The Chicago Fire on Tuesday won the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award presented by ESPN, in recognition of their efforts to address their city's public school student dropout rate via the P.L.A.Y.S. initiative.
It's the second year running the Fire have received accolades for P.L.A.Y.S. (Participate, Learn, Achieve, Youth and Soccer), a 10-week program integrating soccer with social and emotional learning character skills to improve participants’ academic performance while providing safe places to play. P.L.A.Y.S. has been shown to reduce behavior infractions, suspensions and unexcused absences among participants, while also improving academic performance levels. As winners, Chicago will now be able to direct a $100,000 grant from ESPN to the program.
The Fire were among several teams and athletes honored in Tuesday night's ceremony at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles, which according to ESPN helped raise more than $1 million in net proceeds for The Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. That pushes the running total to $7.5 million that has been donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards. Highlights of the evening will be showcased during a one-hour program on ESPN on July 18, at 7 pm ET.
Chicago edged their MLS colleagues New York City FC, who were nominated for their “City in the Community” program of free community soccer initiatives throughout New York City, as well as MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers and the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL.