The Lithuanian Athletic Union of North America (LAUNA-ŠALFASS) held its 70th anniversary games in Chicago this year on May 19-22. Over 400 athletes from Canada and the US participated, a significant number of them were youth. The youngsters love to travel and meet new friends, and we have Audra Stanevičiūtė-Mills here to describe her adventure with her family.
May 19 – Our family left for Chicago, Illinois early Thursday morning. We travelled west through Michigan then Indiana, and to Illinois. In Michigan, we stopped at Chick-Fil-A, a Christian business. Our lunch was healthy and delicious. We were able to choose a book from their book hut and say a prayer for all those who have lost their life fighting for freedom. Some of our friends stopped at a llama farm and others stopped at Michigan’s Big House. When we arrived at the hotel in Bollingbrook, Illinois, we enjoyed time with some of our teammates playing pool and swam in the pool. We put up an Aušra Sports Club flag in our room so that it would greet all of our Canadian families. As well, we had a Ukrainian flag on our car so we could be reminded of our solidarity with Ukraine.
May 20 – Our family purchased fruit and vegetables to stock our fridge. We then travelled to the Museum of Science and Technology in downtown Chicago. For dinner, we met some of our teammates (and friends from Hamilton now living in Chicago). We ate at “Kunigaikščių Užeiga” (Grand Duke’s Restaurant). Most of the players ate cepelinai, but my mama had šaltibarščiai and my dad and Dimitry ate šąšlykai. Our coaches, Cicilija and Viktorija bought us Dadu, Lithuanian ice cream at the Lithuanian store across the street. That evening, we played our first basketball game. The Junior E team played against the friendly and athletic team, Detroit Kovas. The Junior D played against the homecourt and host, Chicago Lituanica. We met with a lot of athletes after the games. Alot of friends came to cheer us on, including the president of ŠALFASS, Laurynas Mickevičius and alot of players from the Men’s Lituanica Team. We were so grateful for that as it made us feel special.
May 21 – Today we had another busy day. We played three more games – team D and E won one game each. I heard our men’s B team played really well and had a lot of fun. We were very grateful for the amazing day of basketball – meeting really strong Lituanica players. Some of us talked about moving to Lemont so we can play in these gyms 3-4 times a week, but then agreed that we love playing at Aušra SC in Toronto’s Prisikėlimo Parapija with our amazing coaches and families. That evening we went to the 70th ŠALFASS banquet. There were hundreds of people there. We loved the dancing, the videos, the medals (my mama won a medal for table tennis), and the Lithuanian food (I loved the “koldūnai”, but our table tennis coach, Eugenijus Krikščiūnas loved the “kepta duona”.) We also met one of the ŠALFASS founders, Rimas Dirvonis. He encouraged us to continue being active.
May 22 – we met with sesele Laimute before 9 am Mass. At this 70th anniversary Mass, along with my coaches, I brought up the gifts. We were inspired by the readings read by Laurynas and the homily encouraging us to participate in Lithuanian activities and pray for freedom. After the Mass, we played our last basketball game. We were really sad for that as we loved the coaches, spectators, families, and mostly athletes at the 70th ŠALFASS games. After the game, our friends took us to downtown Chicago – we loved the largest green roof at Millenium Park. We were lucky to go on this tour with Cristina, a green roof specialist. This was so amazing. Again in the evening, we had a pool party with the teammates who were lucky to stay another evening, as I did.
May 23 – we left for home. Some of the items which I brought home were pictures drawn by Beatrix and Nora; gifts received from family and friends; and amazing memories. I am grateful for all the work which the Board of Directors and the coaches did to make this experience so wonderful. Ačiū!