Before things changed—before the day she sat at a table, signed on the dotted line and received a Cubs jersey with her name emblazoned on the back—Virginia Garcia-Rico was feeling lost.
The real world was coming at her fast, but the Lake View High School junior had no idea how to keep up, even though her classmates seemed to be racing ahead with ease. Her parents wanted to help, but they didn’t know much about applying to college.
Then, thanks to an impressive résumé and solid performances in a challenging round of interviews, Garcia-Rico caught a big break. She earned a spot in the first-ever lineup for a new Cubs Charities program called Cubs Scholars. Along with four other talented teens from Chicago-area inner-city high schools, she’s receiving a $20,000 scholarship, personalized college prep help from a mentor and a guarantee of guidance through all four years of college.
And Garcia-Rico is getting something else too. As a Cubs Scholar, she’s privy to a firsthand look at how the team leaves a footprint in Illinois that’s much bigger than pitches, hits and outs. Not long ago, the 17-year-old was there as the Cubs held an event to feed the homeless and young runaways.
“I thought that was amazing,” she said. “The Cubs do all these amazing things—and now I’m a part of it.”
Since 1991, the Cubs and Cubs Charities have donated more than $19 million to groups across the Chicago area. And since 2009, when the Ricketts family took control of the organization, giving back has become one of the team’s three cornerstone priorities, right up there with winning a World Series and protecting Wrigley Field for future generations.
The Cubs—from staff members to volunteers to the players themselves—regularly show up at schools, hospitals and community centers; they rebuild ballparks, playgrounds and classrooms; and they work hard to make sure kids have access to education, fitness and fun. These days, it’s hard to find a Chicago neighborhood that hasn’t been touched in some way by the ballclub.
And the team’s charitable efforts extend beyond Chicago’s borders. After tornadoes toppled buildings in several Illinois towns in November, the Cubs were quick to react. Within days, representatives from the organization had partnered with the community to fill a semitrailer full of supplies, which they hand delivered to Peoria, Ill., along with a sizable check for the Red Cross.
“I think the team takes its responsibility of being a Chicago team seriously enough to consider the boundaries of our giving to be not just in Chicago but across the state,” said Connie Falcone, vice president of development for Cubs Charities. “We’re blessed to be a team with a national following, and it’s important that we give back.”
Many of the team’s charitable relationships have stood the test of time. For about 14 years, the Cubs have given thousands of teens with the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs a chance to step up to the plate. Several reports have shown that fewer inner-city kids are choosing to play baseball—opting instead for football, soccer and basketball—but the Cubs are working to change that.
The RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Program supports 16 teams around the city, each with about 15 to 20 players on its roster. These kids get an opportunity to play a sport that can often be too expensive for low-income families. Over the years, the program’s impact has been “huge,” said RBI program commissioner Emilia Nichols.
Several players have used their time on RBI teams as a springboard to college. Last year, 11 athletes landed college baseball scholarships because of their performance in the league.
“The coaches are really engaged in getting [the players] seen, making sure they have opportunities, bringing something that is sometimes so unattainable,” Nichols said. “For a lot of them, it’s so special knowing, ‘It’s the Cubs that are sponsoring me.’”
Other groups have joined forces with the Cubs more recently, and getting the team’s stamp of approval creates a ripple effect of giving. In the East Garfield Park neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, the nonprofit organization Breakthrough Urban Ministries works to keep neighborhood kids on track with sports and after-school tutoring. Bill Curry, the Breakthrough Youth Network’s chief program officer, said it’s a particularly challenging effort in a neighborhood that’s struggled with poverty and violence for decades.
“We try to create a new normal experience for kids in our neighborhood,” he said. “Right now, the normal experience is that you’re more likely to go to jail than go to college—more likely to have a child as a teenager.”
Three years ago, the Cubs offered up some help, donating $30,000 to expand Breakthrough’s efforts. Since then, the ballclub has pitched in the same amount each year, which has allowed the nonprofit organization to boost its tutoring program participation from 75 to 90 students.
All the while, Breakthrough has been busy trying to raise money for a new, $13 million facility. Back when the Cubs began contributing to the group, it was still searching for about $3.5 million. After partnering with the Cubs, that number started shrinking fast.
“It was really interesting,” Curry said. “As we showed who our funding partners were, and when the Cubs came on board and people saw their logo, for some reason people thought, ‘Breakthrough must be legit.’”
The funding came through, and the new facility is expected to be open by early 2015.
Across town, a new organization called the Illinois Mentoring Partnership can tell a similar tale. The group provides guidance to about 150 mentoring entities across the state. In its first year of operation, the partnership got a deal from the Cubs it couldn’t pass up: more than $70,000 worth of free game tickets to hand out to its mentors and their young mentees.
