Blue Demons Connect With Kids at Fitness Fests
Aug. 3, 2017

CHICAGO – As sophomore Deja Cage and Lisa Ryckbosch of the women’s basketball staff talked about volunteering at last week’s Chicago Park District Fitness Fests, they uncovered a nice connection.

Both had grown up as Chicago Park District kids.

“All the kids in my family went to the Park District day camp every summer,” Ryckbosch said. “It would be six days a week and only cost $40 per kid. We did stuff every day, went swimming and on field trips.

“My favorite field trips were Odyssey Fun World, Santa’s Village and Enchanted Forest.”

Cage’s eyes lit up listening to Ryckbosch.

“That’s exactly what I did,” Cage said. “We all went to day camp and also the after-school program. My mom Donna Cage is a supervisor at Tuley Park, so I also grew up in the parks system. I’d go to work with my mom and spend all day at day camp and playing in the gym. My brother Steven works as a lifeguard at Rainbow Beach Park.

“Our day camp had outside activities along with video games. We went swimming every day and played on the playground. We’d play all the games---track, basketball, soccer, floor hockey.

“When I got a little older, I volunteered for three years at the Park District and worked part-time for one year. I was also involved in the Park District’s Team Leadership program. That took place following the after-school program.”

It was like a stroll down memory lane for Cage and Ryckbosch as women’s and men’s basketball players worked July 26-28 at the Fitness Fests.

At the first Fitness Fest in Humboldt Park, Max Strus, Brandon Cyrus, Marin Maric, Kelly Campbell, Amarah Coleman, Rebekah Dahlman, Chante Stonewall and Claire McMahon led the children through various basketball drills at the Blue Demon station and conducted a relay race.



Day two at Portage Park saw Tre’Darius McCallum, Devin Gage, Joline Daninger, Rachel McLimore and Dee Bekelja working with the more than 1,000 kids who attend the event each day.

On the final day at Rainbow Bech Park, it was Jaylen Butz, Justin Roberts, Austin Grandstaff, Paul Reed, Mart'e Grays, Ashton Millender, Vinisha Sherrod, Lauren Prochaska and Tanita Allen.

“We worked with the kids and got to know some of them,” Roberts said. “It was good for them to see our faces, and maybe they will come out to our games.

“I was just glad to help out, and it’s a good feeling giving back. I also worked at the Hoops in the Hood clinic.

“This is the kind of stuff I also did in high school. I would volunteer my time and work with kids at basketball camps.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the freshman Roberts was the youngster attending the clinic.

“You can make an impact,” he said. “When I was a kid, I remember how NBA players came and talked to us. They made it seem like the NBA dream was possible and could come true.

“I remember guys like Rik Smits, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Teague spending time with us.

“Doing something like this makes me feel good about myself. Helping kids out, it feels like I am doing something right, and that’s important.”

You could tell Cage enjoyed the experience last week.

“It was good to see kids getting outside and doing all different activities and sports,” she said. “It feels good to take time out of your life to help someone else. I did it all the time in high school, and I like seeing kids happy doing the things I did at their age.

“We did ball-handling drills at our station and different drills with a basketball. We had a relay race and two of my teams won.” Cage quickly added with a laugh: “I guess that’s just good coaching.

“This was also a good opportunity for our team to bond and get to know each other.”


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