BAPA residential member profiles

BAPA Board Profile: Thomas Chomicz

Thomas Chomicz got involved with the Beverly Area Planning Association (BAPA) through former BAPA board member Steve Murphy. The two served together on the Smith Senior Living board of directors, and Murphy believed Chomicz’s skills and knowledge of the neighborhood were a good fit for the Beverly/Morgan Park umbrella civic organization.  

“He said I could be helpful,” Chomicz recalled, and certainly that is an understatement of the value he has brought to BAPA and our community.  

With his professional experience and commitment to the work of the organization, Chomicz has helped BAPA make important improvements in programming, reporting and governance.  

Chomicz is a retired attorney and CPA. Over the course of his legal and accounting career he has served on the boards of many not-for-profit organizations. He has been on the Smith Senior Living board for 30 years, serving as director and officer as well as on committees. For the Saint Xavier University board he served as a director for nine years and as chair for four years. He was a director for the Retirement Research Foundation, and a director and officer for The Stenning, a charitable foundation.  

BAPA has benefited greatly from this diverse, high level board experience. In 2014, Chomicz rewrote BAPA’s bylaws. He also enhanced the financial reporting to the board of directors and consistently provided thoughtful and informed leadership to guide BAPA in its work.  

In his six years of service to BAPA, Chomicz has served on the organization’s development, safety and nominating committees, as well as the executive committee. He is currently vice president of the board.  

Chomicz will be retiring from the BAPA board in 2019. He encourages community residents to get involved in BAPA and use their skills to advance the organization as members, volunteers and on committees.  

“BAPA is a quality community organization that highlights the positives, achievements and outstanding reputation of the Beverly/Morgan Park community,” he said, adding that BAPA has a positive effect on local issues including housing, education, safety and community development.  

Chomicz and his late wife Eunice moved to Beverly/Morgan Park in 1972 and raised six children here.  

For more information on how to get involved with BAPA, contact BAPA Executive Director Susan Flood, 773-233-3100 or sfloood@bapa.org.

Face to Face Caring: Connection is ‘Guiding Star’ for Local Charity

By Grace Kuikman 

Neighborhood residents Greg Owen-Boger and Dale Ludwig are principals of Turpin Communications, a small company based in East Beverly that provides business consulting for meetings, presentations and sales. Their company’s Turpin Cares charity, which provides food, hygiene items and hand-knit scarves and hats to homeless people, was created in response to a “moment of truth” in late 2016 when a new business contact made a simple request, “Tell me about the Turpin culture.” 

“We were a little taken aback,” Ludwig said. “And then we thought, ‘Y’know, why not do the work to define who we are.”  The successful company, which had been in business for more than 20 years by then, tasked its employees to share their thoughts on what the company should stand for. 

Owen-Boger’s and Ludwig’s shared personal commitments to diversity, fairness and honesty already were reflected in company practices, but what about the world beyond client meetings and office walls?  

Ideas for Turpin Cares began percolating. 

Owen-Boger and his friend Olive Rogers, an employee at the Starbucks on 103rd and Longwood, had been knitting hats and scarves and giving them to people on the street who, as Owen-Boger said, “looked like they needed them.”   

Why not take this small gesture of warmth a little farther?  

Owen-Boger and Ludwig enlisted some help and assembled about 25 care packages filled with food, first aid and hygiene products and, of course, hand-knit hats and scarves. Owen-Boger and Ludwig kept the packages in their cars and gave them to homeless people who they saw on the street. Frequently, the connection lasted only long enough to stop the car, jump out, and hand over the package with a heartfelt wish, but the looks of gratitude they saw in people’s eyes were enough to convince the business partners that they needed to do more. 

Owen-Boger has a family member who has grappled with homelessness. That connection coupled with the realization that homeless people need help all year round compelled the decision to expand Turpin Cares outreach to quarterly donations and to ask employees and their extended network of committed “friendlies” to support the cause with donations of goods and assistance in creating care packages that provide much-needed items for people with such limited resources.  

In its few short years of existence, Turpin Cares has steadily increased the number of people served. In 2017 they formed a partnership with Almost Home, a not-for-profit organization based in the south suburbs that provides “boots on the ground” assistance to the homeless primarily in south side communities. Almost Home has taken a lead role in distributing the Turpin Cares packages through shelters, handing them out one-by-one to recipients.  

“The people connection – that’s my guiding star,” Owen-Boger said.  

