Celebrating Our Everyday Champions by Jess Larson

Each February at our Anniversary Field of Dreams gala, we honor five different champions, and this year’s lineup is nothing short of inspiring both on a national and local level.

We’re celebrating the incredible career and grit of former WNBA player and gold medalist Tamika Catchings. We’re cheering on Dr. Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL who is changing the game for women in football. We’re applauding Tamar Manasseh and the mothers of M.A.S.K. who are fighting to end violence in Chicago block by block and to protect Chicago’s children. We’re commending Jas Boothe, Chicago native, disabled Army veteran, and cancer survivor, for founding Final Salute, Inc. to serve homeless female veterans. And we’re excited to see Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner, and hear about her work to advance the city of Chicago.

These women are changing the game both in Chicago and on a national level. They’re taking on local challenges in Chicago and standing up for women and girls across the nation. Learning about each of these women’s incredible accomplishments continues to inspire me each day as I work with the rest of our Development team to prepare for the gala. But there’s another group of champions that we are celebrating tonight: our girls.

Girls in Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas and Bloomington are the champions that we interact with every day. Along with our gala champions this year, our girls demonstrate all that it means to have the heart of a champion. They are courageous, resourceful and bold. They practice teamwork and grit as they learn new sports. They are our champions.

You can clearly see this in the drawings that they do for the gala. Each year, we get some design help from our girls, especially when it comes to the Thank You cards that each guest gets to take home at the end of the event. We sit them down for 20 minutes, tell the about the theme for the evening and let them draw. Some of the drawings become the Thank You cards we pass out at favors; others decorate the Girls in the Game office or become a part of a display around the city.

This year we asked the girls, what does it mean to have the heart of a champion? Here are some of their answers:

drawing3drawings4drawings2drawing1

The pictures show a clear trend; champions don’t exist by themselves. They are leaders, they are teammates, and most importantly, they encourage each other.

I’m so excited to hear from our five champions this evening at Field of Dreams. Their words of wisdom and inspiration stay with me long after the event is over. But I also have the privilege of working with the everyday champions that Girls in the Game serves throughout Chicago, our girls. Their words, their thoughts and their actions inspire me each day. They truly have the heart of a champion.

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