Triple axel, end zone, goal posts, side out, super bowl, sweet 16, home run, 1 and done?? Not sure about that last one. Those are all the sport words that I can come up with in about 15 seconds. So, it’s a wonder that the charity that we’re supporting this round has to do with sports. We’re not known in our household for catching the big games.
I've known Rob and Amy Castaneda since they were in 9th grade and I was a senior in high school….never mind when it was. Don't be nosey. Amy wasn't a Castaneda back then - so cute, so sweet and fun to be around. Rob finally got Amy to start paying attention to him and when she had her guard down he snapped her up and married her. They eventually settled into the Little Village neighborhood here in Chicago where Amy teaches and he started a home wiring company. We loved hanging out with them at church or at their home. Somehow conversation was always so great that you'd look down and it was 2am… I still can't believe how time flies when you're with them. They are just those kind of people.
Sounds idyllic right? And it was… but not all the way. Chicago is known for gangs, like most cities, and their neighborhood was not immune. I don't remember all the details, but at some point gangbangers with a gun were in front of their home. Once the police came the gun was disposed of and the police were not able to find it. Rob knew where it was and he had to do something about it. He showed the police where the gun was and that was the end of the Pollyanna part of the story. The gangbanger in the car then knew Rob had helped the police. Now it was war on Rob and Amy. While they were asleep there was an attempt to start their home on fire. Thanks to their crazy little dog, Buddy, they woke up, smelled the smoke and called for help. Their home was attacked a 2nd time while they slept and again they were able to put it out. When their home was attacked a 3rd time a bottle was thrown through the front window. This time Rob saw and was later able to identify the face of the gangbangers who did it.
I recall hearing about it and all I wanted was for them to GET OUT. They couldn't stay there. It was too dangerous. I was shocked and actually sad to hear when they told us they were going to stay. This is crazy… is it not? I’ll try to cut this post short, and paraphrase Joseph in Genesis: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
In the days since the attacks Rob and Amy have made beauty from ashes. I am overwhelmed at their love for their neighbors, their neighborhood, their city. With time, perseverance and lots of hard work, their volunteering with kids has turned into a major sports based youth and community development program called Beyond the Ball that over 1,500 children participate in yearly. Kids can come and learn and play and be safe. They now have an alternative to the hard gangbanger streets of the city. There are boundaries in the city that you just don't cross...neighborhood to neighborhood. Yet, now they do in Beyond the Ball. Rival gang members play ball together and build relationships that last outside the gym.
Some of the first kids that came in the early days of the program are now young adults and are running parts of the program. It’s coming full circle.
The most beautiful piece of this story to me is that years later one of the the men identified and imprisoned for the 3rd attack on their home….. that very man’s daughter is blossoming in the Beyond the Ball program.
Like I said… beauty from ashes.
Join me in supporting Beyond the Ball this month. Let’s help raise money for minutes in the gym. 50% of our profits for this month will be donated to Beyond the Ball.
Read more of Rob & Amy’s story here:
**SEE ROB & AMY one "Chicagoland" Episode 7 -- the CNN documentary series on Chicago
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