Teens host Aurora charity kickball tournament to cap 'Meaningful Summers'
When he returns to high school for his senior year, Aditya Balsekar can look back on his summer vacation knowing he made the most of his time off.
As Aditya explains what he's been up to over the past few months, it's clear the 17-year-old from Naperville doesn't like wasting time on leisure.
In July, he helped recruit more than 120 teens to spend two days volunteering at Aurora's Hesed House, one of the largest homeless shelters in Illinois.
Then he helped organize a night at the SciTech Hands On Museum in downtown Aurora to show 150 students all the possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
And for a last end-of-summer hurrah, Aditya is one of the hosts of a youth kickball tournament Saturday that will raise money for three Aurora charities.
"I was hoping to just bring people together and do something meaningful," Aditya says of his busy schedule.
He's accomplished that and far more through Meaningful Summers, a nonprofit he founded when he was 13. Aditya and a leadership team of a dozen other students from Aurora and Naperville plan events that let teens socialize and have fun but still "take on something greater than ourselves."
This summer, the group has found an ally in new Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who made a surprise proclamation during the STEM night at the museum to declare July 28 as "Meaningful Summers Day" in the city.
Irvin first met the students at Metea Valley High School in May and has helped the group make connections with other youth organizations. His "One Aurora" campaign mantra has struck a chord with Aditya and his peers.
Through Meaningful Summers, they are trying to build a unifying movement they call "One Aurora: The Next Generation." Their aim is to involve students from all corners of the city -- east and west -- in giving back to their community in spite of racial, religious and economic differences.
"It makes for a stronger Aurora," said Clayton Muhammad, the city's director of community relations and public information.
Muhammad will be among the representatives from the mayor's office who will attend the kickball tournament Saturday at the Stuart Sports Complex.
Aditya and his Meaningful Summers team hope to raise $6,000 for three nonprofits: Hesed House; African American Men Of Unity, a community service and leadership development organization; and Triple Threat Mentoring, an organization that helps kids express their passions and interests through volunteering.
Proceeds will come from entrance fees for the tournament, now in its second year. A $10 package includes two slices of Papa John's pizza and water. Players who pay $20 also will receive a commemorative T-shirt.
The deadline to register teams at meaningfulsummers.org is Friday night.
Aditya, who will return to boarding school in Connecticut the day after the kickball tournament, and other rising seniors hope to expand the reach of Meaningful Summers by creating chapters at college campuses. He also plans to pass the reins of the local group to younger leaders from Aurora and Naperville.
"We've kind of inspired a new wave of kids looking to get involved with charities, with nonprofits, with bettering our communities," he said.
If you goWhat: Meaningful Summers Kickball Tournament
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2
Where: North side of Stuart Sports Complex on Jericho Road, west of Orchard Road, in Aurora
Who: Players age 10 and older
Cost: $10 to $20; proceeds benefit Aurora charities
Details: Live music, food, raffle prizes