Friday, August 21, 2015

Changing Lives, One at a Time (Chicago Lights)

Regular readers of my blog are very aware that I’m training to run a marathon. But did you know why? (Other than that I love to run.) Especially since after my last one I swore never to run another road marathon again?

Well, I was offered the opportunity to be on a team to raise funds for Chicago Lights, an organization connected with the church I work for.

If you live in Chicago you’re well aware of the ongoing insanity of our public school system. There are real improvements in individual schools (such as the one my sons go to), but these improvements are typically driven by parents and homeowners in the community surrounding these schools. Overall, the system is a mess, and if you’re a student in an area plagued by poverty, it’s unlikely you’re getting what you need. Chicago is also a very segregated city, with vast disparities in the resources provided across neighborhoods. I imagine it’s not that different in most major cities in the United States.

The Chicago Lights programs work directly with children, youth, and adults from some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods (and in partnership with other agencies and businesses around the city) to address some of the root causes of poverty and create change, one person at a time.

There are six programs in the Chicago Lights family and I’ve gotten to work closely with several of them over the years.

Chicago Lights Tutoring helps students from low-income communities improve their academic performance, stay in school through high school graduation, and prepare for higher education and meaningful careers, through one-to-one tutoring sessions and access to career development opportunities, plus healthy meals and other enrichment programs. They just celebrated their 50-year anniversary!

Then over the summer, Chicago Lights Summer Day provides a safe place to learn and take part in academic and arts classes for 1st-8th graders each summer. This is especially important in our city where so many schools are struggling and where gang violence rises during the summer months.

The Chicago Lights Urban Farm provides job training and youth development, as well as nutrition, science and arts activities for younger children. Families come to learn about nutrition and healthy cooking, and have access to affordable, organic produce. It also provides a true sanctuary in a sometimes violent and dangerous neighborhood. (I worked here in its first years when it was a community garden.)

Part of my job involves overseeing a school supply drive that provides backpacks to the students in the Summer Day and Urban Farm programs, and supplies to the Tutoring program, so I’ve gotten to know their staff over the years and see many of these kids grow. I've gotten to see and hear firsthand from the students and their parents the impact these programs have made in their lives, the opportunities that have opened up to them through the programs' offerings and their hard work.

I’ll write more on the other Chicago Lights programs later this summer. It's an honor to be able to support them, and I hope you will consider supporting them through me as I run this summer.

And, as in past years, to sweeten the deal, for every donation of $45 or more I will bake a batch of cookies, or cupcakes or pie if you live in delivery distance. (Some people have chosen to have their cookies donated to one of the Chicago Lights meals programs instead. Just something to think about.)
To support my fundraising for them, go to
And for more information on Chicago Lights, go to



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