Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

Online edition –>

If it was nothing else, the first annual Turkey Shoot benefiting West Suburban Special Recreation Association was a heck of a good time. There was pizza, some tunes and if you hit your jumpers, a turkey.

The Friday night fundraiser didn’t draw a particularly big crowd, but the organizers and participants were no less enthusiastic. We got the distinct impression that the association family understands that, in life, sincerity goes a long way.

The organization that hosted the event has been in Forest Park for many years, serving families and individuals living with a disability. The association is funded in part by tax dollars and works closely with park districts in a substantial number of west suburban communities. This village is fortunate to have the West Suburban Special Recreation Association in its midst. The association, too, is thankful that Forest Park has been so agreeable in making sure that gymnasiums and parks are available.

For those who didn’t make it to the Nov. 21 fundraiser, and haven’t participated in the host of programs offered by the association, it is our recommendation that you check them out. There is a warmth and openness in this organization that is vastly different from other recreation programs.

Sitting on the sidelines Friday was Renee Strakanoski, a Roselle resident who really had no reason to be in Forest Park other than she enjoys the company. When she was a teenager, Strakanoski worked at a cerebral palsy center and now her adult daughter works for West Suburban Special Recreation Association. None of their family or friends has a disability. She simply appreciates the supportive atmosphere.

From the top row of the bleacher seats, Walt Nakatsuka could see his son Chris running around the hardwood, joking with friends and draining free throws. Parents who know the family said it’s easier to recognize Nakatsuka when his face is hidden behind a camera. He takes pictures of all the participants at all the games in all the sports, and is generous with his photos.

An Elmwood Park couple whose son is a longtime participant in the recreation association said part of the attraction to the programs is the normalcy, both for them and for their son. Though his disability affects his understanding of more complex issues, the couple said their son knows he is different from other kids in school. During a shoot around or a softball game with the west suburban group, though, participants see their peers. Meanwhile, parents can root for their child’s success and swap tales with other moms and dads, just like parents along any sideline would do.