The Chicago White Sox began their partnership with WITS in 2010, shortly after launching the White Sox Volunteer Corps. Christine O’Reilly is the White Sox Vice President of Community Relations & Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities. She sees the volunteer corps as a way for White Sox fans to join the organization shoulder-to-shoulder in community service. In addition to engaging fans, the White Sox hoped to “provide our staff members with a special program to tap into their time and talents.”
WITS’ strong reputation for engaging companies and volunteers to benefit Chicago Public School (CPS) students drew the White Sox to partnering with us. What began with a “Power Lunch” program held at neighborhood school McClellan Elementary in 2010 led to over a decade of collaborative support for the communities WITS serves.
WITS’ partnership with the White Sox thrives thanks to the shared value of supporting Chicago community member’s needs. Each year, the White Sox donate time, resources, and mentorship to McClellan Elementary School. The White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field is a ten minute walk away from the school. White Sox staff members participate in WITS as literacy mentors for third grade students. They also put on special holiday and end of program year celebrations and donate gifts directly to classes at McClellan.
White Sox Mentors
The White Sox have continuously demonstrated their commitment to students throughout the pandemic. One innovative way they brought literacy into families’ homes was when outfielder Adam Eaton and his family recorded and shared a read-aloud of Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream by Crystal Hubbard.
O’Reilly shared that for the White Sox staff, donating their own time and energy is crucial to their work. “Volunteerism is one of the key outreach efforts,” shares O’Reilly. “Adding a team of White Sox staff members to engage in hands-on service through WITS has proven to be a great addition to our commitment to volunteerism – and even better, provides staff members a great experience of being personally involved in enhancing the lives of others.” These hours volunteering through WITS add to the cumulative efforts of the White Sox Volunteer Corps, who have logged over 54,000 hours served at more than 500 community events since 2009.
Volunteer Testimonials: Meg Hiestand
WITS shares that same tenacity for volunteerism. White Sox mentors contribute to over 15,050 hours delivered by WITS volunteers annually in Chicago Public Schools and the combined $3 million value of volunteer hours and direct programmatic investment in Chicago Public Schools students and teachers. Students, teachers, and mentors alike feel the impact. Meg Hiestand, a White Sox literacy mentor with WITS since 2015, felt compelled to further her investment in empowering readers by joining the WITS Associates Board.
Hiestand values the relationships built with students through adult literacy mentorship. She reflects, “as someone who did not enjoy reading as a child, [I think of] kids who feel similarly and might need a little extra encouragement to enjoy reading. I didn’t have that from anyone other than my parents and growing up you don’t always want to listen to your parents. But I do think there’s something important about having another adult outside your caregivers encourage you to do something; it can go a long way.”
Volunteer Testimonials: Antonia Acuna
WITS’ partnership with the White Sox creates the opportunity for mentors and students to share experiences, enjoy diverse books, and learn with each other. Antonia Acuna, a White Sox corporate coordinator for the WITS program and weekly mentor, started volunteering with WITS at the beginning of the 2019 school year. She sees a lot of the value in connecting her own lived experience with students.
Acuna shares, “The relatability and knowing that I was going to make an impact was what excited me the most. English was my second language so it took me [a] while to pick up on reading as [a] child. Now knowing that I was about to impact a young learner – especially seeing that some at McClellan Elementary were in the same position as I once was really motivated me as a mentor.” Antonia also recognizes that she has gained new perspective and knowledge from students, expressing “these young learners have too helped me grow as a person and mentor.”
McClellan Elementary School
Because McClellan is so close to Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox volunteers have a special connection to the school community. Teachers at McClellan witness the impact that over a decade of support from the South Side baseball team has provided. Kenyada Burks, a teacher at McClellan whose class had WITS program with the White Sox, observed that mentors “helped [students] grow both academically and socially. In the beginning of the year many students shied away from reading out loud. By the end of the program, they were flailing their hands, begging to be called upon. It was such a confidence building experience.”
The impact of the White Sox/WITS partnership is not limited to literacy gains and increased confidence with reading. The White Sox do all they can to “go beyond the diamond” shared third grade teacher Leticia Sanchez. Her students especially love the extra effort the White Sox put in to make the school year in WITS special. “The culminating activity with the White Sox is so special to our third graders. They love going on the walking field trip and getting to run around [Guaranteed Rate] field. Being able to meet Southpaw [the mascot] is an amazing experience for them. The look on our students’ faces is priceless!”
Chicago White Sox: Corporate Partner of the Year
As part of the 30th anniversary of WITS, we are honoring the Chicago White Sox as our Corporate Partner of the Year. Their commitment to service to WITS and to the McClellan students is a testament to the power of building community through volunteering.