CHICAGO (Dec. 6, 2017) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club, in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Foundation and the City of Chicago, announced Wednesday plans to build 50 mini-pitches in underserved neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland area in the next five years as part of the national campaign, It’s Everyone’s Game, aimed at dramatically expanding its impact on children across the country through soccer-based programs.
The Hauptman Family as well as the Chicago Fire and Chicago Fire Foundation have committed to assist in the construction of the mini-pitches. Additionally, the Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth Soccer) program will enhance these spaces through continued programming alongside Soccer for Success. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce the city’s commitment to the project during a press conference today, and Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, is another major contributor to the project.
“These mini-pitches will transform the everyday lives of Chicagoland children, and further grow the passion for soccer across our city,” said Fire owner, Andrew Hauptman. “I’m very proud that the Chicago Fire Soccer Club is partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Mayor Emanuel, Ken Griffin and the Chicago Park District in order to make such an important and positive impact throughout our community. This initiative perfectly complements the extensive community programming that the Fire has developed and runs throughout Chicago.”
The P.L.A.Y.S. program aims to enhance the academic performance and development of key social and emotional (SEL) skills of elementary school students through a sports based curriculum. Created in 2013 in partnership with World Sport Chicago, P.L.A.Y.S. integrates soccer with social and emotional learning (SEL) to not only help kids learn and enjoy soccer, but also strengthen academic performance. In 2017, the 10-week program served nearly 500 third through fifth grade boys and girls at 20 schools throughout the city. Research shows that children with a high degree of emotional control, goal-setting and attainment, cooperation, respect, communication and teamwork are able to more effectively handle adversity and perform well in school. Since its creation, P.L.A.Y.S. has organized more than 115,000 hours of soccer for underserved youth in Chicagoland.
Throughout the country, It’s Everyone’s Game is pledging to reach one million children annually and build 1,000 mini-soccer courts, called mini-pitches, by 2026. In addition to programming opportunity for P.L.A.Y.S., the nation-wide mini-pitch project will broaden the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s reach for their Soccer for Success program. Started in 2009, Soccer for Success and its partners have positively impacted over 100,000 children in more than 180 communities around the country, helping them embrace an active, healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth through team-building and mentorship.
“Our programs show that soccer can be the difference between a child who thrives and a child who falls through the cracks,” said Ed Foster-Simeon, President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. “But today, we know that far too many children across the country do not have a safe place to play or a soccer team to play on, leaving them without a coach who can teach important lessons that are applicable on and off the field. The premise of our work is simple: We train coach-mentors. We make sure there are fields to play on. And we support after-school soccer programs in underserved communities that are offered free to participants. By eliminating barriers and creating opportunities, we help the kids who need us most to not only play soccer, but also to be healthier, more active, and more confident.”
Wednesday’s event in Chicago is the first of a series of events that will bring It’s Everyone’s Game to cities across America, announcing new corporate sponsors and celebrating new mini-pitch sites and expanding programming nationwide. Other metropolitan areas that have taken steps to joining in It’s Everyone’s Game include: Augusta (GA), Baltimore, Boston, Columbus, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, Newark, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Bernardino, San Jose, St. Louis, Stockton, Tampa, Washington DC.
ABOUT THE CHICAGO FIRE FOUNDATION
The Chicago Fire's goal on the field is to play hard and win. Its goal off the field is to contribute to the quality of life in Chicago and its surrounding communities. Through the Chicago Fire Foundation, the 2016 Beyond Sport Team of the Year and 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Sport Team of the Year, the Fire is able to give back to the community by leveraging its resources and expertise in the area of soccer to provide sports-based youth development and direct-service programs to Chicagoland’s underserved communities. Since 1998, the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire, has made significant contributions to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth throughout Chicagoland. To date, the Foundation has donated more than $1.8 million dollars in grants and contributions. The Chicago Fire Foundation raises funds through events such as the annual Season Kickoff Luncheon, the Commemorative Jersey Auction, and 50/50 Raffle. For more information about the Chicago Fire Foundation, visit Chicago-Fire.com/community.