The competition is heating up between local business owners competing in the West Suburban Special Recreation Association’s (WSSRA) “Fun in the Sun” campaign.

The campaign, which raises money to provide scholarships to children with disabilities for the organization’s annual summer day-camp program, pits local restaurant owners against each other (in good-natured fashion) to see who can earn the most donations. Each customer who pitches in gets his or her name on a colorful cardboard cutout of a child, which is posted on the walls of the restaurant; the competition runs through July 7.

The campaign has raised between $2,900 and $5,000 from local restaurants each year since it started in 2002, according to WSSRA Superintendent of Recreation Marianne Birko.

Jimmy’s Place, at 7411 Madison St., is the reigning champ; it has come out on top every year, thus far, and consistently raised over $1,000 for the campaign during each competition. Owner Jim Jodoin said the Italian restaurant raised about $1,426 in donations from its patrons last year and it hopes to come up with about the same amount this year too. 

When asked what motivates him to help the campaign, Jodoin said, “I like the people running it. It’s a good cause for the kids.”

“This year could be an interesting battle,” said Birko, adding that a Harwood Heights restaurant called Twin Gyros is really making an effort to win.

There are other Madison Street eateries and bars participating in the competition, as well, among them: Shortstop Lounge (7425 Madison St.), Molly Malone’s (7652 Madison St.), and Shanahan’s (7353 Madison St.). The Forest Park spots will be joined by establishments in Berwyn, Oak Park, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park and Harwood Heights.

Birko said that, at the campaign’s peak in 2007, when they raised a record $5,000, there were 19 establishments participating.

“We scaled back on the number of locations because we had people raising as little as $14,” she said. “It’s a lot of work on our part to keep up on all the places.”

This year there will be 14 participating restaurants scattered around the western suburbs, and the Park District of Forest Park is one of 11 area park districts joining the fundraising effort.

You, too, can help kids have some “Fun in the Sun” by asking participating locations about donations.