We sat down with Christine O’Reilly-Riordan, the 2020 Nancy B. Ronquillo Award for Excellence recipient and Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of White Sox Charities, to hear about what inspires her. To hear more about her journey, visit our website and our social channels on June 11.
Question: How did you get started with the Chicago White Sox?
Christine: You know, it truly is a story of serendipity. I grew up on the southside of Chicago and so my family were Sox fans by nature. I had a friend that worked at the ballpark who said, “Hey it’s a great summer job!” I worked in customer service, and I’m here to tell you, customer service in the 1980s was dramatically different from customer service for the Chicago White Sox in the 2020’s. We have seriously upped our game.
Those years in customer service were very formative because not only did I learn about every aspect of the White Sox, I got to interact with the fans. They really are the heart and soul of our brand and really define who we are.
Question: Can you reflect on a defining “aha” moment or a single story where you knew you were doing exactly what you were supposed to be doing?
Christine: That World Series Championship so clearly was a defining moment where you were like, “Finally! We want more of these!” Truly, nearly every moment of my job is an “aha” moment. I could talk for eight hours and tell you stories about people I have met, families I’ve experienced, staff people from agencies that we support. People, organizations, and neighborhoods can be transformed by good. That’s the job that I get to work in every day.
Question: You are so passionate about the work that you do. Where do you think that passion comes from?
Christine: My father was a police officer and my mother was a nurse. They were community servants and they raised all of us to see the good in people. I really think that I’m just so fortunate – that’s the family that I grew up in, the community that I grew up in. My family and my community are still to this day an “every moment” part of my life.
Question: When you reflect on your 38 years, what has been most memorable?
Christine: Gosh you know, I laugh when people reference my thirty-eight years in baseball because people will quickly do the math in their heads and then the whole wide world knows how old I am. But I think one of the things that sticks with me over the course of time is the evolution of community investment. I am so glad that it happened because it’s really important to have meaningful collaborations and partnerships. I think now it’s really an important part of business in general, how the city works, how business should work, and I think that’s really memorable.
Interviewer: You helped launch the White Sox Volunteer Corps. Why was it so important to create that and what impact has that group had?
Christine: The White Sox Volunteer Corps was launched in January 2009. Politics aside- that came out of the 2008 presidential campaign and both sides of the aisle were talking about community service, engaging in your community, and how we should be a servant to our community. It just so happened that one of the people running for president that year was an unabashed, self-proclaimed, dyed in the wool, old White Sox hat-wearing, true White Sox fan, Barack Obama. We wanted to think of a way that we as an organization could embrace this message of everyone being responsible for building communities. Our fans are so amazing and they’re always saying, “How can we be a part of the organization?” So, on inauguration day in January of 2009, we put out a press release and announced the formation of the White Sox Volunteer Corps with the concept being that we would create service opportunities for fans to serve shoulder to shoulder to inspire and transform our community. A week and a half in, we had over fifteen hundred fans registered, and ten plus years later, 5,200 registered members, over five hundred service opportunities. The fact we have been able to sustain it all these years says so much about our fanbase. I just think it’s so amazingly powerful and talks about a sense of community.
Question: You’ve had an amazing career helping uplift communities, what words of advice would you give to some folks who are looking to get involved?
Christine: There is such strength in forgiveness and encouragement in community. You know, individualism is really important, but look at baseball as an analogy. You can have a great hitter, you can have an awesome fielder, you can have a no hitter pitcher, but if you don’t all play together as a team, if you don’t all share values – it’s never going to come together and be cohesive. In my thirty-eight years in my job, I learn something new almost every day.
Question: We are so thrilled to honor you this year with the Nancy B. Ronquillo Award for Excellence and if you have any kind of final thoughts or words about what this means to you
Christine: I’m a part of a team and the White Sox impact that we’re able to make is not just because of me. I’m lucky that I get to have the job that I do. I love Children’s Home and Aid; it’s beyond just a partnership, it’s a friendship. I’ve known Nancy for years and her spirit, her love, she exudes love. The fact that it’s the Nancy B. Ronquillo Award is just on a whole other epic level, and I am so grateful—just so grateful.