Kids Off the Block
Fueled by devoted community members and volunteers, Kids Off the Block is passionate about making sure all youth have a chance at life. Bringing together 300 young people, many of whom might be enemies if they met on the street, KOB’s summer basketball league is more than a game – it is a bridge to a better future. Next to KOB’s basketball court, Diane has erected a beautiful but tragically growing memorial to youth killed by gun violence, a powerful reminder of what is at stake when bullets fly.
Since the outbreak of covid-19, community activists Diane Latiker (KOB founder) and Dawn Valenti haven’t been able to sleep. The thought of the most vulnerable — the homeless, youth in volatile homes, those already fighting addiction and mental illness — falling through the cracks kept them up at night. They know all too well how easily those who need help the most are the hardest to reach and get left behind, especially when social service agencies and providers are facing record demand and place-based services are all closed.
But they also know that no life is expendable. So they took matters into their own hands and are taking desperately services on the road, converting Diane’s husband van into a Response and Resource mobile. Every day they travel to communities throughout the city, connecting with grass roots organizers to share PPE supplies, food and information on how to stay safe to people on the street, tent cities and shelters across Chicago to those who are invisible to most. Diane and Dawn still aren’t sleeping much (there’s too much to do!), but they are making sure that every life is treated like it’s worth saving.