CHAMPION DIARIES/ Champaign-Urbana, IL -- On its fourth year, Champion Diaries and First String will be teaming up with OSF Healthcare to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson on Saturday, April 18, 2020, at the diamonds of Douglass Park. OSF envisions making this a highly sustainable community, and that is what the First String mission is all about.


First String has been a staple in this community since the 90s and will host its annual combine at McFarland Field to follow the national observance. Starting at 10 AM CST, OSF will provide education for families, and spectators will have this time to review the skills of our ballplayers, recording MLB’s Pitch, Hit, Run marks. The JRD combine will be led by former Grand Valley State CF Brandon McFarland; former professional 1B and 4-year Indiana State letterman Dr. Preston Williams Jr, and specially invited guests as First String ballplayers get ready for their 2020 season.


Champion Diaries is promoting youth development, merging together community, sports, and education with a story of Jackie Robinson. A young man who grew up in poverty, but had great determination to be successful. This has stadiums and arenas in every state bearing his name. 


Robinson was the youngest of 5 siblings, being raised by a single mother in Cairo, GA. They were forced out of their home and made their way to Pasadena, California to live with Mrs. Mallie Robinson’s half-brother. While at John Muir High School, Jackie stood out as a student-athlete. He enrolled in Pasadena Junior College and was a 4-sport student-athlete at UCLA until going to Hawaii for the pros. 


It started in a single-parent home for Jackie, and First String is this family so many times over. As the 2018 Twin City Champions kick off their 27th season, we want to provide well-rounded resources for athletes and families in the Champaign-Urbana community. With help from businesses like Power 102Jamz, Live Real Estate, and Joe Stovall from State Farm, this day will be out of the park. 


The University of Illinois saw a 10% increase in the number of Black student freshmen enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year (Chicago Press, 2019). This is a celebration to expose the advantages in our own neighborhood. 


If you would like to participate, please visit for more information on our John and Michele D. Cooper scholarship, team sponsorships; player or volunteer registration protocol for this season. Operating hours are Mon-Thurs 5:15 PM-7:45 PM, and Saturday from 9:45 AM-Noon. Opening Day is Monday, April 20, 2020, at McFarland Field: 606 E Grove St., Champaign, IL 61820. Peter McFarland is the commissioner, Phone: 217 417 4331.



All-Star Women: Aja Evans, Olympic Medalist

Bombshell Aja L. Evans is a two-time Olympic athlete, born and raised in Chicago, IL. She was introduced to sports in the home, having parents as former stand-out student-athletes. Even Aja’s brother is a former NFL player, Fred Evans III, playing 9 years with the Minnesota Vikings. Aja’s uncle is former MLB player Gary Matthews Sr and son, Matthews Jr retiring from the New York Mets in 2010.


She became a five-time All-American while studying Sports Management at the University of Illinois, also bearing three Big Ten Champions. In 2010, Aja snagged Big Ten Athlete of the Championships right before graduation. 


It was her collegiate track and field coach Mike Erb who was the motivator towards bobsled. Where her journey was made of many wins. One was becoming the Women’s Bobsled Rookie of the Year in 2012, and the first athlete to ever score a perfect 800 out of 800 in the Team Official Combine for winter sports in the world: Making Aja the 2012-2013 Push Champion. 


Being an Olympian has always been on Aja’s heart, and scoring a Bronze Medal at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia was the platform moment that brought it all full circle. 


Then, 2018 marked her last bobsled competition of the Olympics in Pyeongchang. Aside from blossoming on red carpets, Aja was featured in the ESPN Body Issue, became a Polo Ralph Lauren Ambassador, and Proctor & Gamble “Thank You, Mom” and “Love Over Bias” advocate. 


On theme with Women Crushing Their Goals, Aja is hosting an event titled Love, Work, Play, and will be on Friday, February 14 at G.O.A.T. Climb + Cryo. This will be an afternoon drive from 12-3 pm, powered by Under Armour and accompanied by so much more. 

Since leaving the 2018 Winter Games, Aja has transitioned from a sports roster and has created the Aja Wins! lineup, inspiring the next generation of female student-athletes, leaders, and trailblazers. By providing young women with a platform to maximize their collegiate experience, they will be better equipped to champion their life in sports.


On Saturday, February 15th, Beauty and the Beast Mode Leadership Symposium will take place for attendees 17+ to learn actionable steps to smooth the transition from high school to college, and sports to entrepreneurship. 



JRD: First String Baseball Combine

Free Wave: Back to School, Dream Girls Academy

Summer break is coming to an end. 


Yet, we have an opportunity to celebrate the start of a new school year- And Free Wave is just the place to do that. You know what the beginning of school presents? It gives kids the chance to be more than just kids- They can become students again. Now that is something to celebrate.


