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ORGANIZATION USES SPORTS TO MAKE POSITIVE IMPACT

2/10/2021, noon
LaVonte Stewart, founder of Lost Boyz, Inc., grew up in South Shore and uses his love of baseball to support ...
LaVonte Stewart is the founder and executive director of Lost Boyz Inc., an organization that uses sports to provide a positive impact to kids in the community. Photos provided by LaVonte Stewart
Organization uses sports to make positive impact

BY TIA CAROL JONES
     LaVonte Stewart, founder of Lost Boyz, Inc., grew up in South Shore and uses his love of baseball to support and empower young people.
     Lost Boyz, Inc.’s mission is to decrease violence and improve the social, emotional and economic conditions of young people in Chicago communities utilizing sports-based youth development.
     “Mutually beneficial relationships between adults and youth puts youth on positive trajectories in life,” he said.

     Stewart said what Lost Boyz, Inc. has been able to do is to take the power of baseball and softball to instill opportunity, hope, a moral compass, and a set of values and principles in young people. He said the organization is also resurrecting a dying sport in communities of color, creating a new fan base for baseball and softball.
     Stewart said he got into baseball when he was five years old and his
mother signed him up for South Shore Little League. He said it led him to play baseball in high school, college and to play semi-pro. He said he ran into troubles and he became susceptible to the ills of the streets, despite coming from an upper middle-class upbringing. He said it took him down a rabbit hole. “The one thing that brothers will tell you about the streets, is that once you get involved it’s intoxicating,” Stewart commented.
     He added he ended up in prison, in Missouri, for five years. He described it as an interesting, eye-opening experience. He said when he came back home to Chicago, he had to piece his life together.
     “The problem I ran into was, my education level, my home training, my
intelligence, none of that mattered. I just became a Black man with a number who was an ex-con. So, it was a hard road back,” he said.
     Stewart said, along that road, he started to think about other young
Black men, and how hard it would be for them to recover, or what could be
done to keep them from getting in that situation in the first place. He said he volunteered for the South Shore Little League.
     “What we do, it’s not just about what we do on the field, like a typical
field, it’s all about what we do off the field, from a holistic approach,” he
said. “We’re there for these families, for these children 24 hours a day.”
Stewart said Lost Boyz, Inc. acts as a first responder for the needs of the
young people who participate in the program, addressing certain issues
such food insecurities and getting in trouble in school.
     “We’re actively involved, not just with the children, but with the family’s
lives. We become an extension of the family. We just take it back to when I
was growing up in the 80s and we’re really trying to bring the village back,”
he said.
     In 2013, Lost Boyz, Inc. expanded to include Lost Girls and softball. He
said he noticed girls needed services, too. He couldn’t find any leagues
catering to softball for Black girls in the community, so he recruited girls
from Horace Mann School. Girls are also able to cross over to baseball if
they desire.
     When it comes to what young people need, Stewart said young people need adults to listen to them, to validate their feelings, to build a trust
bond with them. “Listening is the key part first, being consistent is the most
important part,” he said. “You’ve got to show up for them every day.”
     For more information, visit www. lostboyzinc.org.