HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Girls Inc. of Huntsville celebrated 50 years of teaching young girls in the community to be strong, smart and bold on Thursday.

A ‘sneaker gala’ culminated the golden anniversary and its Fuel Her Fire campaign to highlight the success stories of Girls Inc. participants while raising much-needed funds for the organization.

The gala ended with a panel starring a 23-time grand slam champion who knows all about being strong, smart and bold — Serena Williams.

A familiar welcome of cheers and applause filled the Von Braun Center as Williams joined Girls Inc. of Huntsville for their celebration.

Girls Inc. member Nena Thomas said, “I think she represents that just by the way she carries herself. Whenever she’s doing her sport or just when she’s doing interviews you can tell that she’s very confident in herself and that shows that she’s very confident and bold.”

Jas Larue and four other Girls Inc. members joined Williams on stage and asked questions about her newfound fuel as a mom and businesswoman.

“What I like about Serena is she’s really smart, strong and bold,” Jas said.

The Fuel Her Fire sneaker gala brought hundreds of attendees in support of the Girls Inc. campaign to raise $500,000 to fund STEM and economic and financial literacy programs.