By Hilary Anderson – August 19, 2018
The Northbrook Tower
We are all part of one big family —that was the frequent comment made by participants at the ninth annual Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association (NSSRA) Summer Bash held Aug. 15 at Northbrook’s Techny Prairie Park.
About 400 participants, family members, supporters and staffers gathered for an evening of dinner, live music and dancing.
The family-centered bash serves as an end-of-summer celebration.
“We are here to eat, dance and show the world how to have fun with our families and friends,” said Craig Culp, executive director of the NSSRA.
The live music by Recycle the Day was a big hit along with the cookout.
“I like coming here and being with my friends,” Northbrook’s Jay Slotnick said. “This event is a bash.”
Evanston’s Matthew La Chapelle, who plays basketball, volleyball and golf, with his NSSRA friends expressed his honest feelings.
“I am with people who are special like me and have different disabilities,” LaChapelle said. “I do not have a brother or sister so they are all my family. The staff, too.”
People from near and far came for the event.
Rosemarie Baldwin and daughter Alyson who live in Newfoundland in Canada came for the bash. They were with Glenview relatives Rhonda Gray and daughter, Robyn.
“This is our fifth year,” Rhonda Gray said. “Robyn and I meet friends we have not seen in a while. The music is really fun and this is a great atmosphere.”
Cori Mohr and husband Jeffrey brought their three children adopted from Korea for the event— Seth, 10, Evan, 9, and Ben 8.
“The people at this event are our family,” Cori Mohr said. “There is so much joy and understanding here. We have wonderful things to share with each other and are more empathetic to the world.”
A little more than an hour after the Bash began, Mother Nature decided to participate. A warning of impending Lightning sent participants to their cars or a building at the park for safety.
After the weather, had cleared up, the fun of the evening returned once again. But, Mother Nature once again had other plans.
Despite the conditions, a good time was had by all in attendance and NSSRA staff members even got to join in on the fun themselves.
“I love doing our parties, being part of our participants’ experiences and overseeing this event,” Abby Whalen said. “I always knew I wanted to work in the special recreation world and do this with my life. It brings me so much joy and satisfaction.”
“We took 10 of our special sports athletes to Bloomington for the Special Olympics Summer Games,” James said. “It was a wonderfully memorable experience.”
With that comment in mind, Culp put out a special plea especially to high school students age 16 and over and college students.
“We need more program and inclusion staff,” Culp said. “We are particularly looking for those who might be considering a job in human services. Come recreate and play with us. Jobs include working after school, on the weekends and sometimes going on overnight trips.”
Culp then thanked the Northbrook Park District for the use of Techny Prairie Park as well as the other members of the 13 communities from which NSSRA draws its participants. That includes 10 park districts, two cities and one village.
NSSRA’s Summer Bash is sponsored by NSSRA Foundation with the support of local businesses, families and community supporters, including the Slotnick Family (presenting sponsor), Call One (tent sponsor), D&R Autoworks of Highland Park (dinner sponsor), By Your Side-Autism Therapy Services and Trane (photography sponsors).
Founded in 1970, NSSRA serves approximately 1,600 area children, teens and adults with physical, developmental, emotional or other disabilities. The programs and services offered by NSSRA and its partner agencies enhance lives, foster friendships, build skills and create the kinds of experiences that make fuller, richer lives.