Cubs Charities brings communities together through the love of baseball. Keri Blackwell, the Assistant Director for the Cubs Charities, says one of the organization’s biggest goals is being a good neighbor. This non-profit organization utilizes sports to champion the youth, families, and communities around the city of Chicago. As a result of COVID-19, Cubs Charities decided to be more strategic and flexible with their partnership with local community partners.
The organization converted program grants to operating support to partner organizations to help keep them running. Cubs Charities has several programs geared towards children from kindergarten to 22 years old. Since 2014, they have committed $10.8 Million in Diamond Project Grants to communities across the city of Chicago. “It is an honor and a privilege to walk alongside these young people” – Keri Blackwell.
Mariah Danielle Muskin began playing softball around 9 or 10 years old. Her high school softball coach introduced her to the Cubs RBI program in 2020. She is a pitcher, first baseman, and third baseman. Mariah is an alum of the program, but she stays in contact with several members of the Cubs Charities organization. She is currently a first-year student at Northern Vermont University in Johnson, Vermont. She notes several benefits to being a part of the Cubs RBI program. This program provides lots of opportunities and opens a lot of doors. She has met challenges along the way, including changing schools and financial struggles. She remains optimistic, focuses on herself, pushes forward, and does not get discouraged. Mariah tells other young ladies interested in softball to JUST DO IT! It is a beautiful opportunity to have fun, make new friends, and learn the various positions on the field.
Black History Month is special to Mariah because it is an opportunity to celebrate those who have come before her. Mariah often found herself as the only Melanated player on the teams in predominately white neighborhoods. Through hard work and determination, she is excited that she has made a name for herself. She wants people to focus on her talent and not her appearance.
She is currently studying clinical psychology with a focus on children. She wants to coach young players in the future, and she sees coaching as an option for therapy. Mariah is a big advocate of the Cubs Charities, and she stays connected with her coaches from the Cubs RBI program. She always shares the organization’s updates on social media. Mariah tells everyone about the organization and the benefits of the program. She appreciates everything the organization has done for her. The staff, coaches, and participants are incredibly supportive of each other. She feels supported on and off the field; the Cubs Charities organization is one big community.
Kyle Williams – an East Garfield Park native, says the Cubs Scholars program saved his life. He found out about this opportunity in 2017, shortly after his grandfather passed away. Kyle was struggling to adjust to the loss of one of his biggest supporters and the challenge of high school classes. The requirements of the Cubs Scholars program include good grades, community involvement, and an interview. Kyle has no regrets about his high scholar performance; it motivated him to do better in college. He feels honored to be part of the Cubs Scholars program. He has met some good people and still maintains several vital relationships. Kyle would not be here without his mentor Nicole Bersani Zimmer and Jennifer Dedes Nowak, both part of the Cubs family.
This program has given him a supportive community of different people with the same determination. Kyle has fond memories of interviewing Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Theo Epstein. He is currently attending Knox College in his Junior year and majoring in Journalism. He plans to pursue a career in Sports Journalism.
For Kyle, Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how far we must go. He understands how vital representation is, especially in the field of journalism. It is essential to have diverse opinions and backgrounds. He wants to use his education and skills to uplift the Black voice and celebrate our accomplishments. Kyle wrote a piece on Jason Heyward and his impact on the North Austin Community. He was so excited to see Jason come out of the dugout to the sounds of Jay Z and Drake. Jason’s music selection shows how connected he is to the culture and his commitment to the community. His experiences with Cubs Charities have motivated him to do more and look for the next big opportunity. Kyle will be the first person in his family to graduate college and is looking forward to attending Northwestern University – Medill School of Journalism.
Theresa Horton is a contributing writer for the Chicago Defender. Find her on social media @passionateresources.