More than a play space

August 31, 2017 | GET MORE : Community

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The Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club is an extension of Lovetta Spencer's family.  

For Lovetta Spencer, the Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club of Chicago isn't just a place where her children go to play. It's an extension of her family. 

Lovetta is a senior relationship manager of commercial banking for U.S. Bank, and she's a board member of the Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club. Her three children regularly attend the club – including her eldest son, Zion. The club has always been important to her family, but it took on an even bigger role this summer. 

In May, Zion was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. His chemotherapy appointments drained him of energy and made it difficult for him to leave the house. But being a high school intern at the club has motivated Zion, providing him with a positive distraction and lifting his spirits when his treatments wear him down. 

Both Lovetta and Zion spoke (pictured above) at the grand opening of the club's refurbished playground, which U.S. Bank provided a $50,000 grant to support. The Aug. 25 event was part of the Community Possible Month of Play – U.S. Bank's effort to make play possible for thousands of Americans this summer. 

U.S. Bank employees, club members and special guests celebrated the grand opening of the playground with food, music and games. Kids checked out the new play space, which has a rock climbing wall and jungle gym, among other amenities.

"This building is a house for children in our community," Lovetta says. "I'm so thankful to my U.S Bank family and my Boys & Girls Club family. To me, Community Possible is all about connecting families."

The Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club serves hundreds of children in Chicago. It features a variety of play spaces for kids including a gym, art room, game room, teen center and swimming pool. 

Lydia Palilonis, a 9-year-old member of the club, spends a lot of time in the pool. She's a member of the club's swim team, and her favorite stroke is the butterfly. She's had a lot of great opportunities through the club, including the chance to meet swimmer Michael Phelps when he visited the club last spring. 

Working with kids like Lydia is the most rewarding part of the job for Brian Terrazas (they're pictured together above), an education instructor at the club. He's excited about the ways the refurbished playground will help the children, and staff, he works with every day. 

The enclosed playground will keep kids from chasing after balls in the street, and the soft flooring will help prevent injuries. In addition, a new water fountain will make it easier for children to stay hydrated. 

"U.S. Bank is supporting our mission to provide high-yield activities for local kids, and we're really proud and thankful," he says. "The bank has a great mission with the Month of Play, and we all benefit from it."

Kara Eliason Dorsey is a member of U.S. Bank's public affairs and communications team.