CHICAGO — Student athletes from the Chicagoland area came together Sunday to help keep some of Chicago’s homeless population warm this winter.

Soccer players from high schools across Chicago and the suburbs donated 1,000 sweatshirts to drop boxes at Lincoln Park Community Services — an organization that helps the impoverished across Chicago find stable housing and make sustainable life choices — through a charity event organized by Buddy’s Helpers — a non-profit whose mission is to educate student athletes about the importance of making a difference on and off the field.

“It’s wintertime, and a lot of homeless teens could be struggling with the winter,” said Valeria Rodriguez, a sophomore at Thornton Township High School. “With a sweatshirt, it can bring them warmth.”

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, nearly 40,000 public school students struggle with homelessness in the state.

“Me personally — coming from a low-income community — I know that this is something that is very, very prominent,” said Jonathan Rodriguez, a student at Northwestern University. “I respect these people a lot, because one of the reasons people don’t know about this is because these individuals are very, very strong people. They’re people that don’t want to be a burden for their families, they don’t want to make it known.”

Joe Trost, founder of Buddy’s Helpers, said that homelessness can take on many forms, and not just in the conventional ways it is imagined.

“Homeless doesn’t mean standing on a street corner or on lower Wacker Drive,” Trost said. “It could be someone who’s couch surfing or may have to be in their car. At this time of the year, there’s a lot of extra stress in families, and not everyone’s family is as perfect as it may seem.”

Illinois students honored on ‘Speak Up For Service Day’

If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved or volunteering with Lincoln Community Services, more information can be found on their website.

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