Table Tennis Tenacity: T4Youth Remembrances Moving Forward

As we’ve gone through the holidays and into a new year, 3Points has been thinking a great deal about T4Youth, a charitable table tennis tournament our firm has been involved with since its inception in 2014, which up until this past year was held annually in November.

For seven years, the tournament has brought together members of Chicago’s tech community in a round-robin tournament, connecting them with, and raising funds for, aspiring young technologists in low-income circumstances.

Like any charity with large in-person events that drive a substantial portion of fundraising, T4Youth has tried its best to adapt to our new reality. This year T4Youth has challenged table tennis lovers to enter a virtual trickshot competition, which is still open for individuals and teams to enter. Our team (and a few special guests) had a lot of fun putting together our entry into the competition.

While the trickshot competition is an enjoyable alternative, we’re still missing the unique energy and camaraderie of getting hundreds of people competing together in the same room. Given that we cannot be in-person this year, but with the hope that we will be again next year, 3Pointers who have been involved in the evenings of ping pong pandemonium reflected on the charitable event’s ongoing legacy.

Drew Mauck: The origin of the event was fairly early in 3Points’ history. We were working with Objective Paradigm, a workhard/playhard trading recruiting firm based in Chicago but led by a couple of Jersey boys, and I was going to grab lunch with Ryan Pollock (OP’s founder) at a falafel joint the at the base of the Chicago Board of Trade building.

Ryan started talking about visiting all of these tech companies and seeing a shared love for table tennis, and he proposed putting on a tournament to create funds for a worthy cause. It took me a millisecond to agree and probably five minutes to finish the falafel. As we wrapped, I said to Ryan, “Come with me, I know the place we should have it.” I was aware of Killerspin House, one of the early ping pong places in Chicago, so we went right over there, spoke with the manager, and boom, off we went! It came at the perfect time, as I didn’t want to grow a company that didn’t have a dedicated way to give back, and I’ll always appreciate Ryan’s instincts on this and how hard he has worked to intensify our impact.

Lorna Kiewert: I still remember the first year, cramming hundreds of people into Killerspin House in the Loop. No one knew what to expect, but there were so many people, we were spilling out into the building’s lobby. Seeing it evolve from that location to AceBounce and then to SPiN showcases the hard work and dedication that goes into the event each year.

T4Youth is really an event for everyone and it’s become more inclusive over the years — you don’t have to be a table tennis star to participate. From the C-suite competition, to the Rubik’s cube contest, to the fun atmosphere for spectators — you can support the cause in the ways that best suit your comfort level.

And the companies that support T4Youth are top-notch. Some companies even fly folks in from other offices across the country to attend and play for their team(s). Seeing the support to better the next generation of tech stars in our great city makes me so proud to be part of this community.

Spencer Doar: The evening is usually cold — drag-out-your-fur-lined-hood cold. When I walked down to the entranceway to SPiN for what was my first event in 2016, I ruminated on the fact I’d learned on the way over — that Susan Sarandon was SPiN’s co-founder. Hah!

I didn’t have much time for that though, as the networking combined with the competitiveness and quality of play by Chicago’s technologists was an amazing thing to watch. I was wearing boots, and it was on my way to speak with a student from ChiTech Academy who was on hand that I accidentally crushed and nearly tripped on the first of what would by many ping pong balls over the years.

When I eventually made my way to the student, who I think was less shy than usual after witnessing my near pratfall, it became quickly clear what the organization meant to him. There have been many memorable moments in the years since then, and I know plenty more to come, but I’ll always remember that first series of events fondly.

Sam Svoboda: I’ve really enjoyed interviewing the students when they come to T4Youth each year — it’s always impressive to see how intelligent, driven, and engaging they are. Perhaps my favorite memory is when I had the chance to visit and film video at Chicago Tech Academy a few years ago. Visiting the school and seeing the students in their environment made it even more real, and it certainly reminded me (and hopefully viewers as well) why we put the effort we do into T4Youth each year.

One other thing that’s been cool things for me is how T4Youth has mirrored the growth of both 3Points and me personally. My first year at 3Points was 2014, which was also the first year of T4Youth. In that time, both 3Points and T4Youth have more than doubled in size and diversified their offerings. I went from being handed a camera in Year 1 and taking (not all-that-great) photos, to filming and editing a recap video, to managing teams of talented videographers and putting out multiple videos each year.

These experiences not only expanded my skill set, but were the basis for the multi-faceted content team we have at 3Points today. So I’ll always be grateful to T4Youth for that.

Katie O’Shea: Seeing the industry come together for a worthy cause was both entertaining and heartwarming. I think people are increasingly coming to understand the magnitude of the disparities that exist in the education system, both locally and nationally, but the Chicago Tech Academy and Code Nation have been tackling this issue for years now.

Kids are the future, so it’s up to us to ensure that every kid has the resources they need to have a bright future in our increasingly technology-dependent world. Expanding access to high-quality STEM education and opportunities is the key, and it is an absolute necessity for creating a more equitable society.

We hope you will join us (virtually) this year in T4Youth’s trickshot competition as we continue to support technology education in Chicago. And even more so, we hope to rekindle the T4Youth magic in person with everyone again at SPiN later in 2021!

PR & Communications for Fintech & Chicago Tech. www.3ptscomm.com