Owen-Boger and Ludwig still carry packages in their cars and maintain the face-to-face connection of giving them away, and in 2019, Turpin Cares will expand to offer services at least once a month.  

Turpin Cares is in the midst of the holiday collection. Anyone can help! The Starbucks at 103rd and Longwood Drive has ornaments that list specific items needed for care packages. Take an ornament, purchase the merchandise, then return it to the Starbucks by Dec. 24. Knitters are also welcome to donate handmade hats and scarves.  

For more information, visit www.turpincommunications.com and look for Turpin Cares.

BAPA Member Profiles

Bill & Aileen Halvorsen “We bought our house in Beverly/Morgan Park in 2005 and have benefited from BAPA ever since, starting with the new neighbor packet that BAPA sent us when we moved in. We’ve attended so many fun BAPA-sponsored events over the years — Ridge Run, Beverly Cycling Classic, the pub crawl — and are very appreciative that BAPA lets local organizations like the Beverly Area Arts Alliance and Words by Friends use their Community Room as a gathering place. Supporting BAPA through annual membership and volunteering is an easy decision because of the hard-working, creative staff that are constantly trying to improve quality of life in our neighborhood.”  

 

Marlon Eastmond & Shirley Blazejczyk, Blazin’ Cycle Spin Studio “We proudly joined BAPA because we love our neighborhood and want to improve it, benefit the community and have a connection with the other businesses. We live in Beverly, we work in Beverly and we spin in Beverly. As business owners it is essential that we participate, network and provide assistance to each other. We have seen positive results from our BAPA membership, our business.”

 

 

 

 

Maureen and Tom Gavin  “We give because BAPA is such an integral part of this fantastic neighborhood. We give because we want to nurture the spirit of generosity in those around us. We give because we feel the responsibility to an organization that exists for us.”  

 

 

 

 

Sara and Pat McGann “BAPA helps our beloved neighborhood consistently thrive and evolve. BAPA guarantees that our residents enjoy a dynamic, safe, welcoming and kind environment in our great city. Through their insightful communications, BAPA ensures that every resident has an opportunity to celebrate local achievements and accolades, mourn our losses, stay up to par on current local happenings and engage in thoughtful discussion about issues that affect our community. As lifelong South Siders, we returned ‘home’ because, after years of living out-of-state and elsewhere in Chicago, we fully realized that there is no better community to raise our children and live fulfilling lives as adults. Anyone who visits our neighborhood would be impressed by our warm residents, committed politicians, attractive public landscape, beautiful homes, robust school offerings and vibrant local shops. BAPA is essential for this neighborhood’s preservation and growth, and we are so thankful that the staff and board invest their time and brilliance into this outstanding community.”  

 

 

Joshua Mercer, Allstate Insurance “I think it’s important to support BAPA as a member because whether it be education, business, or safety they are champions for the Beverly community. As a Beverly native, parent and business owner it is important to be a part of a well-established network that can help me navigate through life and build relationships.” 

 

 

 

 

Carol Macola “BAPA brings the community together through so many diverse and fun events throughout the year. With the Home Tour, I see unique houses and get great ideas for decorating, remodeling, and landscaping for my own ‘this old house.’  In years past, I challenged myself in the Ridge Run, enjoying the camaraderie of the event. Now I work with other BAPA volunteers on the Memorial Day Parade that follows the Run, remembering the lives of those from our area that gave their lives in service to our country. I am so proud of those participants in the parade that help to honor this day. At Bikes and Brews, I meet friends and neighbors.  These BAPA events and the others throughout the year showcase our community’s charm and enthusiastic lifestyles. BAPA reflects the caring that has made Beverly/Morgan Park a community that encourages long term commitment. Being a BAPA member exemplifies my own commitment to our community. I love where I live, and I am proud to be a BAPA member.” 

 

Robin Harmon, RMH Design “Great communities are built on the people who live in them, and our neighbors who work at BAPA do a good job of making this a great community. BAPA’s events keep people coming together for activities then staying involved in the neighborhood. BAPA helps small business owners grow their businesses, and makes sure everyone knows each other, connecting business owners with homeowners. BAPA creates a community feel that just does not happen in other neighborhoods. BAPA is awesome.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheila Gainer “Growing up in Beverly/Morgan Park there was always a thought in the back of my mind that I would come back to here to raise my own family. We’ve been back for five months, and in some ways, it feels like I never left. What made this such a great place to grow up is also what makes it such a great place to live as an adult: the people you have chosen to live around care about you and your family and care about the neighborhood we all call home. That feeling is personified in BAPA. As the daughter of a former BAPA board president and the sister of the current board president, I know first-hand how much time and dedication it takes to make a neighborhood successful, and how much BAPA is behind so many of the things we love. Being a member seems like the least I can do!”         

