Beat the Streets, a non-profit program aimed at empowering youth through wrestling, has joined the #MillionMinutes challenge to meet the urgent needs of their participants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hands-on wrestling is off limits with a shelter-in-place order in effect throughout Illinois, but Beat the Streets, with strong Oak Park and West Side connections, continues to offer online work outs, literacy support and personal wellness checks to their participants throughout the city. Additionally, the program is committed to providing weekend meals to augment weekday free-lunch programs.

The Lavin Family Foundation, with deep River Forest roots, was looking for a way to show support to Beat the Streets while simultaneously supporting Oak Park restaurants during the pandemic.

“The donation was significant and came at the perfect time,” said Mike Powell, executive director of the non-profit. “We’d been making personal phone calls to our participants who were likely dealing with food insecurity. We’d offer help, but no one wanted to take us up on it.”

Armed with funds from the foundation explicitly designated to be spent in Oak Park area restaurants, Powell realized he could get food to entire families on the weekend. He turned to Carnivore, 1042 Pleasant St., Oak Park, to help roll out the program

Brad Knaub, Carnivore co-owner and a former wrestler, was eager to help. He and his team at the artisan butcher shop are known for providing luxury products but try to remain accessible when it counts.

 “Helping people get food at a time like this is more important than anything,” said Knaub, “It is a privilege to have a successful business in Oak Park and it is necessary for us to help out the community in any way we can afford.”

The Carnivore crew whipped up 150 generously sized sandwiches after hours at the shop. The high-quality meals were individually packaged and delivered to Kidz Express, 5221 W. Congress in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood for distribution to Beat the Streets participants and their family members.

“We had an unbelievable response,” said Powell. “This is about maintaining community as much as its about serving a meal.”

Beat the Streets has applied for grants and continues to look for additional community partners to support their newly formed weekend food program. The organization currently has enough money in reserve to provide 10 meals for Beat the Street participants throughout Chicago and hopes to be able to offer more.

“Oak Park’s future is intrinsically linked to the health of Chicago and the city’s youth,” said Cathy Yen, an Oak Park resident and director of operations at Beat the Streets.

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