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Laureus USA and Sport for Good Chicago Secure a $5M Grants Appropriation from the State of Illinois

As a result of the Chicago’s Comeback campaign and a subsequent advocacy effort led by Laureus USA’s Sport for Good Chicago Leadership Council and Coalition, the State of Illinois has created its first-ever funding program specifically established for organizations that are using sport as a tool for youth development. Through the 2023 state budget process, Laureus USA was allocated five million dollars to create a grant program to ‘increase access to and equity of youth-development based sports initiatives throughout the state of Illinois’. Additional details about accessing this funding will be made available over the next few months. 

This initiative was sponsored by Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Representative Kam Buckner, and we are extremely grateful for their efforts to make this possible. The funding comes as Sport for Good Chicago nears its 4-year anniversary, and this achievement was only possible through collaboration across various stakeholders including program partners, youth, companies, foundations, professional teams & athletes, and legislators. Below is an overview of the timeline and process our Sport for Good network collectively undertook to achieve this goal:  

  • June, 2018 – Laureus USA launches Sport for Good Chicago in partnership with a local Leadership Council. One of the three core objectives is to increase awareness and funding for sport as a tool for social change.  
  • May, 2020 – The Sport for Good Chicago Leadership Council makes personal calls to all member organizations of Sport for Good Chicago to understand the most pressing needs facing organizations amid COVID. Concerns of funding and awareness emerge, and roundtables form to understand the specific needs. 
  • October, 2020 – The idea for an awareness-building campaign is born, and a working group made up of both Leadership Council and coalition members forms. The campaign is named Chicago’s Comeback and it calls for passing legislation that would create sustained funding for youth sports organizations. Lowitzki Consulting is hired to advise us as we work together to build our advocacy strategy.
  • January 2021 – Laureus USA partners, IMC Foundation and Gatorade, join the effort through funding (IMC) and in-kind PR support (Gatorade & their agency FleishmanHillard) to ensure Chicago’s Comeback is a successful and influential campaign.  
  • August, 2021 – Cubs Charities join as a partner in the effort and we launch the campaign at Wrigley Field. Local Chicago artist Damon Lamar Reed is commissioned to create a mural outside of the ballpark to raise awareness and demonstrate what Illinois could look like if all young people had access to high-quality sports programs. A video is also created to help spread awareness featuring young people from the Sport for Good Chicago network and Gatorade roster athlete and Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras.
  • November, 2021 – Representative Kam Buckner and Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas sponsor our legislation and file Bills in the House and Senate. We all work tirelessly over the next few months to garner support from both parties and get our Bill added to the priority lists of both the Black and Latino Caucuses. 
  • March, 2022 – Laureus USA hosts the Power of Sport in Illinois webinar featuring our legislation sponsors, professional athletes Michael Johnson and Luol Deng, America SCORES leader Amy Mummery and participant Merary Flores. This webinar was made possible through relational support provided by the Jr. NBA, the NBA Social Justice Coalition, and the Chicago Bulls. 
  • April, 2022 – The $5M appropriation is included in the 2023 Illinois State Budget!  

This process represents what the Laureus’ Sport for Good Cities program is all about. We believe that by trusting in the vision and leadership of local organizations, leveraging Laureus USA partners and athletes to support that vision, and strategically investing our own funding towards collective initiatives, we can move the needle on systems effecting young people in a way that none of us could accomplish on our own. This funding will further our mission of improving the lives of youth and uniting communities through the power of sport. An initial recognition and investment from the state of Illinois does not achieve our mission on its own, but it is a powerful start, and we are grateful to have been awarded this funding. We want to celebrate all the hard work of our partners to make this vision a reality- it was truly a team effort! We look forward to continuing this work with organizations in Illinois and across the country to ensure more young people have access to and can benefit from the life-changing power of sport. 

If your organization hasn’t joined our Sport for Good Cities membership network yet, click here to learn more!

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