Sep. 24

Points of Light Honors Former Chicago Cubs Pitcher Kerry Wood and His Wife, Sarah, with a Daily Point of Light Award

In 1998, as a 20-year-old rookie pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, Kerry Wood became an instant baseball sensation when he tied a Major League record by hurling 20 strikeouts in a nine-inning game and was named National League Rookie of the Year. Wood matured into a two-time All Star and helped lead the Cubs to the National League Championship Series in 2003.

Kerry Wood, right, talks to a participant of his
foundation's free baseball clinic.

But with the glory came great struggle. Wood was dogged by injuries throughout his career. He missed an entire season after undergoing elbow surgery and was placed on the disabled list 14 times. For 10 years, the Cubs and the fans of Chicago stood by him.

Wood and his wife, Sarah, are now working through their Wood Family Foundation to give back to the city that has meant so much to them and their children.

“We have always taught our children that just as Dad was supported by Chicago through his career, it is our obligation to do the same,” says Sarah Wood, the foundation’s executive director. “The act of service and giving back to our community is something we all believe in.”

For their commitment to their community, Points of Light recognized the Woods with a Daily Point of Light Award this morning in Chicago. (Nominate someone you know here.) During the event, part of the One America national volunteer service tour, the Woods joined leaders in education to discuss expanding high quality education opportunities to all young people in Chicago.

Founded in 2011, the Woods' foundation has worked to better the lives of children in various ways. It has created a playroom for children receiving cancer treatment at the newly built Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital). The project means much to the couple. Sarah volunteered at Children’s Memorial when she first began dating Kerry more than 10 years ago. In the years since, the Woods have paid countless visits to children being treated there.

The Woods fund both immediate and long-term relief projects for underprivileged kids, and work to raise awareness throughout the community of children’s needs.

Sarah Wood, right, talks to a child during a
holiday event sponsored by her foundation.

The Wood Family Foundation has a particularly close relationship with the Chicago Public Schools, targeting schools with great need. The foundation sponsors an annual back-to-school drive to collect supplies and clothing, and a winter toy and coat drive called Warm Wishes that serves 500 kids each year. In addition to providing direct funding for these programs, the foundation has successfully rallied help from donors and partner organizations such as JPMorgan Chase.

The foundation’s newest program provides a full scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago to a graduating high school senior from one of the group’s four target neighborhoods, Lawndale, Englewood, Humboldt Park and Austin. The foundation hopes that within five years, the program will expand to provide 10 annual scholarships.

“A range of programs can touch a child’s life for a day, for a week, and make a difference,” Kerry says. “Sarah and I felt that with a scholarship, a true ripple effect can be felt. Our goal is to bring college opportunity to our neighborhoods. A college education can change the life of a child, their family's life, and begin to spread through their community.”

The Wood Family Foundation also sponsors an annual weeklong summer baseball clinic for 300 kids, who learn not only baseball fundamentals but the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship. Sarah says the kids who participate “start by seeing Kerry as a Cubs pitcher, but by the end of the week, they see him as a role model, a mentor, and a friend.” 

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