We talked with Gilbert Shepherd of the Robbins CalPark Eagles. The Eagles keep youth off the streets and in a constructive environment with a team of positive role models. You can learn more about the organization and their in-kind donation needs on the Zealous Good Charity Profile Page. They focus on giving youth a safe and productive place to learn sportsmanship and leadership. The organization is truly amazing in it’s focus on getting all youth involved and active – we at Zealous Good are proud to work with such an amazing organization! Read on to learn more about them!
What is the best thing about the work you do?
I am not just the vice president of the organization, every year I volunteer as a coach as well, and I really enjoy working with the children. I enjoy teaching them sportsmanship, traveling with them and allowing them to see different things so they know it’s more out there than just our small town of Robbins, Illinois. I enjoy watching the children that stay with the program year after year mature and learn to become team players.
One of the most rewarding things is after a child leaves the program, continues to high school, college and comes back and says “hey Coach”, that is the best feeling that they still have that respect and still call you “Coach”.
What is the hardest challenge you see as an organization?
Fundraising is our hardest challenge. Because most of our children come from low-income families, no matter how well they play, sometimes the team has to miss big games because of lack of funds. Some of our children are unable to buy the proper equipment to compete or play and this season we had to forfeit opportunities to travel. For example, our Mitey Mite football team and our Junior Midget cheer team both earned the right to compete in the playoffs in Florida, but neither team was able to go because we were unable to raise enough funds. Though we have taken the children to regional playoff games in Michigan City, IN, Kansas City, MO and Kalamazoo, MI and our cheerleaders competed in Orlando, FL last season, this season we were unable to raise enough funds.
What makes your non-profit different?
- Our organization is different because our coaches and board of directors have vowed not to turn any children away simply because their family is unable to afford registration fees. Every year our board of directors sponsors at least one child and our volunteer coaches have also come out of their pockets to assist.
- Our organization promotes children maintaining good grades and we regularly encourage the parents to be proactive in their child’s progress in school.
- Our organization’s rule is to allow EVERY PLAYER to play in EVERY GAME; no one is every left standing on the sidelines or “warming the benches”, all the children get to participate in every game, regardless of how well the child plays or cheers – the true meaning of no child left behind.
What’s something that people might not know about your non-profit?
Some people may not realize that the Robbins Eagles is the longest continual youth organization in the history of Robbins, IL, since 1983; in 2011, the Robbins Eagles merged with the Calumet Park Rams and became the Robbins CalPark Eagles. We have experienced coaches, some who have been with the organization for over 25 years, who stress sportsmanship and take the time to work with the kids. Our organization is about building character, that leads to productive citizens, not about creating athletes. Our coaches and board of directors support our participants from youth, to high school and even college by attending their games and giving moral support, as a result we’ve had some of our former players return to be assistant coaches.