For over 70 years, the Chicago Area Project has prided itself on working to both eradicate juvenile delinquency, through the support of local community self-help programs, and building better neighborhood conditions by encouraging youth to take part in extracurricular activities that decrease anti-social behavior and inspire a greater sense of community respect.
True to this tradition, CAP held its 8th annual CAP Games on July 30 at Hanson Park Stadium & Fieldhouse (located at 5501 W. Fullerton). Youth from more than 40 community-based organizations from throughout the Chicago Metropolitan Area that are affiliated with CAP were invited to train and compete in the games.
The goal of the games is to build character and self-esteem in its teen and pre-teen participants as well as a sense of accomplishment that will hopefully translate into the childrens’ future academic endeavors.
Among the community organizations from the West Side that were represented in the games: St. Agatha Family Empowerment, Jordan Boys & Girls Club, Scouting Network at Emmett School, and the Mid-Austin Steering Committee.
“One of the great things about this year’s games is the fact that we were able to incorporate more community outreach initiatives, therefore allowing more children to participate,” said Howard Lathan, associate executive director. “We have children from Austin, Pilsen, Riverdale, Evanston and Markham. It really allows us the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of children throughout the state of Illinois.”
The event kicked off at 9 a.m. with a spirited Olympic-style parade, followed by an introduction by David Whittaker, executive director of CAP, during which he encouraged all participants to enjoy the day, do their best, exercise good team unity and remember to stay hydrated as the temperature began to soar close to 85 degrees.
Athletic events at the CAP Games included: the softball throw, the 50-, 100-, and 200-yard dashes, the 100- and 400-yard relay races and the long jump.
Whittaker notes that the CAP Games emphasize self-esteem building, good sportsmanship and educational skills, all of which will be vital once the children return to their respective schools following summer break.
“Each year, the actual CAP Games is a one-day event,” said Whittaker. “However, the preparation program leading up to the games takes place throughout the summer. CAP Games participants practice during the summer months, attend training sessions and work in their local organizations.”
During the half-time activities, the over 1,100 young athletes were joined by Chicago Bulls center Eddie Curry, who serves as ambassador at the Games. Curry used his role to promote the 2005 CAP games and act as a guiding force for the young participants of the event.
“You are all winners,” Curry said during his pre-autograph-signing speech to the competitors. “Regardless of who wins or loses, each one of you should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment to be able to be involved in this program.”
In keeping up with this underlying theme of the games, each young athlete walked away with an award, even if they failed to recieve a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal.
Sponsors and contributors to the event included: Chicago Park District, Morris Trading, Chicago Bulls and Curtis Enterprises, True North Thoroughbred and the Woodhill Foundation.
Teams took home first-, second- and third-place trophies as well, based on their overall team scores. A West Side community project, Better Life For Youth (2022 W. Washington), won the first-place trophy at the event. James Jordan Center (2102 W. Monroe), also on the West Side, took the second-place trophy, and People’s Organization of Robbins (3726 W. 135th St.) took third place.