Chicagoans Donated More Than $35,000 To Send Kids To The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

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SOUTH SHORE — LaVonté Stewart wanted to take kids from his nonprofit Lost Boyz Inc. on a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Supporters raised more than $35,000 to make it happen.

By the time the group returns Wednesday, they will have toured the museum, played sandlot-style pickup baseball with local kids and watched a game between the White Sox and the Royals.

Lost Boyz is a group focused on helping young Chicagoans by providing opportunities, like the trip to Kansas City and chances to participate in sports, to kids in the neighborhoods.

The funds raised for the trip came from a series of brew parties featuring the Summer of ’54 IPA this month. The beer commemorates the year Chicago’s baseball teams first signed Black players: Ernie Banks for the Cubs and Minnie Miñoso for the White Sox.

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Baseball writer Shakeia Taylor and Jay Westbrook, the creator of Harold’s ’83 Honey Ale, had raised more than $35,000 for Lost Boyz prior to the final party Friday.

“I’m floored,” Stewart said. “Just knowing Shakeia and Jay has been absolutely amazing.”

The organization is also in the midst of its summer youth baseball and softball programs, and it held the latest edition of the annual Beyond the Badge community event July 17 in Rosenblum Park. 

Organizers are also working to get its youth-run Chi Girlz concession vending company off the ground.

The Illinois Lottery donated a vehicle that can be renovated into a food truck, and Chi Girlz is pursuing a contract to be the vendor at Rainbow Beach in South Shore, Stewart said. 

Profits from the concessions will go toward renovating the donated truck or buying a newer one.

“We got that donated, and we were like, ‘Yo, it’s got an electrical setup on the inside, its own generator’ … we could do some repairs to this thing, pop the sides up and sell food out of this for a little while until we can afford a really nice food truck,” Stewart said.

Chi Girlz has “been working on the food truck [plan] for almost a year,” said Na’Kasha Smith, a cashier and one of six employees. But the company shifted its focus to securing the Park District contract to avoid gas and driver expenses this summer, the incoming high school senior said. 

If a contract is finalized, Chi Girlz will sell burgers, chicken, hot dogs, chips and cheese at Rainbow Beach, Smith said.

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