Wednesday, August 1, 2012

For the Love of the Game & Charitable Organizations

Sports have been a big part of my life ever since I was little.  Throughout my life I have played a number of sports and on a number of sports teams.  Sports include: soccer, gymnastics, diving, swimming, golf, tennis, basketball, softball, indoor volleyball, and beach volleyball.   Even now in my adulthood, my passion for sports still exists and I continue to play in a sports league each summer.  Chicago is an amazing city for so many reasons and I especially love how active this city is with club sports and sports leagues.

When you are an athlete,  whether you played in grade school, high school, or a collegiate sport,  your love for sports stays with you and nestles inside your heart.  I know this to be true, and I have always had the love for sports whether I am playing or watching sports, but my love for playing sports was taken to a whole new level after I met Mark Biery, co-founder of LTS (Live to Support) Chicago.

LTS (Live to Support) Chicago was founded on the notion that young professionals are the key platform to raise awareness to support to Chicago charities. LTS forms sports leagues so people can participate in active sporting and social events which, in turn, help Chicago charities through donations and awareness.

After learning about LTS, I reached out to Mark about getting some teams formed and playing in a summer softball league.  It didn't take long for me to form a team and decide on a charity that we would represent.

Since July 10th, my team: Team Knockdown, has been venturing out to Stanton Park to play against fellow Groupon employees and other 600 West Chicago companies in a 16 inch softball league on Tuesday night's through Live to Support Chicago.  Companies that participated include: ConAgra Foods, Wrigley, InnerWorkings, and of course, Groupon.

My team played for the Chicago Lights Urban Farm, an urban farm I have grown to hold near and dear to my heart and have become an advocate for the great work they do in the Chicagoland community.  Chicago Lights has taught me how to farm, the importance of composting, and that farming is an education tool in the sense that it is a way to teach life skills to low-income children and families.

One thing I love about LTS's program is that before the start of each game, competing teams circle around home plate to give a brief speech on what charity they are playing for and a little background about their work.   This also allows you to be educated about different charitable organizations that are doing great work in your community.  We all know sports are competitive and sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the emotions and competitive edge sports can bring out in you.  LTS gives athletes a reason to direct their energy of the game to play for selfless reasons, a charity.  When you play for a charitable organization, your love for the game changes.  You aren't playing for you anymore, you are playing for the mission-driven work that the charity does each and every day.   Losing a game even feels different, because you know that the team you lost to is playing for a charity that is making a difference and could really use the funding.  However losing makes you more determined to win the next game, so you can be one step closer to being in the championship round.

Before the start of each season, LTS automatically awards each participating team $100 to give to the charity they are representing.  I love this because even if your specific team doesn't win the championship, you still played to raise awareness about the charity you are representing and the organization gets $100, and a $100 can make an impact for any charitable organization.

So you may be wondering, how did my team, Team Knockdown finish their season?  In short, last night, my team played in the championship and won.  We came back in the 6th inning when we were down 5 runs, to tie up the game.  We could not believe it.  The 7th inning was the final inning and with the score tied, we managed to hold the competing team at 8 runs and we managed to bring in a 9th run to win the game!  It was a remarkable moment.  Seeing my team of fellow colleagues, not only make such an amazing come back but to see the excitement on each of their faces because they knew our victory meant that the Chicago Lights Urban Farm would be receiving a check for $1,000.

It was a priceless moment and a moment I will treasure forever.  My love of the game has been completely changed because of my experience playing with Live to Support and I cannot wait to play for a charity again.

A big congratulations to Groupon's very own Team Knockdown for beating InnerWorking's: Here Comes the Runs team in Live to Support's Softball Championship.

Be sure to check out photos from the season and a highlight video of the league.  You can see the schedule, team rankings, and what charity each team played for here.

It was inspiring to see passionate individuals who have love for the game of softball but also it was even more inspiring to see individuals who are passionate about the charity their team was representing and played every play for them.

What do you play for?  What charity would you want to represent in a sports league & why?

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