CHICAGO -- Cubs Charities and national nonprofit Good Sports launched a collaboration Wednesday as 50 Cubs associates helped sort and pack brand new baseball and softball equipment to give to six area programs: B.I.G. Baseball Academy, Teamwork Englewood, Garfield Park Little League, Near West Little League, The Roberto Clemente Little
CHICAGO -- Cubs Charities and national nonprofit Good Sports launched a collaboration Wednesday as 50 Cubs associates helped sort and pack brand new baseball and softball equipment to give to six area programs: B.I.G. Baseball Academy, Teamwork Englewood, Garfield Park Little League, Near West Little League, The Roberto Clemente Little League and Canaryville Little League.
"[Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney] introduced us to the folks at Cubs Charities and the Diamond Project. And we realized pretty quickly that there was some synergy in what we were trying to accomplish," said Melissa Harper, CEO and co-founder of Good Sports. "Together today -- Cubs Charities, Diamond Project and Good Sports -- we are donating over $90,000 worth of equipment that's going to benefit almost 2,000 kids here in the City of Chicago."
The equipment, ranging from gloves and pants to helmets and bats, was packed at the Park at Wrigley just outside the entrance to the stadium. Good Sports partnered with the Diamond Project for the event, and it has provided more than $20 million worth of equipment to more than 3,200 youth programs since its founding in 2003.
"What we all had in common is that sports had played a huge role in our lives," Harper said of the groups' co-founders. "And when we realized that kids don't have that opportunity because of cost, that was a reality we couldn't live with. So we decided to do something about it."
As for Wednesday's activities, the 50 associates participated in games before and after packing the equipment, including an athletic challenge where they tried to juggle a soccer ball back and forth and some post-packing trivia with questions about the Cubs.
The associates worked in three waves to get everything packed, with the third wave being joined by a couple guests: Cubs rookie Ian Happ and team mascot Clark. While Clark was a big hit with the younger fans, Happ grabbed his clipboard and got right into packing his first box after taking a picture with some of the kids at the event.
In addition to packing the boxes, the associates heard from several of the community leaders, many of whom carried touching stories.
Marco Johnson, a retired Chicago police officer, spoke passionately about the importance of showing kids they matter and how sports helped get him through high school when the deck was stacked against him.
"It kept me off the streets to go home and watch WGN," he said, starting to tear up.
Among the final speakers was Kenney. His message was all about value, and how the kids should understand that they matter just as much as anyone else regardless of where they come from.
"[It's] telling these kids they're worth as much as Major League players," he said.
Kenney, like many of the others, spoke about their involvement with sports and what participating in them had helped them do in their life.
And fittingly, posted up on a wall near the event was a list of cards that started, "Because of sports..." with space for the participants to add their own messages. Harper said it seemed especially fitting given that "every pice of equipment [packed] today is giving kids their 'because of sports.' "
Several of the associates and staff participated in the event, as did Happ, who wrote his card before packing some of the equipment. Happ emphatically slapped his card up on the top row, walking away from it with a smile.
"Because of sports," his card read, "I get to do what I love every day."
Scott Chasen is a reporter with MLB.com based in Chicago.