Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit that works on connecting underserved children to sports and healthy lifestyles, held a fundraiser at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., on April 14. Between networking, donations and appetizers from Limelight Catering, friends and members of the organization had plenty to say about its impact in the Chicago area.
In a video put together by the organization, Executive Director Jim Dower said that Urban Initiatives looks to support the whole child. "When people ask me who our biggest competitors are, it's not the 10,000 other nonprofits. It's the 75,000 gang members in Cook County, " said Dower.
Leslie Henry, an Urban Initiatives donor, explained how the organization operatesparticipation in sports is tied to school performanceand extolled the benefits of giving kids a supportive community. "Sports helped me be the leader I am today," said Henry. "It helped me talk to people and not be shy. It helped me realize I might not always win but that I would have to keep going."
Kurt Jones, principal of Lincoln School in Englewood and a longtime participant in Urban Initiatives programs, talked about the organization's commitment to the community. "Part of my job is to deal with nonprofits and filter out who's just there for a picture. Urban Initiatives is in it for the right reasons," he said. Jones said he and his partner met their foster son through Urban Initiatives, and mentioned that the gay sports world could be an important connection for mentoring kids. "If you have the heart to mentor a kid, putting your time and value into it, it matters," he said.
"Urban Initiatives is about coming together as a city, " said Patrick Croke, from Sidley Austin LLP. "I dare any one of you to go out and not fall in love with these kids."
Jordan Lantz, Urban Initiatives' development coordinator for individual giving, expressed the organization's desire to reach out to the LGBT community. "Something we very much care about is cross community connection," Lantz said. "We believe in diversity, and putting people from different backgrounds in front of our kids. Having openly gay role models might make some of them feel safe."
Lantz, who is new to his role, said he deeply enjoys his role at Urban Initiatives. "I would never be able to ask some for money if I didn't believe in what the cause was," he said.