Season ticket holders donated the tickets back to Cubs Charities, who, in turn, gave them to the Illinois Mentoring Partnership. The seats ultimately went to more than 2,000 children and volunteers, including many who had never seen anything quite like Wrigley Field.
“Most of our kids had never been to any kind of professional sporting event before,” said Sheila Merry, the organization’s executive director. “A lot of them had never been outside of their neighborhoods before, so it really was an incredible opportunity for them.”
Plus, having the Cubs tickets made it easier to get connected with other mentoring efforts across the state. Since then, about 90 groups have taken advantage of the partnership’s training programs.
But it’s not just the Cubs front office doing the heavy lifting. Cubs players have been making regular visits to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) for years.
They often stop in at a classroom on the 12th floor that’s named for the team (the Cubs donated $2 million to make it a part of the brand new facility). There, young patients who are well enough to keep up with their schoolwork get help from tutors and participate in games, classroom science experiments and other kid-friendly activities.
There’s a mural on the wall that depicts Wrigley Field—if Wrigley were some kind of magical classroom where you could also play baseball. The scoreboard on the mural features math equations teachers can incorporate into lessons, and a map used for geography is dotted with cutouts of players’ faces. Every time a Cub comes to visit, he picks out his favorite location and marks it on the map.
During the season, players are around every month, said Elizabeth Wolcott, the hospital’s corporate giving officer. Anthony Rizzo, himself a cancer survivor, is the most frequent visitor.
“The Cubs have always been really fantastic partners with the hospital,” Wolcott said.
For players like Darwin Barney, this kind of hands-on help is more than just good PR. The Cubs infielder said he enjoys going out on the Cubs Caravan every January to meet people at schools, hospitals and YMCAs.
“It’s a way to connect with the fans and make a difference in their lives,” he said. “And not just in wins and losses.”
Last summer, Cubs Charities incorporated a new program called the Cubs on the Move Fitness Trolley, which visited summer camps across Chicago. The Trolley is an initiative designed to curb childhood obesity by teaching kids about all aspects of fitness, including healthy eating. The goal is to encourage kids to “play every day” with 60 minutes of vigorous activity.
Becca Martinson, a program coordinator with Urban Initiatives, a group that partners on the Fitness Trolley, said her group has been working with local schools for about 10 years to keep kids occupied during the summer break. But last year, organizers decided to step up their efforts to get young participants interested in fitness.
At four schools spread from Chicago’s far West Side to the far South Side, when the trolley pulled up, it was time to get moving. The Cubs brought professional fitness trainers from Chicago Athletic Clubs to lead warm-up exercises and players to oversee baseball-related games and activities.
“We’d do different games with passing the ball,” Martinson said. “We’d work on sportsmanship and teamwork.”
Throughout the summer, the kids learned about good nutrition and kept detailed fitness logs. If they filled out the logs properly, the Cubs would hand out prizes, ranging from water bottles to T-shirts to a trip to the Friendly Confines for a game.
Martinson said the activities were so popular that program leaders started noticing larger-than-expected crowds. It wasn’t just the camp kids showing up to work out; it was their siblings and parents as well.
“I think what was so special about it was having this huge Chicago institution coming to these schools and giving individual attention to students,” she said. “It made them feel valued and special, because they are.”
Martinson said the Cubs even managed to win over some tough audiences at schools on the South Side. She recalled one boy named Justin, who announced at the beginning of camp that he was strictly a White Sox fan. But by the end of camp, she said, he was wearing Cubs temporary tattoos on his cheeks and a big smile. It turned out learning about fitness also provided a lesson in being open-minded about people he thought were very different from him.
“He began to associate feeling good about himself and being fit with the Cubs,” Martinson said. “He could think, ‘These are the people who taught me that really fun game I play with my brothers now.’”
And while the network of giving stretches well beyond Chicago’s city limits, the Cubs have a particular affinity for the neighborhood that has supported the team for a century. In Wrigleyville and Lake View, Cubs associates pitch in to help solve problems with parking, littering and crime around Wrigley Field.
Recently, the Cubs donated $25,000 to nearby Greeley Elementary School. After years of expansion, the school had outgrown its playground and needed a new, safe space for its youngest students. At the playground’s dedication last summer, students sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The school’s principal, Carlos Azcoitia, said he’s lucky to have a good neighbor like the Cubs right around the corner.
“We’re grateful they’re investing in the neighborhood school closest to Wrigley Field,” he said. “We’re very fortunate.”
And that’s exactly how many organizations around Chicago and Illinois feel to be associated with a side of the Cubs many people never even see.
Clark, the newly introduced Chicago Cubs mascot, made his debut Monday night along with more than a dozen prospects in the Cubs Rookie Development Program at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Pediatric Developmental Center. Together, they helped reinforce positive activities being taught to children with autism and other developmental challenges.
