It's Game Day. Vashon Jordan, head coach at Howe Elementary, expects the soccer team to have a great attitude before they play Lloyd Elementary. Shin guards, black shorts, and a crisp, white shirts embroidered with the Urban Initiatives logo completes their uniform. The team sprints out onto the field with a swagger unlike anyone has ever seen. They were born champions!
“Hey Coach Andy,” David said, bouncing into practice on Monday morning. “Someone threw trash all over the field again.” The coach expressed his similar disappointment, but that didn’t stop David. “If you need someone to clean it up again, I would be delighted.”
David was referring to the park cleanup two days before in Cornell Square Park, where the Daley soccer team and parents joined forces with new Coach Across America coaches to plant flowers, paint murals, and pick up trash at the park the Daley team calls home. This park cleanup improved the neighborhood asset in the park while at the same time giving the Daley team an opportunity to serve.
On April 10th and 11th Urban Initiatives partnered with Coach Across America to help launch an initiative in which Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) will commit $1.3 million dollars in 2012 to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA to fund and place 250 coaches in five U.S cities, approximately 40 of which will be in Chicago. These coaches will be trained and placed in various sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods by Coach Across America. These coaches will provide mentorship to 40,000 youth across 125 local communities, much like the three Coach Across America Coaches already with Urban Initiatives.
A great group of volunteers from PwC recently received the opportunity to run around and talk about teamwork with Work to Play soccer players from Walsh, Attucks and Morton at Chicago Indoor Sports. PwC volunteers rode a bus together to the Indoor Center, giving them a taste of the experience our players receive on game days. They also received the opportunity to learn about the Work to Play program and all of the hard work our players put in to enjoy these special Friday afternoons.
As the 88 m.p.h. sinker flew toward the plate all eyes inside Wrigley Field were focused on Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair. But no eyes were more focused than those of brothers and Goethe Elementary Work to Play students Ricky and Tyler. With his teammate on third base Bryan did what he does best, swung his bat with all of his power and launched a towering sacrifice fly, putting the Cubs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Ricky, Tyler, their Mother Monica and Father Richard all cheered loudly for Bryan and continued to throughout the entire game.
The wheels on the bus go round and round…all the way to the Bronzeville Childrens Museum! On a beautiful spring day while the older students were focused on ISAT testing, the Libby kindergarteners were engaged in some real active learning.
One exhibit, called “You Are What You Eat” introduced kids to the 5 food groups and the importance of physical activity. It also featured the “Wall of Firsts” which highlighted the achievements of various prominent African American Chicagoans. Kids talked about how they can keep their bodies healthy now so that they can grow up and become and inspiration to others. After a lively presentation and craft activity, students had free time to play on all kinds of kid-friendly exercise equipment.
More than 750 guests attended Urban Initiatives’ sixth annual Soccer Ball fundraiser on January 27th at Chicago’s River East Art Center. It was an enchanted evening of mingling for many Chicago professionals, young and old alike, who were swaying to the cool sounds of DJ Duncan and devouring the innovative culinary concoctions and specialty cocktails of J&L Catering. Additional delectable treats flowed thanks to event sponsors Goose Island, Beam, Storck and Cabot. The event broke the Urban Initiatives' previous records for attendance and corporate/private sponsorships, and raised more than $250,000 for its health and education soccer programs.
“What is y’all thinking? Why are you doing that? You need to pick that up and do your homework,” the coach snapped. The offenders did their best to look ashamed, each beginning to pick up the crumpled pieces of paper on the ground.
“Hold on, I can handle this,” said another coach. “You guys know what the soccer team is about. You need to do well in school and eat healthy. You know that.” Pointing to a completely shredded assignment, “you probably need a new one,” the coach finished.
The action abruptly stopped, and the circle of kids and adults burst into laughs, cheers and applause. This role play activity capped off Urban Initiatives’ first celebration for our 5th-8th grade players, now officially called mentor-coaches.
This Fall, the NCAA hosted its annual regional Student-Athlete Leadership Forum. The goal of this forum is to “engage a diverse and dynamic representation of student-athletes, coaches, faculty and administrators and provide pertinent and customized sessions that will enhance personal awareness and leadership skills needed to impact student-athlete development at the campus and conference level, and beyond the collegiate realm.” One facet of this forum was a community service project in which over three hundred NCAA student-athletes worked with 40 of Urban Initiatives' student-athletes to make hand-made blankets and audio cards to be donated to the Salvation Army for children in need. This community service project was known as the “Inspire Future Leaders – Blanket Give Away”.
