Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein, Sun Life Financial Present $110,000 in Grants and Scholarships


Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein, Sun Life Financial Present $110,000 in Grants and Scholarships to 'Rising Star' Chicago Nonprofits and Students

Children's Home + Aid and Christopher House honored for commitment to increasing success in high school and beyond

WELLESLEY, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The U.S. business group of Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced Chicago's Sun Life Rising Star Awards program winners, awarding a total of $110,000 in grants and scholarships to two local youth-oriented community organizations including Children's Home + Aid and Christopher House as well as exemplary students nominated by each nonprofit: Ebony I., Charles Houston High School,and Yaneza A., Northside College Prep High School. Chicago Cubs Baseball Operations President Theo Epstein helped Sun Life Financial Group Manager Mike Whalen and Sun Life Voluntary Benefits Practice Leader Stephen Barreca surprise the winning students with their scholarships at a special VIP presentation at Chicago's historic Wrigley Field.

The Sun Life Rising Star Awards program recognizes nonprofits that redress low high school graduation rates and outstanding students who have overcome significant obstacles to succeed. The program also promotes financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability. Each winning organization receives a $50,000 grant and selects an exemplary student they work with to receive a $5,000 college scholarship. Since the program's inception, Sun Life has granted nearly $3 million to 54 students and 47 nonprofit organizations across the country. This year, Sun Life expanded the program to seven cities from five in 2011, and will award grants and scholarships to students and nonprofits in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix and South Florida.

Whalen and Barreca joined Epstein and his wife, Rising Star panel judge Marie Whitney, who served on this year's Rising Star judging panel, Cubs executives, and prominent local community members to present the winning students with $5,000 scholarships. The group received a VIP tour of the celebrated ballpark and enjoyed an exclusive Q&A session with Epstein before watching the Cubs take on the Houston Astros.

"We are making an investment in our youth, our education system and the workforce of tomorrow through our Sun Life Rising Star Awards program," said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. "It's a privilege to reward these incredible students who have persevered in the face of adversity and stayed committed to furthering their education. We believe they need only opportunity and support to realize their full potential."

In addition to monetary support, the Sun Life Rising Star Awards program will provide winning organizations with educational curriculum and resources to increase financial literacy among students. Sun Life recently partnered with dfree®, a movement developed by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. to galvanize the public to overcome the culture of debt and attain financial self-sufficiency. As part of the partnership, Sun Life and dfree® will provide Sun Life Rising Star Awards students and organizations with the Breaking Free Workbook, which includes interactive activities and evaluation tools to encourage debt-free living using the program's core principles and financial strategies. Soaries will also address winning organizations and students at a series of educational seminars in select Sun Life Rising Star cities this fall.

A five-person judging panel comprised of Chicago's foremost community and business leaders and philanthropists selected the Sun Life Rising Star Awards winners based on the following criteria:

  • Nonprofit's commitment to developing and promoting skills that directly translate to educational engagement and matriculation rates for secondary school youth under the age of 21

  • Nonprofit's demonstrated partnership with a secondary or post-secondary educational institution

  • Nonprofit's documented ability to respond to the needs of specific groups of youth in a manner yielding measurable results

  • Student nominee's plan to pursue post-secondary education, leadership qualities, commitment to his or her community, and a 750-word essay on how financial education contributes to future success

2012 Chicago Sun Life Rising Stars:

Children's Home + Aid -Children's Home + Aid is a leading child and family service agency in Illinois. Each year, it protects, educates and counsels more than 40,000 children, youth and families to improve their lives. Since 1883, Children's Home + Aid has been a compassionate advocate helping to shape public policy in child welfare, early childhood and juvenile justice. Children's Home + Aid is recognized for establishing best practices and achieving outstanding results through its programs and services that focus on child abuse prevention, healthy child development and strengthening families.

Student Recipient: Ebony I., Charles Houston HS

Ebony is an avid participant in the Children's Home + Aid Excellence Academy's community service projects, including her volunteer work at several Chicagoland Ronald McDonald House Charity locations, exclaiming, "I've never done anything more fulfilling." With her desire to help those around her, Ebony aspires to open several community centers in inner city areas to provide a safe haven for at-risk youth.

Christopher House -Christopher House is a catalyst for helping at-risk children from birth to age 18 thrive by taking a comprehensive approach to education and creating lifelong learners. Christopher House focuses on each child's overall growth and development which has a positive, measurable impact on their ability to succeed by educating the children and providing supportive services to the entire family that help build stability and self-sufficiency.

Student Recipient: Yaneza A., Northside College Prep HS

Yaneza is an active leader at her school, church, in the Christopher House Youth Leadership program, and is the eldest of four children in her family. As a junior who studied her way into one of the highest performing high schools in Illinois, Yaneza has the inner drive to succeed and hopes to publish a book one day.

In addition to Whitney, the judging panel included: Chicago Cubs Play-by-Play Announcer Len Kasper; Gallagher Benefit Services Area Senior Vice President Scott Baldwin; Laurus Strategies Principal Shayna Barreca; and Willis of Illinois, Inc. Executive Vice President Greg Martens. For more information on the Sun Life Rising Star Awards, please visit

About Sun Life Financial

Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. In the United States and elsewhere, insurance products are offered by members of the Sun Life Financial group that are insurance companies. Sun Life Financial Inc., the holding company for the Sun Life Financial group of companies, is a public company. It is not an insurance company and does not offer insurance products for sale in the United States or elsewhere, and does not guarantee the obligations of its insurance company subsidiaries. In the United States, Sun Life Financial provides a range of products and services to employers and their employees, including group and voluntary life, disability, dental and stop-loss insurance products. These products are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada in all states except New York. In New York, these products are issued by Sun Life Insurance and Annuity Company of New York. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. For more information please visit Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.

Keith Gainsboro, 857-234-1481

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