Free Wave was created to get kids excited about starting a new school year, and also for educators and the community to have fun getting to know one another. Dream Girls Academy is a family service agency that builds relationships with students, parents, teachers and administrators across Champaign and Urbana to encourage best efforts in education.  


Aside from spending hours in schools, DGA has hosted Free Wave three years now, to do a little bit more for those who can’t do for themselves- And still, have fun. There are multiple organizations who give away backpacks and supplies- DGA wants to give away something more- a culture of respect for learning from and about one another as a key to success. 


Not only is Free Wave a community resource, it is a pool party for all ages to close out the summer with a big bang! The Urbana Park District has been gracious enough to open their space for this, in an attempt to bridge the gap between schools and homes- As a positive relationship between teachers and parents is important for every child to see. 


A united front.


Students are invited to Free Wave to have a good time. Parents are invited to ensure their kids are starting the school year off right. Teachers are invited to Free Wave to introduce themselves to the families of the children they serve. Administrators are invited to Free Wave because this is their tribe, these are their people. This is their community. 


If this is your community, too- See you on Friday, August 16th at Crystal Lake Family Aquatic Center, from 5-7PM. If not to swim, wave!




Dream Girls Academy hosts K-12 families from Champaign and Urbana students to close summer with excitement for school, and tools for excellence

Free Wave, partnered with Urbana Park District, is using the 2019 campaign to encourage more parental involvement in schools for a successful year as a community-- no excuses. 


JULY 8, 2019 // Champaign-Urbana, IL — On Friday, August 16 from 5-7PM, Dream Girls Academy is hosting their annual Free Wave at the Anita Purves Nature Center for 300 students in need. Parents, please reserve your student supply shop online for #FreeWave at the Anita Purves Nature Center, to access the Crystal Lake Family Aquatic Center, and to meet with Urbana and Champaign educators, on the last Friday before school. 


DGA takes on the charge to develop tomorrow’s leaders. “When schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher level programs.” The National Education Association, 2016.


“Talk to parents early on, because they are key to creating a better space.”  


The 2019 Free Wave Campaign is empowering families who need the encouragement to stay committed from Kindergarten through Graduation. Within the past few years, only 58% of high school parents attended scheduled parent-teacher conferences, and only 43% have volunteered, Child Trends, 2016. 


 “Research and field- work show that parent-school-partnerships improve schools, strengthen families, build community support, and increase student achievement and success.” NEA, 2016. This is an opportunity to start a safe, neutral and fun environment to be carried over into the classroom. 


DGA hopes #FreeWave will build rapport between parents, educators, students and the community. Leading to more phone calls, more pop-ups, more parent-teacher meetings, and more committee participation. In 2016, 79% of parents reported attending an event for their child’s school, it is a dream to make the community strong again. 


Mark your calendars, #FreeWave is the last Friday of summer break- August 16, 2019. Families who RSVP through the Facebook event page will receive a code to register online at Those with Web issues can register for #FreeWave by phone: 217-367-1544. Those who cannot attend will be added to a wait list, and supplies will later be arranged at the child’s school. 


Dream Girls Academy (DGA) is a local, non-profit organization to Champaign-Urbana, committed to skills and development tools that foster lifelong learning in all women and girls to empower families. Please contact, Call or Text 312 813 7140 for immediate attention on Free Wave, Like DGA’s page on Facebook: @DGAIllinois, and Follow Us on Twitter to share your dreams on a fun, successful school year.  




FREE WAVE: back to school success


Join the 2019 Free Wave campaign for academic success on Friday, August 16. This annual supply drive is a free pool party at Crystal Lake Family Aquatic Center in Urbana- And is open for registration! Sign up to get the admission code. 


Campaign Partner: Dream Girls Academy- Click here to RSVP!

JACKIE ROBINSON DAY was full of fun!


The 2019 Champaign Campaign hosted the 2018 Twin-City Little League Baseball Champs, First String. 


Engage your initiative, and champion it in Champaign. Youth development is the force behind our future.

Contact us to reserve space for your organization, product or business, and the campaign will surely oblige.


Like First String on Facebook!



Insurance means protecting the future, and it looks a number of ways. At least it does with the products of State Farm. We place value in our relationship with Joe Stovall, knowing that accidents will not break us. 

He's got our back. 


Another series coming soon is more money for your money!



Get your life in Lindsay and Anthony's virtual gym. When you exercise life, it becomes more than mere exercise. Your workouts become driven, more frequent, and more rewarding- no matter your fitness goals. 

Be sure to keep your spirits high, your core tight, and thank yourself later. 



Adam is a floating hometown chef with wizardry in his hands, and owner of Breakfast, Life and Dinner. When the buffalo cauliflower became a thing, Adam became the man. He prepares dishes in your home, cooking coaching as an adventure, and brings a personalized confidence to your meals- no matter the ingredients. 


Catch Adam's menu featured on CI Living for WCIA, and Like him on Facebook

"Culture for Service.."  - Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA. 2009