Six years ago, 14-year-old Alex Sheck sat down at his computer. The task at hand, given to him by his father, Michael Sheck, was simple. For seven days, Alex and Michael would travel the West Coast, trying to attend as many baseball games as possible.
“You plan the trip, we've got one week,” his father told him. “As far as whatever games you want to go to, that's up to you.”
In realizing how expensive it is to go to a professional sporting event, the idea for Experience the Game was born. Now an official nonprofit organization, Experience the Game gives lower-income children the opportunity to experience professional sporting events. To co-founders Alex and Michael Sheck, "experience" is the key word.
“What's really important to Alex and myself is to not just give kids tickets to the 300-level and say, 'Here you go,' said Michael, who noted that 130 children have attended games with Experience the Game since they received their nonprofit status in September 2013. “We're trying to give the kids an experience. We're trying to do something special for them.”
That experience can involve getting courtside access, meeting the athletes, and even being treated to food from a suite. And these experiences have come from many professional teams such as the Blackhawks, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Dolphins.
Working hand in hand with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which has a Dundee Township branch in Carpentersville and a branch in Elgin, Experience the Game looks for underpriviledged kids who have never attended a professional sporting event. The group said they would also be interested in working with local YMCAs to locate candidates.
Children who qualify must be between 8 and 17 years old and have a good standing in school.
“You're always trying to give back to the community and do something positive,” said Alex, who attends the University of Iowa.
While Experience the Game is a relatively new organization. the men running it are experienced in maintaining a business. Around the same time of Alex and Michael's road trip, Alex started another business of his own.
While attending local games around his hometown of Buffalo Grove, Alex would take pictures of youth sports, print them off on the spot, and sell them during and after the games. Business was good, and in his first weekend of work, Alex made $2,500 while working a local all-star game. Ten percent of his earnings were given back to the league, or donated to a charity of their choice.
After he expanded to shooting more than just baseball, Alex and Michael had enough money to run Experience the Game almost entirely from their own pocket.
“It seems to be that because [professional sports teams] see what we've done, it's catching on,” Michael said. “Now, believe it or not, we have some sports teams that are contacting us.”
In terms of future aspirations for Experience the Game. Alex and Michael would like for it to evolve into something that they can do full-time as a national organization with partnerships from the leagues and their teams.
“[We'd like to] have an impact on kids all across the country, no just one event here and one event there,” Alex said.
Thus far, Alex and Michael have run Experience the Game while occupied with full-time jobs of their own. When asked about the potential of Experience the Game, Michael kept that fact in mind and proposed a question.
“Can you imagine what it would be if we could do this full-time?”