White Sox Charities Week benefits all involved
Volunteer Corps, ballclub team up to enhance local community
CHICAGO -- Christine O'Reilly had been working Friday morning as part of the large crew assembling a children's playground at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center on 119th St. in Chicago, when the White Sox senior director of community relations took a moment to honor the day's unsung heroes.
"Look at the spirit of these people and their energy," said O'Reilly, referring to members of the White Sox Volunteer Corps who teamed up with the organization for the playground work. "We've been out there since 7:30 or 8 and they haven't stopped for lunch.
"It's just another amazing example of the power of the community of White Sox fans when they get together. There is no stopping them."
Friday's endeavor marked the fourth and final community outreach event during the fourth annual White Sox Charities Week. WGN-TV is hosting a live Ultimate Auction on Saturday and Comcast SportsNet Chicago will host the Third Annual Wives Basket Auction on Sunday during the games, with bidding on both available at whitesox.com.
Earlier in the week, the White Sox featured Lunch with the Military that included pitchers Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain. That event was followed by Addison Reed and Nate Jones visiting pediatric patients at Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago, where O'Reilly presented a check from White Sox Charities.
On Wednesday, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez visited the General Wood Boys & Girls Club in the Little Village neighborhood, providing an anti-bullying presentation to nearly 60 children. The event at the Kroc Corps Community Center represented the broadest level of participation, with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, vice president of communications Scott Reifert, utility infielder Orlando Hudson, pitching coach Don Cooper and bullpen coach Juan Nieves assisting in the construction.
Cooper, Hudson and Nieves helped post and anchor a sign naming the playground, while Reinsdorf lent a hand to nearby swings being attached. White Sox Charities donated $1 million to the Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division to help build the Community Center in Chicago's West Pullman neighborhood. The Kroc Center is the largest single investment ever made by a social service organization in the city of Chicago.
As the work was being done by the White Sox, their Volunteer Corps, the Salvation Army, organizers from KaBOOM! and residents of the local community, members of the White Sox Amateur City Elite baseball team took some grounders on the professional-looking football stadium making up part of this approximately 165,000 square foot facility.
"This is a phenomenal facility," Reinsdorf said. "Now we are able to energize kids. They have a place to come stay out of trouble, further their education and further their athletic abilities.
"And it's always an honor to be associated with our Volunteer Corps because of all the good things they do. People could be working or doing something else but they give of their time. It's really inspiring to see our volunteers working. We are just kind of the catalyst."
Since the first day of service on May 9, 2009, the Volunteer Corps has served as a source of pride for the organization. The continued commitment from the fans does not come as a surprise to Reinsdorf.
"They see there's a vehicle for them to participate, and it's not at all surprising they come out," Reinsdorf said. "When they come together, they do phenomenal things. We are very proud to be associated with this."
"The great collaboration that the Kroc Center represents of coming together with the White Sox, Salvation Army and KaBOOM, we are finding a fourth element is most essential, which is community involvement," said Lt. Colonel Ralph Bukiewicz, who is the Salvation Army divisional commander for the Chicago Metro Area. "This is literally becoming a community owned, community claimed type project."
Designs for the new playground were based on drawings created by children, who participated in a Design Day event in June. It's part of a fitting ending to White Sox Charities Week, which raised $500,000 in its previous three years.
"We are sort of victims of our own success," O'Reilly said. "It's just we do so much during the course of a season and the first time we did it, we had a couple of activities during one day, and we said, 'You know what, this is the whole charities week, let's call it that and make sure we have a week like this every season.'
"When we put it on a couple of days, we shine the light on it, focus on it and it really helps people remember or reconnect. If they are not aware, they see what a commitment to the community the White Sox have as an organization.
"Fans are so generous and supportive and the fundraising part is a lot of fun," O'Reilly said. "It just kind of happened serendipitously. We were doing all this stuff, so let's call it what it is."