Clark was joined at Advocate Illinois Masonic by prospects Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Kyle Hendricks, Pierce Johnson, Eric Jokisch, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, Armando Rivero, Rubi Silva, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva and Arodys Vizcaino.
The players divided into four rooms and hosted activities for the children and their siblings, including an interview room where kids asked questions of players and practiced social skills; a reading room where players and kids looked at pictures of Wrigley Field and read stories about baseball; a game room where kids practiced sportsmanship in matches against their Cubs counterparts; and a gym where Clark and players stressed the importance of learning from others through pre-activity stretching drills and practiced motor activity skills during a ball-toss drill.
The next stops for Clark will be the Cubs 100 Gifts of Service 2014 Caravan Tour and the Cubs Convention.
Kids, meet Clark, the Cubs’ new mascot.
The Cubs will introduce the organization’s first official team mascot Monday evening when Clark visits children at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center’s Pediatric Development Center. He will make his debut alongside more than a dozen Cubs prospects who are currently participating in the Rookie Development Program.
“The Cubs are thrilled to welcome Clark as the team’s official mascot,” said Cubs Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller. “Clark is a young, friendly Cub who can’t wait to interact with our other young Cubs fans. He’ll be a welcoming presence for families at Wrigley Field and an excellent ambassador for the team in the community.”
After consistently hearing through survey feedback and fan interviews that the Cubs needed more family-friendly entertainment, the team surveyed fans and held focus groups to determine the interest in and benefits of introducing an official mascot. The appetite for more family-friendly initiatives became clear, and the concept of a mascot who interacts in the community, engages with young fans and is respectful of the game was widely supported.
Clark will play a big role in the Cubs Charities’ mission of targeting improvement in health and wellness, fitness, and education for children and families at risk. Young fans can see him at the Cubs Caravan, Cubs On the Move Fitness Programs, hospital visits and other Cubs events.
On game days, Clark will greet fans as they enter Wrigley Field, and he’ll stop by the Wrigley Field First Timer’s Booth to welcome new guests. The mascot will also help kids run the bases on Family Sundays.
The young Cub will interact with fans at Wrigley Field all season long at Clark’s Clubhouse, where he’ll spend most of his time during Cubs games.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs announced the schedule for their 100 Gifts of Service 2014 Caravan Tour Friday. The annual event features players, coaches and front office personnel traveling through the Chicagoland area to give back to the community.
The 2014 Caravan, themed 100 Gifts of Service, will kick off a yearlong program wherein Cubs staff and players will engage in community service projects to help celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. This year, members of the Cubs organization will visit three schools, three hospitals and a military base.
Here is the schedule for the two tours of the Cubs Caravan:
10 a.m. – Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy – 250 E. 111th St., Chicago
11:30 a.m. – 2nd Battalion 24th Marines – 3034 W. Foster Ave., Chicago
2 p.m. – Casals School of Excellence – 3501 W. Potomac Ave., Humbolt Park
10:30 a.m. – Blaine Elementary – 1420 W. Grace St., Chicago
11:30 a.m. – 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines – 3034 W. Foster Ave., Chicago
2 p.m. – Casals School of Excellence – 3501 W. Potomac Ave., Humbolt Park
11 a.m. – Advocate Children’s Hospital – 4420 S. Sacramento Ave., Oak Lawn
11:15 a.m. – Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital – 225 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago
11:30 a.m. – Advocate Children’s Hospital – 1175 Dempster St., Park Ridge
(Photo by Dave Durochik)
Want to welcome in the holiday season the Cubs way? Join board member Laura Ricketts, Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and Cubs fans to kick off the season with the annual tree-lighting ceremony under the Wrigley Field marquee Thursday night.
The 24-foot tree, which will be lit at 5:30 p.m., is decorated to incorporate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. In addition, the Cubs will be hosting a toy drive from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. today, with toys being donated to Lawrence Hall Youth Services. Fans can bring unwrapped gifts to the administrative entrance located on Clark Street next to the Ernie Banks statue.
Hot chocolate, cookies and a photo opportunity with Santa will also be available.
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service have determined that at least 16 tornados hit Illinois and Northwest Indiana last Sunday, the largest of which ravaged the town of Washington near Peoria.
On Thursday and Friday morning, the Cubs will be doing their part to help the storm’s victims. Thursday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Friday from 8-11 a.m., people can drop off donated items at Wrigley Field’s Purple Lot on Clark Street just west of the stadium. These items will be loaded onto a truck, and a small group of Cubs volunteers will personally drive them to Peoria Friday afternoon. The organization is working with Heroes Memorial Foundation to ensure the donations reach people in need.
Below is a list of items the Red Cross has specifically requested for donation.
