CHICAGO (WLS) -- Final practices were underway Friday for Saturday's Work to Play Cup, which will feature 1,300 CPS students from 36 neighborhoods. They will come together for a soccer tournament and games thanks to Urban Initiatives.
"Urban Initiatives uses the power of sport and play to empower our youth to be more successful," said Jim Dower, first coach for Urban Initiatives. "I think that sports is a unifying strategy for our city to again empower youth and bring communities together."
Dower, co-founder and CEO of Urban Initiatives, started the non-profit almost 15 years ago after being a teacher in the Cabrini Green neighborhood and seeing a need for sports for younger children.
"I was a teacher and really saw it as an opportunity to bring sport to the school and keep them excited about working hard in the classroom, eating health,y and giving a place the parents to come on and cheer for the kids and really be part of that school community," he said.
Taking part in the program comes at no cost to kids and family, but in return kids need to maintain grades and parents need to participate.
"We build in structured ways for our student to take what they learned on the field into the classroom, in that each week their teachers fill out forms, called the Work to Play Forms, where you have to be graded on how well you did in class in order to participate in game days on Fridays," said Emily Fallon, marketing and communications manager for Urban Initiatives.
"What we ask of parents is being present. We want to be part of our game days, to cheer on their kids. We want them to ride the buses to the work to play cup this Saturday," Dower said.
Dower said creating this program for the kids of Chicago has given more to him than he could have ever imagined.
"It's really, to me, awe inspiring and to me I've gotten way more from the students and families that I work for than we've ever given them or ever partnered with them on," he said, tearing up.
The 6th Annual Work to Play Cup is Saturday, June 2, at Midway Plaisance. It starts at 10 a.m. and will be the emceed by ABC7's Dionne Miller.