The following blog was written by Urban Initiatives volunteer Kevin Nied.
I have known Jim Dower and Dan Isherwood for about 6 or 7 years as they coached my daughters on the Wilmette Wings soccer club beginning back in their U9 or U10 days. I have volunteered at a few of the Crosstown Classics throughout the years, where Urban iniatives brings some schools up the Wilmette Wings practice fascilities and games are played with all the kids mixing up teams as they get a chance to make new friends. I am honestly not sure who gets more out of this event; The Urban iniatives kids? The Wilmette kids? Or the parents volunteering? It is amazing to see all the kids interacting with other. Even though they may come from sometimes vastly different worlds, on the soccer field they are just kids playing and laughing.
In the past years my UI involvement would normally consist of the crosstown classic and the UI Winter Ball fundraising event. This year I decided to actually volunteer my time with the kids. I have been able to help out at Jenner elamentary school during the week and the Friday afternoon games at the Chicago Indoor Sports soccer complex. It has been truly the highlight of my week. The kids come from all areas of the city and unite on the indoor turf. The kids are great. they might have vastly different soccer skill levels but each kid shows respect and sportsmanship which is not always a common site in the many soccer games my daughters have played in.
My favorite part of the game is the beginning and the end of each game when each team forms a line and shakes hands and congratulates the other team and while trying to make eye contact with their fellow player introduces themselves. This lesson comes straight from the founders at UI and is such an important skill to learn and use later in life. I love to see the personalities from each kid come out during the games. I see young leaders constantly emerging from the schools that participate. I see kids trying to urge their teamates on when they are tired and thirsty and helping an opponent up after they fall.
It has been a blessing that I have the time to volunteer for UI and see the youth of our city in action. They are great kids who are coached and taught by dedicated and underappreciated teacher/coaches. Our great city is better today then it was before Dan and Jim started this UI operation.