments.

PUBLISHED ON : JUNE 25, 2017 / 09:01 PM


Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, Michael grew up in a lower income area and witnessed family and friends struggle with obesity and staying healthy. When he entered the NFL, rigorous performance training taught him the importance of eating nutritiously and how vital it is not only to maintaining fitness, but overall well-being.

The year after he established his first free football camp, Michael attended a round table meeting in Hawaii’s capital. The camp had shown him that there was a need for nutrition education in Hawaii, and he wanted to figure out what could be done. Some people talked about five-year plans, but Michael couldn’t wait that long. Promising to implement something sooner, he quickly organized three cooking demonstrations, a football camp, and the very first OCEAN Health Fest in three months with the help of The Bennett Foundation team.

Eventually, Michael and Pele established The Bennett Foundation with their three daughters, Peyton, Blake, and Ollie, adopting O.C.E.A.N.’s programming to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. The Bennett Foundation educates underserved children and communities through free, accessible programming in Hawaii, Washington, and Texas. The Foundation’s O.C.E.A.N. Health Fest impacts thousands of people each year by offering free health screenings, fitness activities, cooking demonstrations, and much more.

Bennett Foundation King County Youth Service Center Photo: Alika Jenner

Currently, The Bennett Foundation is fostering partnerships with The Hope Heart Institute, Seattle Tilth, and Washington Green Schools, the Interagency Academy, and developing the Bennett Bite Cooking Show in partnership with Safeway. Through these ongoing efforts, The Bennett Foundation empowers parents, and provides children with tools to lead healthier lives.


One of the top tight ends in the National Football League, Martellus Bennett’s talents extend well beyond the football field -- he’s a renaissance man in a league of his own. Bennett is an entrepreneur, animator, illustrator, author, app creator, creator, dreamer and much more. 

In 2014 Bennett founded his now 7-person company, The Imagination Agency, a multi-media creative production company focused on children’s literature, entertainment and education. The Imagination Agency’s mission is to inspire children to chase their dreams and encourage creativity, all while embracing their own individuality. For his work with The Imagination Agency, Bennett was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Sports list and he delivered a keynote address at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. 

Through the agency, Bennett wrote, illustrated and published his first book in 2016, Hey A.J., It’s Saturday, as well as its own free interactive companion app. 

Bennett’s inspiration behind the Hey A.J. book series first stemmed from his now three year old daughter Jett, when he discovered that none of the characters in the books represented her. He wanted to make a difference by creating literature that African American children could relate to, so he decided to take matters in his own hands. 

Since then, the NFL super star and Super Bowl winner has been working on an animated series, a second book from the Hey A.J. series called Hey A.J. It’s Bedtime and a host of other creative projects. Hey A.J. It’s Saturday is set for release in August 2017. 

Bennett’s creative force also transcends into the world of music; he recently dropped a five-track EP, I’m Not A Rapper But Some of My Friends Are, featuring BoxTony, David Allen Dope, Keith Jacobs, Low Down and Franchise Tief. The well-reviewed EP follows his first ever mixtape, Year of the Orange Dinosaur, which made its debut in 2014.