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Latino State News

COMMUNITY: Man Looks “Beyond” to Make Lives a “Bitty” Better

Within the Chicago neighborhood of Little Village, the Midwest’s largest Mexican-American population, there’s something going on. Things, and people, are changing.

And that’s exactly what Rob Castaneda, Executive Director of Beyond the Ball, is trying to do.

Castaneda started Beyond the Ball in 2000 after moving back to the Chicago area and seeing the overwhelming destruction of children both physically and mentally in the gang-filled neighborhood. In an area lacking positive role models and resources, Castaneda sought to give the children an opportunity to better the community themselves. The program is more than just activities to occupy the participants’ time. It’s about trying to better their lives in every way with things like sports leagues and clinics that attempt to grow youth into leaders of the future.

“Beyond the Ball can point to our alumni as proof of our success. Several of the youth involved since Beyond the Ball’s inception are now attending or have graduated college. Many have returned to Little Village and found employment, bringing stability to our community,” said

Teaching children to be successful requires showing them there’s an alternative to the negativity their communities often become accustomed to. Beyond the Ball’s kindergarten through 5th grade program, Bitty Ball, is currently one of five up for the Beyond Sport Award for The Most Courageous Use of Sport as a part of United Airlines’ Chicago Impact Award. If endowed with the honor, Beyond the Ball would receive $50,000 in funding and a package of business support to aid Beyond the Ball’s growth. With the recognition, they would be able to triple the amount of children saved from Little Village’s gang violence.

To help the Beyond the Ball program, and to spread their message, you can vote for Bitty Ball at the Beyond Sport Award website.

Voting ends September 20th.