The Chicago Bulls and BMO Harris Bank recently announced that they are teaming up to support the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago’s Urban Warriors program, which connects military veterans of recent wars with youth who have experienced trauma or violence and live in high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago, including Little Village/Pilsen, Humboldt Park/Logan Square and South Chicago. The partnership provides Urban Warriors participants the opportunity to share special experiences together, create memories and strengthen the bond between the youth and veterans.
As part of the partnership, the Bulls and BMO Harris Bank will host a group of students and veterans from the YMCA Urban Warriors program at four home games throughout the remainder of the 2015-16 season. Participants will experience the game like true VIPs, including touring the Advocate Center, watching player shoot around, taking a photo at center court and each veteran will serve as Honorary Captain. Each participant will receive a Bulls and BMO Harris Bank themed gift bag.
On March 6, BMO Harris Bank will also donate one dollar to the Urban Warriors program for every customer purchase (up to $1,000) made with a Bulls MasterCard. The donation is part of BMO Harris Bank’s “50 for 50” promotion celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls and will feature 50 different customer perks over 50 days.
“We are constantly talking to our partners about the role that we can play together in addressing important issues in our community. Our conversations with BMO Harris Bank over the years have led to joint support of initiatives focused on our shared interest in helping young people in Chicago. When discussions started about a partnership extension, which was announced earlier this season, we determined that we wanted to keep a focus on youth but combine forces in a new way.
The YMCA has relationships with BMO Harris Bank and the Bulls, and when we learned about their new Urban Warriors program, it resonated with both organizations and we decided to come together to invest our collective time and unique resources in this young, important program,” said Michael Reinsdorf, President and COO, Chicago Bulls.
“The YMCA of Metro Chicago’s violence prevention programs are united by one common insight: healing is prevention. Early exposure to trauma really shapes the way young people think about and perceive violence. Urban Warriors provides them a safe space to talk about and process these experiences,” said Eddie Bocanegra, Executive Director of the Y’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative. “We have trained 30 veteran mentors and served over 90 high-risk youth so far, but we recognize that there’s so much more we can do. Through our partnership with BMO Harris Bank, the Chicago Bulls and other supporters, we can offer these youth enriching experiences, introduce them to positive role models and help them gain the confidence and strength needed to change the trajectory of their lives.”
“At BMO Harris Bank, we are committed to supporting the communities we serve by helping to make them stronger through programs like Urban Warriors,” said Justine Fedak, SVP and Head of Brand, Advertising and Sponsorships, BMO Harris Bank. “By partnering with the Bulls and the YMCA for this important program, we have the unique opportunity to foster relationships between military combat veterans and Chicago youth. Together, we believe the program will encourage youth resiliency and in turn may reduce incidences of violence in our community.”
Urban Warriors, which is part of the YMCA’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP), reduces the traumatic effects of violence and supports youth participants through 16 weeks of structured programming. Sessions are facilitated by military veterans who are supported by YSVP staff. The curriculum consists of five thematic areas: belonging, positive identity development, cognitive restructuring, coping, and community engagement.