Shout-out to folks who put their money (and actions) where their mouths are!

Chicago’s national image might be of a place rife with crime, but don’t sleep on the local organizations doing their part.

Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Hoops in the Hood, a local program designed to reduce violence and gang activity while also encouraging healthy physical activity.

As reported by WTTW Chicago, the non-profit program was launched 11 years ago by Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago.

Through participation in Hoops in the Hood, boys and girls aged 8-17 living in 14 Chicago neighborhoods can enjoy the game of basketball in theor local parks once a week.

The 14 neighborhoods were specifically chosen due to their reputation for having high gang activity; the program has partnered with the Chicago Police Department.

The program, which takes place each summer, culminates in a friendly championship tournament.

Robert Castenada — who runs the program in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood — said that the program “forces us to ask, ‘How does that impact the way we conduct ourselves in those spaces, and what should we allow to happen in those places?’”

Castenada was at first skeptical to join the program as his family had been targeted by gang violence, but he decided to try it out. He believes that these type of programs help the community to view their neighborhoods differently.

Steven Smith, 17, has been in the program for eight years. He says it’s helped him to meet different types of people.

“I’m used to being around the same people,” Smith said. “Being African American, Hoops in the Hood introduced me to Latinos and people from different backgrounds.”

The program has clearly had a long-lasting impact on Smith as he plans to study athletic training in college.

Photo: GIPHY
Castenada knows that programs like these are just one step in a greater journey, but it’s definitely the right direction.

“At the end of the day violence is still a huge part of Chicago, but we have made so much progress in this arena over the last few years,” he noted.

What a dope program! We hope to see more things like this pop up in Chicago and other major cities like it!