All photos by John Gress.

By Allison Matyus

Since 2001, Comcast Cares Day has donated grants totaling 22 million dollars to deserving nonprofit organizations, expanded to include events internationally, and has had over 1 million volunteers give their time to help out their local communities.

As the largest single-day corporate volunteer effort in America, this year’s Comcast Cares Day took place across 39 states with over 100,000 volunteers. Locally, there were 70 volunteer events in the region that included Central and Northern Illinois, Northwest Indiana, and Southwest Michigan.

Chicago volunteers were scattered around the city, giving public schools fresh paint jobs, planting community gardens, and at the Cradles to Crayons Chicago event, sorting and packing donated goods to the city’s children in need.

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This is the second year the national organization Cradles to Crayons has partnered with Comcast for Comcast Cares Day, and more than 300 volunteers showed up on a Saturday morning in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood to lend a helping hand.

Cradles to Crayons collects clothing, toys, shoes, and hygiene products for local children ages zero to 12 who are in need of these essential things to be a normal kid. These care packages are then distributed through community-based organizations across the city.

“They deserve to have their basic essentials met,” said Bernard Cherkasov, the Executive Director of Cradles to Crayons in Chicago. “We have served 43,7111 children so far, and our goal is to serve 60,711 more.”

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Volunteers spent Comcast Cares Day packing supplies and leaving notes of kindness and encouragement in the packages for the kids to see. Comcast employee Brandon Jones participated in his 12th consecutive Comcast Cares Day this past Saturday.

“It’s special to give back, but it’s even more special to work with my team members in a united front,” Jones said. “Knowing the impact we are making is so special…I’ve been smiling all day.

Other volunteers were community members and their families, and even students who gave up their Saturday to give back. Sophomore student at DePaul University, Kyle Kasparian, organized a group of pre-health students to volunteer.

“This is my sixth or seventh Comcast Cares Day,” Kasparian said. “Being able to partake in service with other fellow students makes it all that more enjoyable for me this year.”

Aside from the over 300 volunteers who showed up, a few familiar Chicago faces also came to Comcast Cares Day. Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by Cradles to Crayons to acknowledge all the volunteers.

“What I see in this room is that we are one city with one future, and that is giving back to the kids,” Emanuel said. “This is the true character of Chicago.”

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David Cohen, a Senior Executive Vice President and the Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation, was also in attendance, and it was his third Comcast Cares Day event out of three states he had visited that morning alone.

“Comcast Cares Day is an opportunity to demonstrate the impact a big company can have and what we can do to give back to our communities,” he said. “For many employees, this is the best day of the year.”

For the next few weeks, XFINITY retail locations are accepting donations to Cradles to Crayons at any of the retail stores located throughout Chicago. Most needed items include new or gently used toys, warm winter clothing and coats, books, and new bedding. To find out more about how you can give back, visit https://www.cradlestocrayons.org/chicago/.