Items Most Needed:
- Tote bags
- Plastic trash cans
- Plastic storage bins
Other Items Needed:
- Non-perishable food items (granola bars, canned food items, etc)
- Bottled water
- Large garbage bags
- Toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc)
- Baby formula
- Manual can openers
- Duct tape
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Female hygiene products
- School supplies – new or used backpacks, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks, binders, etc.
When the Cubs play their home opener on April 4, 2014, it will kick off the 100th season of baseball at Wrigley Field. Over the weekend, the team unveiled a new logo to commemorate 100 years at the venerable ballpark.
The logo was created by graphic designer Brandon Ort of New Bremen, Ohio, who’s design beat out more than 1,200 other submissions in the “Wrigley Field Turns 100″ logo contest, held earlier this year.
For his efforts, Ort was recognized during an on-field ceremony prior to Saturday afternoon’s game against the Braves. His logo will be featured as a patch on the team’s home uniform next year, as well as in a variety of promotional items, including memorabilia and commemorative baseballs.
“I am excited and completely honored to have my ‘Wrigley Field Turns 100’ logo design selected to represent this historic ballpark in its 100th year,” Ort said. “Creating the design that will be a part of Cubs and Wrigley Field history is incredibly humbling and serves as a benchmark in my career. What better way to celebrate than to watch a game at Wrigley Field today with close friends and family.”
Throughout the 2014 season, the Cubs will celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field with promotions, events and collectible memorabilia. Additional details will be revealed later this offseason, and attendees of the 2014 Cubs Convention will get a first look at many aspects of the planned celebration.
“We’re very excited to unveil our official logo celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field and to kick off what will be a season-long celebration of the past century at this beautiful ballpark,” said Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing. “Our fans will want to be here to remember and possibly re-experience many of the historic moments that occurred at Wrigley Field.”
Fans can now find official Wrigley Field 100th merchandise—such as hats, clothing, glassware, pins and pennants—at the Cubs store on Clark Street and at Wrigley Field gift shops. Chicago Cubs Charities has also introduced a limited-edition Wrigley Field 100th Anniversary ornament.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Major League Baseball and Chevrolet today announced Anthony Rizzo has been named the Chicago Cubs’ 2013 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. MLB will honor Clemente’s legacy on Tuesday, September 17, with the 12th annual Roberto Clemente Day. Rizzo is one of the 30 club finalists for the annual award, which recognizes a player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
“In his two seasons with the team, Anthony has made a tremendous, selfless impact in the community and with his teammates,” said Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer. “We urge all baseball fans to recognize him as the 2013 national Roberto Clemente Award recipient.”
Beginning Tuesday, fans are encouraged to help select the national award recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com to vote for one of the 30 nominees. Voting ends Sunday, Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2013 World Series, where the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award will be announced.
Last year, during his first season with the Cubs, Rizzo started the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and provide support to children and families battling the disease. As a cancer survivor, Rizzo understands the impact cancer has on the entire family. Through fundraising for research and providing support for pediatric cancer patients and their families, the foundation aims to give every family a fighting chance against the disease.
Since its inception, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has hosted two successful inaugural events. The Walk-Off For Cancer was held in Rizzo’s Florida hometown in December 2012, and the Cook-Off For Cancer took place in Chicago with the support of teammates and the front office in August 2013. Together, these events have raised more than $250,000 for cancer research.
In addition to these fundraising efforts, Rizzo makes monthly visits to Lurie Children’s Hospital, where he spends much of his time talking with the patients and their families, signing autographs, taking photos and handing out Cubs goodies. Rizzo will be recognized for his nomination before the team’s Sept. 23 home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his foundation will be presented a $7,500 grant.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
President Barack Obama today announced Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this great award and to be among such distinguished honorees,” Banks said. “I have spent my life trying to help others enjoy and appreciate the sport I love. I thank President Obama for all his efforts. The Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans everywhere share in this award, as their support makes me proud to continue to work on behalf of America’s greatest game.”
According to the White House, The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“This honor is well deserved for a man who has done so much for the game of baseball,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “His contributions on and off the field have made a monumental impact to society. He is a great American ambassador who continues to spend his time and effort helping others love and appreciate America’s pastime.”
Banks joins a distinguished list of baseball players to receive this prestigious award, including Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Stan Musial (2011), Buck O’Neil (2006), Frank Robinson (2005), Jackie Robinson (1984) and Ted Williams (1991).
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts will serve as the honorary parade marshal of the 84th Annual Bud Billiken Parade on Sunday, Aug. 10. Ricketts becomes the first honorary marshal from the Cubs organization. The parade has long served as a way to get Chicago students excited about going back to school.
“I am honored to serve as honorary parade marshal in support of our city’s youth and education,” Ricketts said. “The Bud Billiken Parade is one of Chicago’s greatest traditions, and I am happy to join the thousands of talented youth who will be providing an atmosphere of excitement and family fun.”
Both the Cubs Trolley and the Cubs RBI team will also participate in the event.