What brings together 32 teenage boys and 8 adult community leaders each week? A home-cooked meal, mentoring, and of course, sports.

For the past year, Breakthrough’s newly created Sport Connect program is building bridges and providing intensive mentoring to young men in East Garfield Park. The program, an initiative through the Mayor’s Office and funded by DFSS, seeks to create lasting relationships centered around building up the next generation of leaders, particularly boys ages 13-16. The group meets weekly, enjoys a home-cooked meal from a dedicated volunteer, engages in meaningful discussions, and of course, there are sports.

Young men and their mentors dive into important topics ranging from making positive life decisions and engaging in healthy relationships, to processing the stress and violence of living on the west side. After dinner and talking, the group plays a different sport each week.

What makes the program special is that the adult mentors come from a variety of backgrounds, such as teachers, coaches, and local business owners. This provides a unique community and blend of people. Through all of this, the group is tied together through a desire to be there for each other and to change the trajectory of life for young men.

The program has seen remarkable success since it’s inception. Participants count on the program; it has become an important commitment in their lives. There is faithful attendance from participants and mentors, positive relationships, and a true sense of family. Tony Daniels, a leader in the community and mentor, says it best, “In this space, there is unity.”