For Immediate Release
Contact Diane Nilan, 630-267-5424
HEAR US! Disc Us! Project Links Homeless Kids and Disc Golf
What do disc golf and homeless kids have in common? Both are often obscure, with only insiders knowing of their existence. HEAR US, a Naperville-based national nonprofit organization that gives voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, recently received a grant that will lift both disc golf and homeless kids out of obscurity.
The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) awarded HEAR US a grant to promote this sport which involves throwing a Frisbee-like disc at a chain-link basket on a course resembling a golf course. The nationally-competitive grant will enable HEAR US to invite homeless kids to experience the sport that has hooked HEAR US founder Diane Nilan and her longtime friend and board member Sister Helen Jilek, a Benedictine Sister from Lisle.
Nilan describes “HEAR US! Disc Us!” as an effort “to call attention to the great game of disc golf with the goal of increasing participation in the sport.” She also intends “to raise awareness of the existence of homeless families and teens in communities, with hopes to ease the suffering of these kids by developing local support for initiatives to help them.” Over 1.5 million children and youth are homeless in this country.
HEAR US is planning a disc golf outing with the children staying at the Hope Haven shelter in DeKalb where Nilan sometimes parks her home-office recreational vehicle. After selling her Aurora home and possessions, Nilan bought the RV so she could film a documentary about non-urban homeless kids. She’s traveled over 60,000 miles and produced a documentary to put homeless kids on the radar screen of educators, politicians and the public. My Own Four Walls, the award-winning HEAR US documentary, is available through the HEAR US website, www.hearus.us.
Hope Haven is the only shelter in DeKalb County. They provide a full spectrum of services for homeless families and adults including emergency and transitional shelters which tend to run at capacity, often with 25 children there with their families. Executive Director Lesly Wicks enthusiastically welcomed the chance for HEAR US to introduce disc golf with the kids. “It’s a great game!” states Wicks, who was introduced to the game by Nilan. “And if it helps raise awareness of homeless kids it will be worth it.”
As Nilan commences travel around the country this fall she will line up other opportunities for homeless kids to participate with HEAR US, Disc Us! She raises awareness of homelessness by presenting to educators, colleges, and service providers across the country. HEAR US is currently working on a feature-length documentary on homeless families with Dr. Laura Vazquez, media professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
An exasperated Nilan points to a current battle in Congress to expand the definition of homeless to include families and teens not staying in shelters. “What many people don’t get, including Congress, is invisible homeless families struggling to survive often stay with other families or in motels because shelters can’t handle them,” Nilan reflects. Playing disc golf with homeless kids is her perfect anecdote to balance the insanity of this longstanding campaign.