Chicago’s McCormick Place was recently full of sport enthusiasts of all ages. The eleventh annual Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Festival took place on December 18 and 19; 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, fishing, adaptive sports, and (certainly not least) golf. Those who want to see experts demonstrate their abilities were able to watch exhibitions of sports like fencing and dance. “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 tenth 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. Over the past ten years, the Foundation was able to reach out to over 22,000 youth 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 groups and communities came to help the Foundation in its efforts to reach the kids. Almost 200 volunteers, ranging from age 13 and up, helped with the SNAG Interactive Zone’s various stations.
Gina Lam, a Kids Golf Foundation volunteer who came with her daughter, says, “It is important for my children to volunteer because it teaches them to give back to the community at a young age. Volunteering helps children consider others before themselves, and not expect anything in return.” Gina and her daughter, Joyce, have supported multiple outreach events in 2010. “When families volunteer together, the parents indirectly encourage their children to give back by setting a positive example; I am a strong believer that actions speak louder than words.”
In 2010, the Foundation increased its involvement in outreach events similar to Mayor Daley’s Chicago Sports Festival. “We’ve enjoyed our partnership with the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events over the years. 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,” said Holly Alcala, Foundation Director. “Events like this also provide opportunities for us to stay connected with our allied associations, program sites, and supporters who donate their time and resources to help make these events impactful.”
This year’s volunteer group had an increased amount of High School students, student-athletes, and golf teams. “It’s important for golf teams to get involved in community events like this because we can share our knowledge and experience about the sport with others who may not have the same opportunities as we have as a student-athlete,” said Mickey Evans from Barrington High School, one of the 55 volunteers who plays on a High School Golf Team.
While many student-athletes came to volunteer, some High School Golf Teams took their involvement to the next level and came as a group, including teams from Kennedy, Trinity, and Loyola Academy. Trinity Girls Golf Coach Tom Macchione shared his thoughts on team projects, “Our team has been coming to help at Sports Fest for several years. This event gives the girls a chance to see each other in the off season as well as help our team build character. I strongly believe in the mission of the Foundation, and afterwards have seen the team volunteer for other opportunities because they have experienced the value of giving back.”
Student-athlete Jack Corrigan also speaks to the importance of community service. “I take a look at all of the people who have helped me as an individual, my family, teachers, coaches, and others in the community. It would be selfish not to give back,” said Corrigan, a student from Benet Academy. Jack also sees the life long benefits of getting involved in events like Sports Fest. “Once you get into the real world, you are expected to give back. The Foundation has given me the opportunity to prepare myself for long term community service.”
Also during the festival, the Foundation was presented with a donation check from Ashley Armstrong, Shane Purtle, Jack Ferguson, and Raymond Knoll, all who regularly volunteer with the Foundation. These individuals, however, went above and beyond by raising money for the Kids Golf Foundation through Leadership Links, a program designed for junior golfers to raise donations by playing golf. “I realized the many opportunities the game of golf has given me, and I know that by participating in this program I can provide other kids with the same resources,” said Armstrong. Fundraising initiatives such as Leadership Links is one way that amateur golfers can continue to positively impact the future generations of golfers.
“Sports Fest has become a tradition and something our Foundation looks forward to every year,” said Alcala. “We enjoy working with the Mayor’s Office and their staff. This event is unique in that many of us have family and friends that join in the celebration or volunteer their time for us, so we are able to make it a family affair. My staff does an incredible job in organizing and executing our area and I am so proud of each of them and our history of participation.”
The Foundation remains a junior golf resource year-round to individuals and organizations wishing to start a program in their area or get involved with our various volunteer opportunities. For more information about volunteering, Leadership Links, or other ways of getting involved, please contact the Foundation at (630) 466-0913 or visit our website at www.kidsgolffoundation.org.