BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (June 5, 2019) – ESPN announced Wednesday that the Chicago Fire Soccer Club -- for the second consecutive year -- has been selected as a finalist for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year in recognition of the club’s efforts to make a difference in the community, specifically through the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program.
The fifth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, will be held on Tuesday, July 9 at L.A. LIVE’s The Novo, and will be hosted — for the first time — by Grammy award winner singer and songwriter Ciara. The Sports Humanitarian Awards are a celebration of the impact made by athletes, teams and sports industry professionals who use the power of sport to make a difference throughout the world.
Also selected as finalists for Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year are the Anaheim Ducks (NHL), Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB) and New York City Football Club (MLS).
“We are honored and humbled to see the Fire's contributions to the community be recognized by ESPN for a second consecutive season,” said Chicago Fire Chairman and Owner Andrew Hauptman. “Our entire organization is committed to making a positive impact in the neighborhoods of Chicagoland and beyond. We would also like to congratulate and acknowledge the Ducks, Dodgers and NYCFC for the special work that they do in their respective communities.”
More than 40% of public school students in Chicago do not graduate high school, and nearly 70 students drop out of school every day. The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is looking to change these grim statistics through an innovative after-school soccer program called P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer), a 10-week program integrating soccer with social and emotional learning character skills to ultimately improve participants’ academic performance, while providing a safe and supportive environment to engage in soccer. P.L.A.Y.S. participants have had a decrease in behavior infractions, number of disciplinary incidents, unexcused absences, suspensions and failing grades. There has also been a 50% drop in crime near program spaces, which is significant given that 60% of P.L.A.Y.S. schools were in the top 20 most violent neighborhoods in Chicago.
P.L.A.Y.S. is the signature program for the Fire Foundation, which was awarded the 2016 Beyond Sport Team of the Year Award as well as the 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Team of the Year Award, in recognition of the group’s outstanding charitable programming efforts.
Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 18, at 7 p.m. ET.
ESPN will make charitable contributions on behalf of the award nominees. Additionally, the net proceeds of the event will once again benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. To date, $7.5 million has been donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards.
Multiple sports leagues and/or governing bodies including MLS, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Top Rank, UFC, USTA, WNBA and WWE are sponsors of the event and have nominated athletes, teams and corporations who are transforming lives and uplifting communities.
The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport; Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA; Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good and Professor of Sport Management at Farmingdale State College; Caryl Stern, CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Eli Wolff, Director of the Power of Sport Lab and the Sport and Society Initiative at Brown University.
Additional information on the Chicago Fire Foundation can be found at www.chicago-fire.com/community.