Two years ago, my wife Sarah and I started the Wood Family Foundation because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of children in Chicago. We wanted to serve as advocates for children in underserved communities and make an impact in four neighborhoods specifically: Englewood, Austin, Lawndale and Humboldt Park. I have been very lucky in my life to be blessed with the ability to play a sport I love at such a high level. Sarah and I know that this gives us a platform to lead by example and help those less fortunate. In Chicago, it is imperative that we help the children in these neighborhoods and provide them the resources they need to succeed!
Swing for the Fences
We've been working diligently in these neighborhoods and have started to build friendships and confidence. Some of the ways we’ve directly touched children’s lives include providing school supplies to more than 8,500 school children annually and offering new winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves to more than 500 children each year. We also select a school to partner with every year and ask every child in that school to list their Christmas gift wish and offer to personally deliver their specific requests. It is one the foundations favorite days of the year, seeing the kids’ faces light up, walking into their school auditorium that has been transformed overnight into a winter wonderland!
In the summer, I hold a free, week-long baseball clinic in Ogden Park in the Englewood neighborhood teaching children how to play catch or hit a ball and talk about leadership qualities, the concept of fairness and good sportsmanship. And for the neighborhood's all-star students, we have partnered with the University of Illinois Chicago to offer our first four-year college scholarship. But we want to try and touch and improve the lives of many more children.
Rewarding a Commitment to Community
In creating the Daily Point of Light Award, President Bush inspired volunteerism and the act of service. The Wood Family Foundation is an organization of volunteers – that's really what it's all about, asking people to volunteer for a cause – to give their time, their money or their services – and inspiring them and others to connect to their community and want to make a difference.
Stepping Up to the Plate for Chicago’s Kids
It’s like what Sarah tells our children: “Just as Chicago supported Dad’s [my] goals and career, it is our obligation to do the same for our community.”
Our next adventure, therefore, is a new mentoring program, which will capitalize on the network of volunteers the Foundation has built to help support and guide children and teenagers in the Englewood, Austin, Lawndale and Humboldt Park neighborhoods of Chicago.
Through the Foundation, Sarah and I will continue to connect with our community, and we hope we can inspire others to do the same. There's much more to do, a lot of work ahead of us, but if we do it together, pull together and volunteer our time and our services, I really, truly believe, after being in these neighborhoods and building relationships with these children, that we can make a difference.