M.A.D.E. Foundation Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary
BY TIA CAROL JONES
A vision in the middle of the night is what prompted Theo Hill to found the M.A.D.E. Foundation in 2001. Hill was a professional basketball player and left the profession. He was looking for something to do. He tried working in corporate America and found it wasn’t for him.
The vision came to Hill about how to give back to kids using basketball, and he woke his brother up and told him what
he came up with. The next night, he had a vision about the name of the organization, M.A.D.E. Foundation. It stands
for “Making a Difference Everywhere,” because the goal is to make a difference everywhere the organization goes.
On June 28, 2001, M.A.D.E. Foundation was born, focusing on at-risk kids from the inner city. The programs are leadership development through sports, primarily basketball, focusing on ages 9 to 14-year-olds. The children are taught basic life skills, through basketball. The aim is to try to catch the children before
they get to high school to make the most impact in their lives.
Throughout its 20 years, M.A.D.E. Foundation has impacted between 4,000 to 5,000 children. There have been students who have started the program as early as third and fourth grade. They have gone on to college and graduated. Some of the past students who have participated in the program come back to work in the program in the summer and fall. “It’s a great feeling because that’s what it was all about 20 years ago, helping the kids. The feeling is overwhelming,” he said.
Jahmauri Lee started in the program when he was 8, now he is 20 and has a degree in welding technology from Lincoln Tech. During his time in the program, he learned about sportsmanship, dedication, integrity, and leadership. “I learned not to be afraid to try something, not to be afraid to fail, but to also have a Plan A, B and C,” he said.
Hill shed a tear when he heard the students talking about the impact M.A.D.E. Foundation had on their lives. He was happy the program made a difference in those students’ lives. Hill keeps it real with the students, sharing his life experiences with them. The students are taught the basic fundamentals of basketball, with lessons that they can apply to their everyday lives.
After basketball, Hill didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he knew he wanted to serve children in the community. “I didn’t start the foundation 20 years ago to get rich quick, or for the money. It was for the genuine love. I got the vision and I knew the best way I could give back and play my part in these kids’ lives is through basketball,” he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was in seven elementary schools, including Shoesmith Elementary School. The foundation collaborated with Chicago Park District, Chicago Catholic Charities, Gary Comer Youth Center, Metropolitan Family Services and the University of Illinois Extension & Outreach Services.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, M.A.D.E. Foundation will host a virtual gala from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5. Stephen Bardo of the Big Ten Network will serve as the emcee for the event. The gala is in memory of Hill’s mother who passed away last year, Veardie Mae Hill.
To purchase tickets, visit www.madefoundation.org.