 

 

 

 

Shirley Conley “I’m proud to support BAPA’s work in our neighborhood. The three areas most important to me are 1. The family oriented events like the Ridge Run, the adult events like the fun Sip and Shop, and Tech Tuesdays for seniors like me. 2. The references for reliable contractors and other service providers. 3. The BAPA Card – when I’m thinking about going outside the community to shop, it reminds me to support local businesses.”

David Daruszka: Player with Railroads

By Abby Johnson

Trains are a common topic in Chicago, but how often are railroads given credit for their role in the city’s history?  

Self-declared railroad history buff and Beverly/Morgan Park resident David Daruszka says not often enough. Daruszka is a retired locomotive engineer for Metra and the Vice President of the Blackhawk Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The advocacy work of this club paid off earlier this year when Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed an official Proclamation declaring November “Chicago Railroad History Month.” The purpose? To bring public recognition to the history of railroads in the city. 

“Most people don’t know how integral the railroads were in making Chicago such a bustling city,” Daruszka said. “We think it’s important that people are made aware of the role these railroads played. And still do play.” 

The timing of this proclamation is no coincidence: Nov. 20 marks the 170th anniversary of the day the diminutive locomotive “Pioneer” carried dignitaries to a location 10 miles west of the city, returning with a load of grain sacks. This occurrence rapidly led to the construction of hundreds of miles of tracks across Chicago, making railroads a major factor in the growth of the city and its influence in the nation’s commercial life and social landscape. 

In fact, the birth and subsequent growth of the Beverly/Morgan Park neighborhood was largely due to the building of these railroads. Life outside of Chicago proper was appealing, and it was made possible thanks to the daily commuter trains that brought men to and from work downtown. 

“This neighborhood would not be here today if it weren’t for the railroad,” Daruszka said. “So many people live here and ride the train every day, but they have no idea how important these trains actually are.” 

In 1948, the Chicago Railroad Fair was held in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Pioneer’s inaugural journey and featured along Lake Michigan exhibitions of trains and equipment from many of the nation’s railroads. Recreating a similar extravaganza in 2023 is one of the reasons Daruszka and his group petitioned for Emanuel’s declaration. 

“Our goal is to spread the word to various community groups, museums and historical societies throughout Chicago,” he said. “Hopefully this will become a sustaining effort that leads to a gala celebration of the railroad’s 175th anniversary.” 

Trains are important from more than a historical perspective, Daruszka said. He believes trains are also the way of the future. As traffic becomes ever more frequent, transportation by way of automobile becomes less and less efficient. 

Daruszka is already on board with this form of travel. Just last month, he took an 11-hour Amtrak ride to visit his mother in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. Aside from the lack of leg room in Coach, the trip went well, he said. Because Daruszka likes traveling by train. And considering his passion for the railways, you could say he has yet to disembark.  

 

For more information regarding the Chicago Railroad History Month initiative, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/180216025919974/ 

 

 

 

 

BAPA Board Member Profile: Craig Huffman

By Grace Kuikman

Craig Huffman, a BAPA Board member since 2016, moved to Beverly/Morgan Park from Hyde Park in 2008. Huffman and his wife, Rebeca, learned about the neighborhood when visiting friends. “I fell in love with the community,” Huffman said, citing the mix of small town feel and big city appeal that has drawn so many people to the Village in the City.

Soon after the Huffmans settled in their East Beverly home they joined BAPA. Supporting your neighborhood organization is, “the right thing to do,” Huffman said. Even though he didn’t know a lot about BAPA’s work when he first came to the community, he has since learned how much BAPA does to preserve and protect our community. When he got the call inviting him to consider serving on the BAPA Board, he said yes,

The expertise Huffman brings to BAPA includes wide experience in board governance and management including not-for-profits, financial analysis, and facilities maintenance – especially helpful as BAPA owns an old building.

A managing partner and co-founder of Ascendance Partners, a commercial real estate investment firm, Huffman brings exceptional insight and experience in this field to BAPA’s board. Ascendance Partners was established in 2006 with a focus on commercial real estate investments that target industrial, retail and office opportunities throughout metropolitan Chicago.

In addition to his commitment to BAPA, Huffman serves on a number of other boards including the Healthy Communities Foundation, a public policy organization that works for prison reform, and an organization that helps ensure that children from low families have access to higher education.

