Tab Bamford, June 7, 2014
"How do people afford going to games?"
While in middle school, Alex Sheck and his father, Michael, took a trip to watch baseball games all over California and in Arizona. As part of the trip, Alex had been put in charge of finding tickets to games, working through an itinerary, and securing lodging for the two on their adventure.
But as he built the plan for their trip, the younger Sheck had a moment of pause when looking at the cost of the experience. Each game carried a different - but significant - cost. And, even at a young age, Sheck knew not every family could afford to go to games.
Fast forward to the summer of 2013. Sheck, who followed both his father and sister to the University of Iowa, continued to feel his heart strings being pulled.
So he did something about it.
"I've been going to sporting events with my dad for a long time," he said. "A lot of people don't get the chance to attend sporting events. I wanted to give back and help other kids who haven't had the opportunity."
Sheck, who grew up in Chicago's suburbs, had a finance internship at McAfee in California last summer. A chance meeting with the company's president was the spark he needed.
Experience The Game was born at the end of the summer last year.
"Rather than just giving them upper-deck level tickets, we try to give kids an experience," Sheck said. "Whether it's going on the field or court or meeting players or coaches, getting private access in the stadiums. Also, we always provide transportation and food and some swag. We try to make it special."
And so far, Sheck has been able to provide some truly unique experiences.
Since September, Experience The Game has been working with local Boys and Girls Clubs across the country. They have hosted 15 special events so far, and have worked with recent champions - the Chicago Blackhawks and Miami Heat - and other franchises including the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Sky.
In Carolina, Canes captain Eric Staal donated his suite to Experience The Game. Sheck was able to take eight kids down to ice level, where they were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how an NHL game happens.
In Miami, 12 kids were able to go on the field and meet Hall of Fame coach Don Shula before a Dolphins game.
And in Chicago, Experience The Game was able to provide a great outdoor hockey experience at the Stadium Series game between the Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.
All of these experiences have come as a result of Sheck's love for the games and desire to give back. But it hasn't been easy for Sheck, who will be a junior studying finance at Iowa this fall.
"Most of our events are on weekends," he said. "When I'm at school, I'll come home for the event and drive back to Iowa after. When we took kids to the Blackhawks banner ceremony on a Monday night, I drove home after classes on Monday and went back for classes on Tuesday. It's a lot of time traveling back and forth."
Someone from Experience The Game - whether it's Alex or his father, Michael - is part of every experience. And not every piece of the experience is donated; for many of the games, Alex has paid out-of-pocket for food, transportation or gifts for the kids that attend.
"We're working to get more relationships with teams and leagues in the coming year," Sheck said. "We're really happy with what we were able to do in the first year and hope the successes we had in the first year translates into more opportunities in the future."
Sheck indicated Experience The Game has events planned this summer in Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Miami, and have also secured an experience at a PGA event. All of these connections have come through hard work by Sheck, who continues to work as hard on his degree as he is making special experiences possible for others.
"It's tough with school all day and then working on this at night, but it's worth it."
To learn more about Experience The Game, visit http://www.experiencethegame.org/.