Today, members of Sport for Good Chicago, an initiative of Laureus USA, announced “Chicago’s Comeback,” a campaign encouraging Chicago residents to sign a Letter of Support calling on legislative stakeholders and funders to prioritize sustained, year-over-year funding for local sport-based youth development programs as they seek an equitable post-pandemic recovery. The campaign highlights the value sports, and in particular sports-based youth development programs can provide in helping young people prosper, especially on the heels of COVID-19.
“Access to sport programming is not the same for all young people, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities that prevent many young people from being part of a team,” said Ben Schornack, Laureus USA Chicago Program Officer. “We must leverage this moment to reimagine youth sports as a system that prioritizes youth development and equal access for all young people, regardless of zip code, race, gender identity, or family income level. With the support of the businesses and people of Chicago, we can collectively provide a new state of play that helps our youth heal, grow and thrive.”
SPORTS AS A SOLUTION
Research has shown that sports-based youth development programs help participants develop social emotional skills at a significantly higher rate than those in non-sports programs1. The need for these programs is greater than ever as research indicates children and adolescents are more likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety after isolation2 – a reality many experienced over the last year. Yet, more than 80% of Chicago program providers are concerned about the long-term viability of their programs due to financial constraints resulting from COVID-193.
To launch the campaign, Laureus USA enlisted local artist Damon Lamar Reed to create We Play, We Heal, We Grow!, a mural that represents how sport has positively impacted Chicagoland’s young athletes. The mural was unveiled Sunday, August 8 at Gallagher Way, next to Wrigley Field, prior to the Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox game. Reed was joined at the mural unveiling by youth participants from Sport for Good Chicago programs, city officials, and Cubs All-Star catcher, Willson Contreras. Laureus USA worked with curator CNL Projects to commission this piece.
At the mural unveiling, high schooler Monica Griffin said, “Being part of Beat the Streets Chicago has had a very strong impact on me both on and off the mat. Goal setting and work ethic are just some of the life skills that I have been able to apply both in life and in wrestling. I hope many more kids in Chicago will have these same opportunities so they can achieve their dreams.”
Chicago-based organizations, including IMC Foundation, the Cubs and Cubs Charities, and Gatorade, one of the most influential sports brands in the world, were the first to sign the letter and support the campaign, demonstrating a commitment to providing equal access to sports and resources for local underserved communities.
“Chicago’s Comeback” builds upon the existing efforts of Laureus’ Sport for Good Chicago initiative, which since launching in 2018, has brought together more than 80 organizations using sport-based youth development programs to collectively serve more than 80,000 youth.