The Soccer Ball Award goes to …

This year we are thrilled to honor Sodexo with the Soccer Ball award — given annually to an organization that has gone above and beyond in their support of Urban Initiatives. Read about their contributions to Urban Initiatives and how they are supporting the power of play in Chicago. Want to come celebrate Sodexo and our other awardees at the Soccer Ball next week? Tickets are still available, here

Urban Initiatives values commitment, teamwork, and fun and we build partnerships with organizations that share our values. Sodexo, a France-based food services and facilities management company with a Chicago division which serves Chicago Public Schools across our city, has exemplified our values and committed to our work in such a way that makes them an obvious choice for this year’s Soccer Ball Award. 

Several years ago, Sodexo Vice President of Chicago, Michael Landers, was introduced to Urban Initiatives through a board member. Michael came out to volunteer and has been a committed member of the UI team ever since. In 2019, he increased his level of engagement and joined our Board of Directors himself. 

In 2019, Sodexo also became a presenting sponsor for our first ever international exchange program! The exchange’s inaugural year was centered around the Women’s World Cup in France and included 9 Urban Initiatives high school participants traveling to France for World Cup matches, a sports diplomacy summit and seeing the sights, plus a cohort of French students visiting Chicago. Our partnership with Sodexo on this initiative was a perfect fit given that Sodexo is based in France! 

Sodexo was an amazing presenting sponsor of the exchange- going above and beyond supporting the trip’s expenses. Sodexo — which operates the restaurants in the Eiffel Tower — organized a dinner for our youth travelers, chaperones, and sponsors at the Eiffel Tower. Our youth got to try new foods and get their photo taken while at dinner. It was an unforgettable experience for all the guests and we are so grateful for Sodexo’s hospitality. 

In addition to their contributions to our French exchange, Sodexo employees also traveled to Tarkington Elementary School last spring for a site visit where they got to see our Culture & Climate programming in action. They toured the school, spoke directly with the principal and visited our recess program.  Because Sodexo serves as a lunch provider for CPS schools, their employees share our ability to have a powerful impact on the culture of schools. Both recess staff and lunch staff see every child in a school community every day and Sodexo recognizes the value and power in making the lunch room and recess space an enriching, positive experience for every student. 

Most recently, Sodexo has shared their beautiful new office space with Urban Initiatives. They hosted our development team for an offsite meeting where Urban Initiatives staff have an opportunity to connect outside of normal day to day operations to think about long-term strategy. Plus on December 11th, Sodexo hosted our high school program’s monthly meeting, allowing our students to explore a new corporate space in Chicago.

No matter the size of the project- whether a massive new initiative like our first ever international exchange or just providing meeting space for an afternoon — Sodexo is a reliable, committed, and valued partner. Urban Initiatives is so grateful to have Sodexo as part of our team. Urban Initiatives’ Executive Director Jim Dower says, “Sodexo is a shining example of what a corporate partner should be. They are involved in our work on every level. They step up to meet the needs of our students and our communities. We are proud to honor them at the Soccer Ball this year.”

More From Our Blog