The Bears joined the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox to host a special event Monday at Malcolm X College in Chicago.
The five professional sports teams—who formed the Chicago Sports Alliance last December—welcomed youth and mentors from the "Choose 2 Change" program, along with police officers from the Strategic Decision Support Centers for lunch, peace circles and collaborative activities.
"I think it's the first time these five teams have worked collectively on anything, and there's no more important issue than making sure that kids in Chicago have a future and a safe future," said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the University of Chicago crime lab. "I think it's really special that they're sending a message to young people that they matter."
"This is awesome," added Dwayne Betts, a deputy chief with the Chicago Police Department. "This is real special. You can see by the expressions on the kids' faces that they really are blown away by this. And the police officers, we love when we can work together in partnership with businesses. But then when we do it with professional sports teams that are recognized throughout the world, it's a great opportunity."
The Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox formed the Chicago Sports Alliance to lend their broad reach and resources in support of solutions to decrease violence in the city.
"It shows they care," said James Burns, an 18-year-old resident of the Englewood community who attended Monday's event. "It's fun to bring everybody together. That's what we need. What I've learned from this is that everybody's the same. We just need a little hope, that's all."
The Chicago Sports Alliance is providing $1 million in grants to support three initiatives, including "Choose to Change," which is a high-intensity mentoring and trauma therapy program proven to reduce violent behavior among youth in the greater Englewood community who are at-risk for violent involvement.
"Choose 2 Change is really an exceptional program," Ander said, "where mentors and advocates are reaching out to young people that so many in society have given up on and saying that they matter and really working with the young people and really helping the young people see the value in themselves and see that they have a future."
The $1 million in grants also fund analyst training by the University of Chicago crime lab in the Chicago Police Department's Strategic Decision Support Centers and the crime lab to support efforts to measure and assess the impact of the teams' initial investments to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable Chicagoans.
"The resources brought to bear from the teams have already helped by providing services to the young people," Ander said. "And this event is really sending a message that they are so valued and so important, so I think it's a very special thing to do for this group of young people."