Building the new Lincolnway Special Recreation Association facility in New Lenox will do more than change the landscape in the Heather Glen subdivision where it has land. It will change lives.
LWSRA is a cooperative of five park districts (Frankfort, Mokena, New Lenox, Peotone and Manhattan), but at 35 years old, it still does not have program space to call home. Currently, it leases the basement of a building on LaGrange Road in Frankfort for its offices and uses park district sites in other communities to hold its programs.
LWSRA has applied for a $2.5 million grant from the state to build the new facility and finds out in April or May if it was approved. If so, it's possible the organization could be moved in by fall 2012. But that depends on funding. Or fundraising, such as put on by the Trailblazer Charitable Foundation.
"The biggest thing this building will do is that it will give us the space for the day program (Day by Day) for kids who have graduated high school but don't have anywhere to go. Our program held at the in Frankfort currently has a waiting list," said Tami Pareti, coordinator of fundraising and public relations for LWSRA.
Meeting the emotional and physical needs of the individuals helped by this program is what inspired the Blais family to start the Trailblazer Charitable Foundation in 2008. In the three years since, the nonprofit group has given away more than $30,000 to local programs for or families with special-needs children.
And it's why Keith and Peggy Blais fully supported their son Sean when he asked to create and run a fundraiser to benefit LWSRA, which had made a $5,000 grant request of the Trailblazer Foundation earlier this year.
"So far, it's going pretty good," said Sean Blais, at the three-hour mark on Sunday. "This is a lot more people than I anticipated. We also had a big cash donation at the entry table, and we don't know who left it. That makes me pretty happy!"
With a mix of grade- and high-school kids, as well as assorted adults, coming and going throughout the 10-hour period, the marathon saw a total attendance of more than 70 people. By 8:30 p.m., Peggy Blais was estimating that the event had raised about $1,200 after expenses.
Sheryl and Patrick Greene and Glenn and Diane Ruklic, who both have children in the LWSRA day program, attended the dance marathon to show support for the foundation and LWSRA's goal of expanding. They agreed that the Day by Day program provides numerous benefits for their children and for their families.
"Everybody needs to be with their peers," Sheryl Greene said. "The biggest crisis that affects them when they come out of high school at 22 is the loss of their friends."
"It goes by too quick," said Evan Ruklic, who has participated in Day by Day for four years and indicated that the field trips and being with his friends are what he likes best.
Friend Stephanie Greene smiled and said that her favorite part of Day by Day was being with Evan.
Fox's Restaurant, , , , Nancy's Pizza and donated pizza for the dancers. Velocity Sports donated Gatorade, and and also donated refreshments. provided the balloons and decorations, while , , Tommy Nevins, , , and Cuzzin's Cafe all gave gift cards for door prizes.
"The Trailblazers have been wonderful to work with. They're great people," Pareti said.
"And it's great to get the young people involved. It's been surprising to see the amount of effort they've put into this. They've done really well," she added.