A sad story about one of the Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers took a happy turn thanks to the generous act of one business owner.
Jackie Robinson West Little League, which represented the Great Lakes region at the Little League World Series, won the US championship before losing to eventual world champion South Korea. One of the team’s players, Jaheim Benton, returned to a difficult situation when the team got back to Chicago: his family is split up because they are between homes.
The Chicago Sun-Times published a story Friday about Benton’s situation that made it onto the cover of the sports section. The paper talked to Benton’s mother, who described the family’s financial situation.
Benton’s mother, Devona, works as a home care provider and lost three clients, leading her to go from 40 hours of work per week to around 18. Jaheim’s father, Frank Jackson, works as a part-time radiator technician. Their combined earnings as part-time employees were not enough to pay for a 3-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s South Side, leading them to lose their home in June.
While the family tried to regain its financial stability, Jaheim was staying with his father at a family friend’s home. Despite the hardships, Benton’s parents were able to escape reality and drive out to Williamsport to support him and the team.
After being moved by Benton’s story, Spencer Leak Jr., from Leak and Sons Funeral Home in Chatham, decided to pay the family’s rent for a year.
“They have united the city,” Leak said of the Little League team. “They have united the country. And now, they are known all over the world.
“I would hope that this rent turns into a mortgage that turns into home ownership for them,” said Leak Jr to ABC Chicago. “We want our little superstar to have a roof over his head because that’s what he is. He’s a superstar.”
Benton went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts and 5 runs scored in Williamsport. He’s entering 7th grade this year and has plans to play high school ball. His dream is to play for the Chicago White Sox. And, for now, he has a much more stable financial situation.