On Saturday December 3rd, Urban Initiatives participants got a chance of a lifetime when they received Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) tickets at Allstate Arena, got a backstage tour, and met the lead performers. Urban Initiatives was the charity partner for the 2011 TSO event presented by Storck USA. To kick off the show, TSO and Storck presented Urban Initiatives with the check for $16,447. It was an honor for all involved.
On July 23rd, 150 Urban Initiatives participants attended an unforgettable match between the Chicago Fire and Manchester United at Soldier Field. These tickets were generously donated by the Chicago Fire Foundation and allowed teams from four UI schools to attend - those schools were Prieto Academy, Claremont Academy, Tarkington School and Daley Academy.
On Halloween night over 400 people came to Ohm Nightclub for a Halloween celebration in support of Urban Initiatives. In total, the event raised over $8,700 for our health and education soccer program. Once again the costume contest was a tough race but Sam Sustarich and Alison Kuczwara won first place with their awesome homemade Toy Story costumes of Woody and Bo Peep. As their prize, they received four amazing Bulls tickets that were generously donated by Optimus. Additional pictures are posted in an album on UI's Facebook page. Thank you to Ohm, DJ Skeez, Optimus, and to everyone who came out to support us!
On October 2, Urban Initiatives' participants from Goethe, Jenner, Jahn and Otis traveled to Wilmette for the Crosstown Classic with the Wilmette Wings in Avoca Park. This event marked the 9th Crosstown in Wilmette in the past six years. The Wings have been paramount to Urban Initiatives' success through the years and have helped to encourage other soccer clubs to host Crosstowns in their cities. We are unbelievably grateful to have the Wings support!
In total over 260 children from the Urban Initiatives program and the Wilmette Wings participated in the tournament. At the Crosstown, players from Urban Initiatives and the Wings are combined to form new teams for the day then play in games against the other newly formed teams. Throughout the afternoon the rain never stopped but neither did the participants' enthusiasm. Following the incredible soccer activitites there was a picnic for all of the participants and their families. Thank you to Julie Farina, all of the participants, the Wilmette Wings families, the Wilmette Wings coaches, and the volunteers for making the event a success!
The Third Annual Farm Party was a great success! Over 400 attendees enjoyed sipping Beam Global cocktails, while having fun on the farm, supporting a great cause, and many stuck around for the camp out. At the party, we were able to raise funds that will enable us to continue delivering our quality health and education soccer program to at-risk students in Chicago.
On May 29, volunteers from Credit Suisse joined UI participants from Jenner Academy and Walsh School for a fun filled Olympic event at North Avenue Beach.
This spring UI participants enjoyed heading to U.S. Cellular Field to cheer on the White Sox. The kids and volunteers had a blast and will never forget their experiences at the ballpark. Thank you to the White Sox for generously donating tickets to four games for participants and their families to enjoy!
Urban Initiatives participants from Goethe, Jenner, Schiller, and Walsh attended the Chicago Fire game versus the Seattle Sounders on May 2 at Toyota Park. The game ended in a tie at 1 to 1 but all the viewers were winners. Thank you to the Fireworks for Kids for donating the tickets!
The 3rd Annual Soccer Ball was our most successful fundraiser to date. All together we net over $100,000 and 599 attendees came to Salvage One to support UI at the event and celebrate the program’s success. Thank you again to our Soccer Ball sponsors, donors, Host Committee, Board, volunteers, and attendees. Special thanks to our Party Planning Committee: Paula Armstrong, Maggie Belliel, Connie Falcone, Jutta Hilpuesch, Jenny Morgan, and Katy Reichert. We are confident that we have the best fundraising team around. You helped us exceed our expectations and the event was a ball!
Special thanks to Rhonda Holcomb for photographing the 2009 Soccer Ball. She did a wonderful job and we appreciate her support. Enjoy the image gallery!
The Sixth Annual UI Halloween Party at OHM nightclub was a big hit. More than 650 people attended, and the event raised $13,000. Jim and Dan outdid themselves once again; this year the duo came as Juno MacGuff and Paulie Bleeker from the movie Juno. Congratulations to Green Man, Body World, and Superman for their first, second, and third place finishes in the costume contest. Thank you to the UIUA, DJ Lo Pro, and DJ Peter for their contributions and making the party a success.
Crosstown Classics are an Urban Initiatives tradition. Each fall and spring students from all Work to Play Program schools take buses to Northbrook and Wilmette to play soccer with children from other communities. Children from our program and suburban travel teams, the Northbrook Spartans and the Wilmette Wings, combine to form teams, and then the teams formed play against each other.