DOWNTOWN — Hundreds of kids and teens from throughout the city will take over a busy Downtown street to play basketball in an effort to promote peace and unity Thursday.
The tournament, called the Cross-City Championship, marks the finale to Hoops in the Hood, a summer-long collection of programs where children and teens participate in neighborhood basketball games. In doing so, kids are able to play with their peers from throughout the neighborhood and reclaim local spots, like blocks and parks, that have been impacted by violence, according to a news release from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
Craig Chico, president and CEO of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, one of the tournament’s sponsors, said Hoops in the Hood can turn enemies into teammates – and even friends.
“We’re all Back of the Yards here, but that means there’s eight factions of gangs in Back of the Yards, and typically the kids east of Ashland and south of 47th Street would never go north of 47th and west of Ashland to play basketball — it’s two different gang territories, two different worlds,” Chico told LISC. “All these kids from different parts of the neighborhood are playing against each other in the summer, and now they have to play together as an All-Star team at the Cross-City Tournament. Now it’s like a community. We’re not just separate parks and separate organizations from Back of the Yards — now we’re just Back of the Yards. The benefits of that can’t be overstated.”
This year’s more than 400 Cross-City Championship participants are ages 8-19 and they come from 20 neighborhoods throughout Chicago. The Hoops in the Hood programs have served more than 23,000 children over the last 12 years, with the kids getting to participate for free, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
Besides the tournament, Thursday’s event will feature food, free bags and school supplies for participants, face-painting and other activities, according to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
The opening ceremony kicks off at 9:45 a.m. on Balbo Drive between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive. The tournament runs 10 a.m.-3 p.m., with the final game starting at 2 p.m.
Balbo Drive will be closed between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive starting 9:45 a.m. Thursday for the tournament.