ESPN announced today that the Chicago Fire Soccer Club has been named the 2019 Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year for its efforts to make a difference in the community, specifically through the Chicago Fire Foundation’s P.L.A.Y.S. Program (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth, Soccer). The Fire were recognized at the fifth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards, presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, at L.A. LIVE’s The Novo.
The ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award represents a sports team that demonstrates how teamwork between athletes and their community relations efforts or foundations can create a significant impact on a community or cause. As a recipient of the ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award, the Fire will receive a $100,000 grant from ESPN to be directed toward the P.L.A.Y.S. Program.
The finalists for this year’s award included New York City Football Club, Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year marked the second consecutive year in which the Fire were recognized as a finalist.
To access photos of the P.L.A.Y.S. Program, click www.mlssoccer.app.box.com/s/9ymcqukkyliv3bxo8d64rwi0gt6dbfvt
“It has always been extremely important to my family that our Club cares for – and stands up for – our community,” said Chicago Fire Chairman and Owner Andrew Hauptman. “The Fire organization and ownership is proud to take a leadership position in giving back to neighborhoods across Chicagoland. It is humbling to receive this honor from ESPN. The generous grant will allow our P.L.A.Y.S. program to serve more youth in our Chicago Public Schools. Every day, our players practice alongside a sign that reads, ‘Be a giver.’ That’s what we believe in.”
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 the Club’s innovative after-school soccer program, 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.
This is the fourth major national or international community-focused award the Club has received since 2015. P.L.A.Y.S. – the signature program of the Fire Foundation –received the Community Award at the 2018 Leaders Sports Awards (London, UK) and was recognized as the 2016 Beyond Sport Team of the Year (London, UK) and the 2015 Robert Wood Johnson Sport Team of the Year (Princeton, N.J.).
Highlights of the Sports Humanitarian Awards will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN, July 18, at 6:00 p.m. CT.
Additional information on the Chicago Fire Foundation can be found at www.chicago-fire.com/community.