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LONG READ: Building Champions

An in-depth look at how the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation fosters social and emotional learning for at-risk youth through sports and the Building Champions program

by Fred Mitchell /

Gang violence, bullying, personal assaults and constant despair are checked at the door of the Marillac St. Vincent Family Services facility on Chicago's often treacherous West Side.

Genuine hope, respect, support and opportunities are ushered inside.

"If one of us is going through something or we need anything…then the people that work (at Marillac) or our friends have got our back," said 11-year-old Christopher Mobley, one of 24 kids from Marillac who took part in the recent seven-week Building Champions program, an initiative of the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation that is now in its second year.

The program - run in conjunction with nonprofit organizations that have existing after school programs - works to foster social and emotional learning through sports for underprivileged and under-resourced children in the city of Chicago. It's an extension of Marillac's mission to provide a safe, family-style atmosphere for some of the city's most at-risk youth.

"I feel like without Marillac...I feel like I would have been in the streets, doing bad things," Mobley said.

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