Opportunity Knocks (OK), the nonprofit organization that serves local young people with developmental disabilities, is holding two major events this week. The 5th Annual OK Tee It Up Golf Outing will have its shotgun start at noon Thursday, at nearby White Pines Golf Course. There are still some openings for golfers to walk up and join the scramble. 

The $150 fee entitles golfers to win prizes on the course, such as Closest to the Cooler, if they’re thirsty. After golf, they can gamble at casino tables to win chips to purchase raffle prizes. The after-party begins at 4:30, catered by Buona Beef with an open bar. The festivities end at 7 p.m.

President Phil Carmody noted that the organization has grown its programs, thanks to fundraisers like this outing. 

“We started out with three part-time staff and 18 participants. Now, we have nine full-time staff members, 20 part-time, and 40 participants per day.” OK is housed at the River Forest Community Center and offers day programs for adults older than 22.

This is an under-served age group. 

“Everything’s great until participants get to 22,” Carmody said. “Then it’s difficult to find programs.” Their After Opps program offers social and recreational activities. “Wellness is the centerpiece of all the programs. We offer 71 programs, 40 based on health and wellness. This includes cooking classes and fitness activities that become part of their everyday lifestyle.”

And speaking of cooking, the OK BBQ Block Party will be held at the corner of Madison and Elgin on Saturday, June 20, from 2-10 p.m. Three bands will perform, including a group comprising local students from the School of Rock. There will also be a Burger Battle, featuring five local chefs manning Weber grills. OK has the perfect garnish for these burgers, their signature Knock Out Pickles.

Making pickles is a new enterprise OK launched, selling them in jars and marketing them to restaurants. OK participants, known as Warriors, put cucumbers through the pickling process, which includes brining and packaging them. “Ten Warriors are getting on-the-job training,” Carmody said. “Some just love it.”

Carmody envisions a farm-to-pickle business that will keep Warriors gainfully employed, while proceeds from the pickles support programs. This would be a godsend for those with developmental disabilities, as only 3 percent have jobs. 

“Everyone deserves a chance to work,” said Carmody. “Some need a little more support.”

This support comes from After Opps and two other programs OK offers. Life Shop maximizes opportunities for adults with disabilities, while Morning Opps provides activities for special-ed students at OPRF. Many of these Warriors will be on hand at the block party.

They can enter the watermelon-eating contest, win prizes and enjoy free beverages. “There’s also going to be a huge kid’s area,” Carmody said, with a large tent filled with activities. 

“Last year’s block party was a big hit,” he recalled, “featuring artisan food and craft beers. We had over a 1,000 people coming and going.” 

This year’s event is sure to draw pickle-lovers from all over. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.