Chicago’s McCormick Place was recently full of sport enthusiasts of all ages. The tenth annual Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Fest took place on December 27 and 28; the free festival presented many different activities, tournaments, and interactive zones for all who attended. The festival was hosted by the City of Chicago, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, the Chicago Park District, and McCormick Place.
Originally, the event started in 2000 and was named Holiday Hoops because it was solely a basketball tournament. Envisioned by the mayor of Chicago as a more inclusive experience, it now offers many different sports, such as football, javelin toss, badminton, and (certainly not least) golf. Those who want to see experts demonstrate their abilities were able to watch exhibitions of sports like fencing and martial arts. “The festival is very important; it helps kids and families play together and gets children exposed to different sports,” says Veronica Resa, Public Relations Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.
The Kids Golf Foundation was at the festival for its 9th year to introduce the game of golf to the many children who visited. Each youngster that came to the Foundation’s SNAG (Starting New At Golf) Interactive Zone was able to put their golf skills to the test. The SNAG Interactive Zone was divided into different stations that let the youngsters swing oversized golf clubs to hit balls towards their designated targets. The four different types of stations were putting, chipping, full swing, and questions. At the question station, youths were quizzed in golf categories such as rules, history, etiquette, and environment. How well the individuals did at all four stations was tallied and they were able to see what ranking they achieved by looking at the Golf Challenge Scoreboard. During the festival, the Foundation was able to reach out to over 1,300 different youths and their families, introducing or enhancing the game of golf for them.
All of the stations that the Kids Golf Foundation ran would have been impossible without the help of many willing and enthusiastic volunteers. People from many different walks of life came to help the Foundation in its efforts to reach the kids. Over 200 volunteers, ranging from age 13 and up, helped with the SNAG Interactive Zone’s registration and various stations.
Brandon Magee, a Kids Golf Foundation volunteer from the festival, says, “I really enjoyed being there for the kids and showing support.” Brandon worked closely with the children at Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Fest, encouraging them to visit the Foundation’s area. He volunteered with his sister and became interested in helping the Foundation because his niece plays golf. “It was good that the Foundation was there because it gets people thinking about golf and–who knows—maybe even pursuing a career in that sport.”
In the future, the Foundation plans to do more outreach events similar to Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Fest. Holly Alcala, Foundation Director says, “We’ve enjoyed our partnership with the Mayor’s office over the years and plan to continue attending. Sports Fest and other outreach events are becoming increasingly important for us as we are trying to encourage youngsters to get involved and stay active.”
During the festival, the Foundation was presented with a donation check from Daniel Stringfellow, a consistent volunteer at the Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sport Fest. Stringfellow, a member of the American Junior Golf Association, raised money for the Kids Golf Foundation by participating in Playing It Forward, a program designed for junior golfers to raise donations by playing golf. “I was happy to give back. I encourage younger junior golfers to get involved and give to the charity of their choice,” says Stringfellow. Fundraising initiatives such as Playing It Forward is one way that amateur golfers can continue to positively impact the future generations of golfers.
The Kid Golf Foundation remains a junior golf resource year-round to individuals wishing to start a program in their area. For more information about volunteering, Playing It Forward, or getting involved, please contact the Foundation at (630) 466-0913 or visit our website at www.kidsgolffoundation.org; details about volunteering are listed under the “Get Involved” section.