Chicago Bulls Star Joakim Noah Spreads Message of Nonviolence

The relationship between mothers and sons is always special, and Chicago Bulls’ star Joakim Noah and his mother Cecilia Rodhe are building upon their close relationship to make a difference in Noah’s adopted hometown of Chicago and beyond.

Shortly after Noah signed with the Bulls and moved to the Windy City, he and Rodhe combined forces and talents to form the nonprofit Noah’s Arc Foundation.

“I was so thrilled that giving back was essential to him so early on in his career. For him to want to do this at 22 years old was wonderful,” says Rodhe. “I was honored that he asked me, and it made me feel very content as a parent that something had stuck. It’s been a joy and a pleasure and a challenge, too.”

Noah’s Arc represents the passions of both mother and son. Rodhe, a former Miss Sweden, is a renowned sculptor and certified expressive art therapist; Noah is an NBA superstar. The foundation is dedicated to helping children develop a stronger sense of self, and does so by offering both after-school sports and weekly art classes to children on Chicago’s West Side, an area that has been greatly impacted by gun violence.

“The foundation focuses on giving kids a peaceful outlet to express themselves positively and constructively, whether that’s on the court or in the art studio,” says Shannon Pagels, Executive Director of Noah’s Arc Foundation. Although sports and the arts are very different, Pagels explains that they can offer similar benefits to kids, including a positive outlet for expression, an environment where kids can make and achieve goals. Both activities also present a chance to build relationships and be mentored by caring adults.

After years of making an impact locally, the foundation is branching out to reach a wider audience with the Drop of Consciousness. The Drop of Consciousness was originally a marble sculpture Rodhe created for an exhibition at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. She has now adapted it to be a pendant that is available at

More than just a pendant, Rodhe and Noah have launched the Rock Your Drop movement, using it as a symbol of unity in the face of senseless gun violence.

Photo courtesy of Noah’s Arc Foundation

“Children are being killed for no reason, and so many ask, ‘What can I do?’ Everyone can wear a drop and be unified in the pain and struggle,” says Rodhe. “It is a way of joining forces to bring awareness and consciousness and give kids something positive to do.”

The pendant is teardrop shaped, and part of it is smooth to represent love, while a portion of it is rough, which is symbolic of pain, including that caused by gun violence. “The drop of consciousness is a symbol of unity, positive change and peace. We want people all over to wear it and share that message because gun violence impacts everyone, wherever you are,” explains Pagels.

The pendant is offered at different price points to make it accessible to all. Profits from the sale of the pendants will fund programs offered by Noah’s Arc.

Noah’s Arc will host a Mother’s Day program for mothers who have lost children to gun violence. The day will focus on healing and will include an art workshop led by Rodhe.

“The event will be a wonderful way for the world to see them and hear from them,” says Rodhe. “I have so much respect for these mothers who have gone through so much. How they rise up from the ashes is so admirable. I am deeply touched by this opportunity to listen and learn from them.”

Learning is a key part of Rock Your Drop and the Noah’s Arc Foundation.

“We need to learn from each other. We all have red blood and a heart and feel most of the same things. Noah’s Arc’s programs are about opening doors to the inside, [and]vfor kids to know there is no limit to creativity. We want to normalize that it is okay to speak your truth.”

Noah at a Joy of the Game Basketball ProCamp in October 2014. (Photo by Kathryn Hastings Photography.)

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