When asked to name the home of a Madison Street dynasty, most area residents’ first thought would likely be the United Center, located at 1901 W. Madison Street, where the Chicago Bulls won three of their six NBA championships in the 1990s.
But Jimmy’s Place, located at 7411 Madison St. in Forest Park, has built a dynasty of its own, coming in first in the West Suburban Special Recreation Association’s (WSSRA) “Fun in the Sun” campaign for the last six years straight.
The annual contest raises money that is used to help parents of children with disabilities send their kids to WSSRA’s summer camp. “These students need a firm schedule and close supervision to be successful. We help them increase their social skills and self-esteem, learn problem-solving skills, control impulses and have fun,” said WSSRA Executive Director Sandra Gbur.
Bar and restaurant patrons are asked to throw in an extra dollar or two when paying their bills between June 6 and July 6. The name of each donor is written on cardboard cutouts of children and hung on the walls of the participating establishments.
Jimmy’s Place owner Jimmy Jodoin said he believes his restaurant’s success in the fundraiser is attributable to its close-knit atmosphere. “I’ve got a family kind of restaurant business where I know probably 70 percent of the people who come in, so I can just go up to them and say ‘dish up,'” he explained.
This year, Jimmy’s Place raised $1,225, tying its 2005 total and beating its 2004 total by $125. The closest competitor was Knotty Pine Inn in Cicero, which raised $800.
Overall, the contest raised $4,228, beating last year’s total by $913.
Jodoin said his devotion to the fundraiser is due in large part to the enthusiasm of Gbur and other WSSRA staff members.
“Believe it or not, I get hit up for money every day for one fundraiser or another. I thought the people who work this one really, really cared about what they were doing. And it’s a great cause,” he said.
WSSRA’s camp runs six weeks, six hours daily, from Monday through Friday. Eight camp sites specifically designed for age and ability groups are held in Oak Park, Berwyn and at Field Stevenson School in Forest Park. This year, the camps will serve 185 campers, the largest enrollment yet, according to Gbur.
Just as Jimmy’s Place tends to dominate other Forest Park restaurants bars in the fundraising competition, Forest Park tends to dominate surrounding suburbs.
This year, eight Forest Park establishments participated, compared to four in Harwood Heights, and one each in Berwyn, Cicero, Oak Park, Franklin Park and River Grove.
“Maybe Forest Park is an easy target because you get the most liquor licenses and restaurants in the shortest driving distance,” speculated Jodoin.
Top Forest Park finishers besides Jimmy’s Place included O’Sullivan’s Street, which finished sixth with $135, and Shanahan’s, which raised $130. R Place, Healy’s West Side, Horan’s Snug, Molly Malone’s and Skrine Chops also participated.
Jimmy’s Place will once again be presented with the championship trophy at a private WSSRA pool party at the Park District of Forest Park Aquatics Center on July 11.
For more information, call WSSRA at 847/455-2100.