Huffman’s reputation for hard work and deep insights about Chicago communities were certainly factors to him being appointed to the diverse committee of Chicago business and community leaders invited by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help make the case for moving Amazon HQ2 to Chicago.

In that capacity, Huffman has participated in briefing sessions and opportunities to advocate for Chicago as the best place for Amazon to locate.

Huffman called Amazon a “major player in commerce” citing its enormous span of influence, from affluent communities to poor ones. “Amazon is redefining what many of us know as conventional retail,” he said. Finalists cities should be announced soon, and the selection may be made by the end of this year. Huffman said he’s “hopeful” that Chicago will be selected but adds “We’ve got some tough competition.”  “I think Chicago is the best city in the world, but people in other cities feel the same way,” he said.

Huffman’s experience and perspective gained in his career, in board work and as an active member of the community help shape the programs and goals of BAPA.

“Beverly/Morgan Park is a great community because of the level of the people who are here, and BAPA is a reflection of that,” he said. He encourages neighbors to actively support BAPA. “The more people getting involved in BAPA, the more we’re invested in making sure Beverly/Morgan Park remains a great community.”

The Huffmans have two children, Sofia, 11, a student at St. Barnabas School, and Solomon, 9, a student at Sutherland School.

For more information about supporting BAPA, call BAPA Executive Director Susan Flood, 773-233-3100, or visit www.bapa.org.

Girl Scout Leader Celebrates 26 Years

Heather Linehan is well-known in the local scouting community. Her commitment to ensuring that kids get to experience the friendships, service opportunities and outdoor education that scouting provides hits the 26-year mark this fall. From Daisy Scouts to Brownies and beyond, and even a stint with the Boy Scouts, Linehan has graciously volunteered her time and talents with area boys and girls. 

Linehan fondly recalls her time in scouting as a child. She engaged in the program through high school, and participated in the Explorers, a career-based offshoot of the Boy Scouts, where she learned skills that led to a 35-year career as a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department. 

“I’ve always been a little over-involved,” Linehan admits. Aside from her work with kids, she also trains adults scout leaders and is a co-manager for the local service unit that encompasses all neighborhood Girl Scout troops.  

Her leadership role in the organization began when her daughter, Meghan, was five years old. Linehan started the Daisy troop that is still thriving out of the St. Barnabas location 26 years later. Since settling into her role as the prolific Daisy troop leader, Linehan encourages the girls’ parents to get involved in their own troops as the girls move through the ranks, which go from Daisy to Brownie to Junior to Cadet to Senior, and finally, during the last two years of high school, Ambassador. 

“We’re a volunteer-led organization, so I encourage moms to get together to organize a troop,” Linehan said. “I decided to start the Daisy troop because it’s a simple program and it’s a lot of fun for everyone. I kept the troop as my daughter grew up, and then I just kept going! It seems intimidating to begin a new troop. My advice is to stay organized and really anyone can do it.” 

Linehan encourages people interested in starting a group to leap into it. “The Girl Scouts offers so much support to troop leaders. There’s training and background checks and always someone to call with questions. It can be overwhelming because there are so many badges and opportunities, but I always let the girls decide what they wanted to work on, which is Juliette Low’s [Girl Scouts founder] philosophy,” she said. 

Linehan has organized numerous outings for her troop over the years, and offered first aid classes, firehouse field trips, arts and crafts, service projects, and of course, outdoor education.  

“I’ve taken my troops on outings that I probably would never have done on my own. You can try so many things in Girl Scouts. I’ve taken my daughter’s troops camping in Kentucky and canoe trips on the Wisconsin River. I also hosted overnight camping trips for the younger girls,” she said.  

Linehan’s philosophy is to empower the Daisies to try new things, from cooking over an open fire to making crafts as gifts for senior citizens. “We practice the three Cs: Cooking, Camping and Crafts. Crafts are great for developing small motor skills and instilling creativity. Recently, we’re getting involved in STEM-related activities, and there’s even a robotics badge to earn. Brownies are starting to learn coding, and we also do some science experiments,” Linehan said. “Raising girls of courage, confidence, and character will make the world a better place.” 

To find out how to start a Girl Scout troop, or find one to join, visit GirlScoutsGCNWI.org. 

Committed to Collecting

By Grace Kuikman 

When Gary and Denise Gardner moved to their Beverly/Morgan Park home in March 1982 they had already started buying original works by African American artists, but it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later – once the children were out on their own – that the couple became serious about collecting.   

