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West Side sports program offers free baseball and nutrition resources for children in Chicago

CHICAGO — The rain in Garfield Park Saturday lent itself toward growing a safer space, where baseball season opened up for the organization, Chicago Westside Sports (CWS).

CWS, a sports program that provides free opportunities for Chicago kids, ages 7-14, to play sports like baseball and basketball, was started by the non-profit “City of Refuge,” who brought together coaches from other non-profits, Chicago police and faith-based organizations to make the program a reality.

“hundreds of kids and families coming out,” said President and CEO of Meridian Health Plan Cristal Gary. “It’s really important when school is out for kids to have access to positive activities, positive role models and fun things for them to do.”

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On top of learning to play two of America’s most popular sports, Gray also said it’s an opportunity for kids to learn the values of healthy nutrition.

“When children don’t get the right nutrition, when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, it impacts not only their physical development, but also their emotional and mental well-being,” Gary said.

To that end, 80 organizations lent their resources on top of their expertise Saturday, handing out 1,500 bags of fresh groceries to families who attended.

  • Meridian Health PLan’s Gladys Jarrell helping organize fresh produce to be given out Saturday.
    Meridian Health PLan’s Gladys Jarrell helping organize fresh produce to be given out Saturday.
  • Food being served after the beginning of Chicago Westside Sports baseball season opener.
    Food being served after the beginning of Chicago Westside Sports baseball season opener.

“Fresh spinach, fresh radish, fresh onions and potatoes and other vegetables straight from Nichols farm in Marengo, Illinois,” said Gladys Jarrell of Meridian Health Plan of Illinois.

“We have the opportunity to provide those kids, not only with nutrition [and] education,” Gary said. “But also access to healthy, protein-rich meals that can help them be healthier and grow stronger as they’re playing these sports and having that opportunity to engage in physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.”

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