Naperville teen's charity brings 'Chance for Sports' across the world
A teenage world traveler from Naperville is too young to open a bank account, but already she has collected something priceless to many kids in need: more than 3,400 pieces of sports equipment to donate so they can play.
Anuva Shandilya, 17, is the founder of Chance for Sports, a nonprofit organization that gives gently used sporting equipment to underprivileged children in the suburbs and across the world. From the basement of the south Naperville home where she lives with her parents, Pankaj and Pooja, and her younger brother Daksh, the mission of Anuva's charity is obvious.
Piles of golf clubs, football helmets, basketballs, Rollerblades, tennis rackets, skateboards, bikes, lacrosse sticks and all manner of sporting goods are organized inside one unfinished basement room. They're packed in bags near the water heater and stacked in piles on top of a Ping-Pong table.
Summer is the collection phase for the charity Anuva started three years ago, when she was a freshman at Neuqua Valley High School, and the school year turns more toward a distribution phase.
To collect used equipment, Anuva, Daksh and six others from Neuqua, Metea and Waubonsie Valley high schools place a donation box outside of Play It Again Sports on 75th Street in Naperville and go door-to-door twice a week seeking donations. They collect roughly 450 items a week, she says.
Once the sporting stuff piles up, Anuva researches organizations such as Mooseheart Child City & School, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago and SOS Children's Villages of Illinois. The groups all serve children who might not otherwise get the chance to try various sports to decide what they enjoy.
"There are so many kids who don't have the same opportunities as me," Anuva said.
Before specializing in track and field, Anuva said she tried field hockey, ice skating and soccer, all with the support of her parents, who could afford to buy her the necessary shoes, socks, sticks, skates.
She began to realize the frequent lack of sporting options as her family moved and traveled during her early years before settling in Naperville in 2011. Anuva was born in Denmark, has lived in Canada and England, and has been to 24 countries. But she said she's observed one painful experience as a constant:
"I've seen poverty everywhere," she said.
That's why Chance for Sports has donated to organizations in Haiti, India, Mexico and Zambia. She traveled, using the airline miles and free hotel stays her father racks up as a frequent business traveler, to Mexico to make a donation there last summer and to India to donate to two groups there this June.
"I like to do it personally," she said.
Daksh has helped since Chance for Sports was founded and also values its international mission. He said when his sister goes to college, he hopes to expand the reach of the nonprofit to places such as Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.
Kids in some countries might not be familiar with American sports like football, but Chance for Sports collects helmets, footballs and pads all the same, figuring the equipment could be an introduction.
"I know there are kids interested in the new world of sports," Anuva said.
To help facilitate more donations, the organization is sponsoring a fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Naperville's Knoch Knolls Park, 320 Knoch Knolls Road, featuring relay races, soccer games, a volleyball tournament, raffles, food and music. Anyone who brings sporting equipment to donate can get in for $5; otherwise admission is $10. For details, visit http://www.chanceforsports.org/donate.