“We decided to restore the house into an ‘adult’ place, not a place just about kids or hockey sticks,” Denise Gardner said. When she retired, Denise Gardner had time to travel and visit galleries and art fairs, discovering and learning about artists and their work. Now that her husband is semi-retired, they travel together, “learning, appreciating, collecting,” she said.  

A few years ago, they put an addition on their hilltop home, providing more space for their 100+ works of art, including works by Chicago artist Charles White (1918-1979).   

In many ways, White’s work embodies the beauty and intent of the Gardners’ outstanding collection. White grew up on the South Side and used his talent and tenacity to fight against racism by portraying African Americans with dignity in the context of universal themes. He started as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago when he was still in high school, and became active with the South Side Community Arts Center, establishing himself as one of the most prominent artists to come out of the Chicago Black Renaissance of the 1930s.    

“White is the leading African American Artist from Chicago in the 20th century,” Denise Gardner said.  

The Gardners are Lead Individual Sponsors of “Charles White: A Retrospective,” the first major retrospective for the artist in 35 years, open through Sept. 3 in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute.  

The exhibit features more than 100 of White’s powerful and purposeful representational drawings, paintings and prints which interpret African American history and culture.   

As a member of the Art Institute Board and a member of the Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC), Denise Gardner was among the people who encouraged the AIC to acquire a sketchbook of works by Charles White, and to start the conversation that has culminated in the Charles White Retrospective. The purpose of the LAC is to support diversity in the AIC vision, collections, staff, exhibitions and audience. White’s work fits squarely into that mission.  

And the timing was right: “[White] would have been 100 this year,” Gardner said. 

Mounting the exhibit presented challenges. The African American artists of the 40s, 50s and 60s did not get the recognition they deserved. Co-curators from the AIC and Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where the Retrospective will go next, needed to do a lot of research in the three cities where White lived and worked – Chicago, New York and Los Angeles – to develop a definitive catalog of the artist’s work and exhibitions. That catalog provides an important resource for students, collectors and art historians.   

The Retrospective covers all four decades of White’s career, showing his development as an artist, social activist and eloquent documenter of the dignity of African American people, culture and history. The exhibit goes to MoMA in October then to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in February.  

The timing of the White Retrospective is also right from an art collector’s standpoint. “In the past ten years there has been an explosion of extraordinarily talented living artists of color,” said Denise Gardner. The Gardners are adding works by younger artists to their collection, and seeing the connection of the generations of artists. White’s work, so reflective of the human condition, can be a powerful link in that connection.   

Cassandra Taylor: Entrepreneur, Mom and Youth Advocate

By Kristin Boza 

Beverly/Morgan Park resident Cassandra Taylor is a tenacious entrepreneur and founder of Just For Kids, a before and after school program that fills a much-needed childcare role in the community. Now entering its 13th year, Just For Kids expanded to include summer camp and school holiday programs to ensure kids have a safe and fun place to go when school is out of session and their parents are at work.  

Taylor began her career as a Chicago Public Schools teacher, but felt called to serve the community in other ways after her first child was born. “I greatly enjoyed my time teaching in the classroom, but it had always been my calling to do something on a larger scale that impacted youth,” she said. “Teaching does this, but it has boundaries. The sky is the limit when you are operating your own establishment.” 

After spending a lot of time in prayer, Taylor says God gave her the vision to develop an after school program. “I began to research the idea and speak with people in the industry in different states. Some local companies were discouraging as they stated ‘you’ll never be able to sustain serving school-aged children only.’ But it wasn’t, and still isn’t, about monetary gain for me. It’s about serving the community, helping other moms, and keeping children safe,” she said. 

Just For Kids officially opened in 2005, and moved to space in Morgan Park Baptist Church in 2006. Taylor was able to make a sustainable business when others thought it couldn’t be done. Community support has been integral to her success. “I am most thankful for the wonderful committee of Morgan Park Baptist Church; they are the most loving, supportive and caring group of people. The neighbors of the church have been so kind in supporting our youth program in the community. Ald. Matt O’Shea has been a fantastic leader and his office is amazing in their support,” she said. “Our children and parents at Just For Kids are family and we seek to be a home away from home for our families.” 

Aside from Just For Kids, Taylor has been a real estate investor in a family-owned business since 1999, and also owned and operated a literacy program for youth that she initiated in 1998. Now, she is working on a series of books that focus on spirituality and children. “The art and reflection that goes into writing requires a lot of time, prayer and solitude,” Taylor said. Yet she’s able to effectively balance her four children, plus her “kids” at Just For Kids.  

