On the evening of Friday, November 16th, Urban Initiatives can guarantee that no one in Chicago was having more fun than the Work to Play soccer players of Claremont and Daley Elementary Schools as they teamed up with 20 Urban Initiatives Junior Board Members and Board Member Neil Hirshman for an exciting pizza party unlike any other! The Claremont and Daley teams arrived at the beautiful Kirkland and Ellis LLP office building, located in downtown, and were warmly welcomed by host Neil Hirshman. The players looked around in wide-eyed wonder as they took in their surroundings and an especially enthused Claremont soccer player turned to one of his coaches, exclaiming, “Coach Brendan, this is like heaven!”
Once the soccer players, coaches, and Junior Board Members were gathered in the large party room, we kicked off the celebration by singing “Happy Birthday” to Coach J of the Daley team who was happily spending his birthday with the Urban Initiatives Family! Then the eating quickly commenced, and what we thought was going to be a pizza party became a vegetable party as our soccer players began devouring all the veggies they could get their hands on, even placing bets on who could eat the most veggies! The carrots and grapes disappeared as the kids got seconds and thirds, but everyone was more than happy to fill up on the delicious pizza as well.
Throughout the meal, the room was buzzing with conversation as the soccer players and Junior Board asked each other questions to learn more about their new friends. The young student athletes learned where the Junior Board Members had gone to college and all of the different subjects they had studied. Junior Board Member Mike Carlson got the ball rolling during the sharing time, saying that he would like to travel to Dublin, and then all the soccer players also wanted to share about the different places where they would like to travel. Mekiyal from Claremont could be heard saying that he wanted to go to China to learn more about a different culture, and Alexander excitedly talked about going to Miami, not for the beaches, but to see the Miami Heat play, of course!
For our soccer players, there is no better way to follow up a filling meal than with some active games for all! The adults and kids eagerly participated as they learned new games like Captain’s Calling and Giants, Wizards, and Elves! There is nothing quite like seeing Junior Board Members and Work to Play soccer players sit back to back and flail their arms and legs in the air as they act out their best octopus. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the kids or adults! The final game was an Urban Initiatives classic – A Vegetable Off! Junior Board Members and soccer players went head to head as they competed to outperform the other in their impersonations of various vegetables. Junior Board Member Paul Damato impressed us all with his superb rendition of broccoli, while Claremont student Christian lost a close match to Junior Board President Kemmons Feldman, who really captured the essence of an apple. It turns out our kids do not only love eating vegetables; they love impersonating them too!
The Claremont and Daley players were sad to leave, but before going, they got the treat of looking over the sparkling Chicago River with Junior Board Members from the Kirkland and Ellis LLP building balcony. It was a momentous evening that gave the soccer players a new perspective on downtown and the Urban Initiatives Work to Play Program as they met more of the wonderful people who are consistently involved and loyally supportive. Lenny, one of the soccer players, closed the evening by shouting for all to hear, “Thank you for this fun and exciting vacation!”
Thank you so much to all who made this event possible and a huge success! We would like to especially thank Board Member Neil Hirshman for hosting us and Jean Downs, the Conference Center Supervisor, for organizing the event flawlessly!