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Dodgeball Brigade Dedicates Season to Founder Who Passed Away

By Alisa Hauser | December 28, 2012 7:17am

WICKER PARK — When Kimly "Kim" Nguyen started a dodgeball league in 2009, she'd just moved to Chicago from Los Angeles for a job at an events planning company and wanted to meet new people.

Next Thursday the Chicago Dodgeball Brigade's fourth winter season will begin without Nguyen, who passed away unexpectedly Sept. 17 at the age of 29.

“I'm [running the next season] in Kim’s honor," said Nguyen's boyfriend Phil Keefe, 27. "She worked really hard to create this league and bring people together."

A Wicker Park resident and statistician, Keefe met his future girlfriend, whom he said had "a way of connecting with people that made them feel right," through the league. 

After falling in love with the game, which uses rubber 'no-sting' balls with foam cores, Keefe fell for Nguyen, too.

"She was the girl that muted everything around her, that made me forget who and where I was whenever I saw her," Keefe said.

By the league's second winter season, the couple was living together.

In addition to a shared love of dodgeball, which Keefe enjoyed because "every week no matter what, we can forget about everything and go to the gym and play dodgeball," the couple enjoyed classical music. 

About a year after they started dating, Nguyen got a sales job at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where she was working at up until her death.

Sheila Jones, Nguyen's supervisor, described her as "awesome and magnificent and inspiring, truly a breath of fresh air to our department."

After Nguyen's passing, Keefe has taken on booking gym space, recruiting members and arranging sponsorships for the league, which he said has realized Nguyen's goal of bringing "a random cross section of Chicago together."

The group of about 60 players counts bike mechanics, FBI agents and even radio show host John Allen, who spoke to a fellow WGN host about the league, among its ranks.

After the games, which last an hour, the players — the majority in their 20s and 30s from Wicker Park with high concentrations of dodgeballers from Hyde Park, Avondale and Lakeview — head out for food and drinks.

To try and make a fourth team of 10 or 12 for the next session, Keefe's been busy putting up flyers in advance of a Monday registration deadline.

Chicago Dodgeball Brigade begins its seven-week first winter session Jan. 3 at the Pulaski Park Field House, 1419 W. Blackhawk St.

The 18+ league runs 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays. Cost is $50/person and includes a T-Shirt. Registration deadline is Dec. 31. 

For more information, email dodgeballbrigade@gmail.com or call 574-904-4465.