As a positive and spiritual individual, Taylor encourages other female entrepreneurs to keep looking at the glass as half full and surround themselves with positive people. “If it sometimes boils down to only you, that’s just fine. God needs personal time to work with you on what your assignment is. Stay focused. When one door closes, there are plenty of others that are available to open. Don’t beat yourself up when failures happen, they exist to make you stronger. This world is gigantic, take your dream where it’ll work for you and you for it!” 

To find out more about Just For Kids, call 773-747-6473 or visit JustForKidsLLC.com. 

Spolarich Named to Chicago Rising Star Honor Roll

Hallie Spolarich has been named to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) 2018 Rising Star Honor Roll, an annual recognition of outstanding youth who show creative leadership. In addition to a passion for and outstanding skill in the arts, Rising Stars finds ways to lead and serve others, whether helping in class, with their peers or in their community.  

Spolarich was nominated for this prestigious award by the Beverly Arts Center (BAC) in the area of theater. Nominees were reviewed and winners chosen by Chicago artist professionals. 

Spolarich, a talented and dedicated actor and dancer, has been taking classes at the BAC, since she was eight years old. She has performed in many theatrical and dance productions. “With all the time I have spent there, I considerate [the BAC] home,” she said.  

“The BAC is a place where everyone can grow in different types of disciplines,” Spolarich said, adding that her studies at the BAC taught her many skills that she can use on and off stage. “I have strengthened my [dance] technique in ballet, modern, tap, pointe and jazz, [but] the most important concept that I have learned in dance is that we all learn and grow from each other.”  

Spolarich said that being named to the Rising Star Honor Roll is “truly the most amazing thing that has happened to me. There is so much talent in Chicago and I am honored to be recognized .  .  . It makes my passion for theater even stronger.” 

A recent graduate of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Spolarich will be a theater and mathematics major at Hope College, Holland, Mich. in the fall. Following college, she hopes to return to Chicago to pursue a career in acting.  Spolarich is a resident of Beverly/Morgan Park and the daughter of Ken and Elizabeth Spolarich.  

Spolarich and Chicago’s Rising Stars show that creative youth can be great artists and great citizens. This award celebrates the creative spirit of the next generation as an essential part of Chicago’s cultural life. 

Rising Stars and their nominators will celebrate their achievements at a reception in August at the Chicago Cultural Center. The Rising Stars will also be recognized as a group at the Creative Youth Festival in Millennium Park on Saturday, Sept. 22, and they will have opportunities for continued engagement through the DCASE Year of Creative Youth. 

Special Recreation in Mount Greenwood Gives Back

By Kristin Boza

With the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics is this July, the participants in the Special Recreation program at Mount Greenwood Park are gearing up for the competition while maintaining their mission of giving back to the community. 

The program serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Chicagoland area, and currently has 115 participants ranging in age from 7 to 65, according to Special Recreation Coordinator Lisa Mulcrone. Mulcrone has been a part of the program in some capacity for the last 27 years, beginning as a volunteer when her sister, Sioban, was enrolled in the Special Recreation program. 

While the program accepts community volunteers to help out, the participants in the Special Recreation program have become great partners to other community groups as well. 

“We have volunteered by baking cookies at the Oak Lawn Ronald McDonald House, we assist BAPA with the Ridge Run and Home Tour, and we volunteer with Special Children’s charities in various jobs, such as assisting with 5K runs, the annual Duck Derby fundraiser, and the Polar Plunge, to name a few,” Mulcrone said.  

The Special Recreation group has been essential in helping BAPA with the Ridge Run by stuffing goody bags, handing out fliers along the race route, and passing out refreshments and finishing medals to the Ridge Run runners. 

Mulcrone and the team is especially looking forward to participating in the Special Olympics July 17 through 21 at Illinois State University in Bloomington, Ill. Athletes will compete in power lifting, track and field, gymnastics, swimming and bocce, according to Mulcrone.  

“We are extremely excited about being a part of the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics. We will be attending as a group, hoping to make it to the majority of activities that Special Olympics has planned,” Mulcrone said. “We compete year-round in 14 different Special Olympic sports.” 

To get involved as a volunteer with the Special Recreation program in Mount Greenwood, contact Lisa Mulcrone, lisa.mulcrone@chicagoparkdistrict.com. To volunteer at a Special Olympics event, contact Eileen Guinane, eileen.guinane@chicagoparkdistrict.com.