At the beginning of December, 4,000 Chicago Public Schools students had the time of their lives at the first Wintrust Field Trip Day event held at the new Wintrust Arena.
DePaul teamed up with Wintrust Bank to sponsor 60 of the 100 buses that transported the school children to the game. Since 2008, a total of 32,814 school children have attended Field Trip Day games which also includes Blue Demon volleyball, soccer, softball, the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Tournament and the BIG EAST Women's Softball Tournament.
The youngsters raised the decibel level in the South Loop to new heights screaming their support during DePaul's 88-47 victory over North Side rival Loyola.
But more than the game itself, Wintrust Field Trip Day seeks to expose the children to college athletics and the possibility of one day attending college.
"DePaul University is all about education and first-generation college students," says DePaul Athletics community service administrator Dave Corzine. "We are hoping this plays a role in helping kids from under-served communities to be successful. It goes to the heart of the university's mission, and we do all we can to encourage these young people to fulfill their dreams."
In addition to the free tickets and bus transportation, the schoolkids received free Blue Demon T-shirts as they cheered on the home team. There was also a fun dance contest at halftime with contestants from the schools in attendance.
"All the hard work that goes into this event from the DePaul Athletics staff, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority people and everyone who worked at Wintrust Arena is well worth it when you see the reactions of these kids and the expressions on their faces," Corzine says. "The kids are always the highlight of Field Trip Day. They bring so much energy, and it's really something to watch how much fun they have."
The partnership also features Wintrust Blankets Chicago which teams up Wintrust with the DePaul student-athletes who make blankets to distribute to Chicago-area community-service organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Center for children, Marillac House and women's shelters.
Wintrust Reads is the union of DePaul, Wintrust Bank, Chicago Public Schools, Archdiocesan and charter elementary schools offering incentives to assist teachers working to improve their students' critical reading skills.
"As a follow-up, the schools will send us examples of class projects they undertook reflecting the opportunities the children discovered through this experience" Corzine says. "It is truly gratifying to see the impact this can have on their lives and how this has led to kids thinking about a college education for the very first time. Isn't that what DePaul is all about?"