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RISE, ESPN thinkBeyond & love.fútbol celebrate 50 years of Title IX in Chicago

June 16, 2022

RISE to provide leadership programs for girls at newly refurbished softball field in Chicago in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX & ESPN's Fifty/50 initiative

Site will be home to development programs that will teach girls life skills through sport

Women playing tug of war

CHICAGO - Sports teams, community leaders, residents and young people gathered in Rosenblum Park in Chicago's Southside on Wednesday, June 15, for the inauguration of a newly refurbished softball field dedicated to the local community and its residents.

The field refurbishment, led by ESPN, aligns with the celebration of 50 years since the passage of the landmark Title IX civil rights legislation. The law prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or educational program receiving federal financial assistance. The site in Chicago will expressly offer safe facilities for girls from underrepresented communities to learn and play through sport.

Rise CEO Diahann Billings-Burford Rise CEO Diahann Billings-Burford

Throughout June, ESPN has been commemorating the milestone moment in the fight for gender equality with its “Fifty/50” inititiative. The series highlights the civil rights journey of women across the sports and cultural landscapes with content and programming features airing across The Walt Disney Company's platforms.

Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship and a member of RISE's board of directors, said, “ESPN's Fifty/50 initiativetells stories of women's empowerment since the passing of Title IX. We are delighted to play a part in writing the next chapter of Title IX by working alongside organizations such as Lost Boyz Inc., RISE and love.fútbol, as we empower a new generation of girls by unlocking the benefits that sport can offer through refurbishing this field in Chicago's Southside.”

The refurbished softball field will provide access to sport within a neighborhood where 40% of families with children live below the poverty level. It builds on the achievements of Title IX by supporting Lost Boyz Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on decreasing violence, improving social and emotional conditions and providing financial opportunities to youth from Chicago's most vulnerable communities. The organization will use the refurbished field to deliver its Lost Girls MVP Youth Softball Program for girls from underrepresented communities in Chicago. By combining participation in softball with tutoring and civic engagement, the girls can experience positive social relationships and outcomes across many areas of their lives that enhance their individual interests, skills, and abilities.

RISE, a national nonprofit which educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations, will partner with the Lost Boyz to deliver its multi-week leadership program for girls and coaches at the Southside space. RISE programs build skills and create safe spaces to have difficult conversations, and equip participants with the tools to be culturally competent and leaders in addressing racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusion.

“RISE is always excited to partner with organizations that are creating more inclusion and equity,” Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO of RISE, said. “The opening of this new facility will advance the aims of Title IX and help create positive change for girls within the community. We look forward to working with Lost Boyz Inc. and helping them fulfil their mission by delivering programs to empower this same youth to be leaders for advancing racial equity, social justice and inclusivity.”

Rise CEO Diahann Billings-Burford

Project manager, love.fútbol, a global non-profit which engages communities to create their own sports space projects, led the transformation of the space. Drew Chafetz, Co-Founder and CEO, added, "We've built safe sports spaces around the world with ESPN, and are honored by the opportunity to bring this work to the US, to mark and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX with our first softball pitch project in the City of Chicago. At love.fútbol, we utilize sport as a platform to advance gender equality and promote access to play for girls and boys in safe and inclusive environments while impacting the community."

Sarah Spain, co-host of ESPN Radio's 'Spain and Fitz' show hosted the event, which was attended by community leaders, residents, youth, and representatives from several Chicago professional sports teams (Bulls, Cubs, Sky, and White Sox), plus representatives from the Big Ten Conference.

Lost Boyz Inc. Founder and Chicago local Lavonte Stewart Sr. said, “Lost Boyz Inc. is elated to be a recipient of this opportunity from ESPN. It is even more significant being part of the celebration of 50 years of Title IX. It's great to see this commitment to softball and Black girls. This is a true ode to the existence of Title IX legislation.”

About the Organizations

ESPN Corporate Citizenship: ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplift the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use the power of sport to positively address society's needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets.

love.fútbol: love.fútbol is an award-winning non-profit dedicated to a safe place to play soccer for every child. The organization engages, mobilizes and partners with communities to plan, build, manage and redefine their own sports spaces as hubs for passion, education and development. Through the passion and power of the world's most popular game, love.fútbol engages communities to ensure that every child has a place to play. Since 2006, love.fútbol has partnered with some of the biggest names in sport, business and non-profit to create safe sports spaces across five continents for nearly 70,000 children, youth and adults to be active, connect, grow and learn.

Lost Boyz Inc.: The Lost Boyz Inc. mission is to provide sports-based youth development to help boys and girls in Chicago's under-resourced neighborhoods develop confidence, resilience, and life skills. The organization does this by working to decrease violence, improving social and emotional conditions, and providing financial opportunities to youth in Chicago's most vulnerable communities. The organization provides youth with the opportunity to focus on character development, positive output, and good decision making.

RISE: RISE is a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations. Through partnerships and programs, RISE inspires leaders in sports to create positive change on matters of race and equality. RISE programs build skills and create safe spaces to have difficult conversations. RISE equips students, athletes, coaches and administrators with the tools to be culturally competent, effective advocates for racial equity and leaders in addressing racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusion. RISE's vision is to create a nation unified through sports committed to racial equity and social justice.

thinkBeyond: thinkBeyond is a social impact and sustainability consultancy that supports leaders and organizations to make a positive impact on the world both in, and through, sport. They are the global experts in providing consultancy and strategy delivery to brands, sports teams, leagues, federations, talent and governments who want to do good business and create positive social change. Having helped develop this initiative with ESPN, thinkBeyond now supports in the implementation of the project around the world.

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