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As the Park District of Oak Park celebrates 100 years of service, it seems fitting for West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA) to applaud the district's forward thinking that led to the creation of WSSRA.
WSSRA began in 1976 as a cooperative of the park districts and villages of Oak Park and River Forest. Local parents of children with special education concerns knew their children needed an opportunity to play, socialize, gain skills and make friends outside of the classroom. These children with disabilities had a greater need than other typical children for organized play as their education placements were often not in their own neighborhood with same-age peers. In essence, arriving home from school meant no built-in social group was available. Parents approached the park districts of Oak Park and River Forest about the possibility of creating new programs to meet the recreation needs of their children. The response was positive.
Soon, the two park districts combined efforts with the two villages to create a cooperative funding agreement and WSSRA was born.
Thirty six years later, WSSRA continues to serve Oak Park and River Forest residents of all ages with any kind of impairment or disability. As an extension of the Park District of Oak Park and our 10 other partners, the association is proud to have been able to enrich the lives of our participants. The children and adults WSSRA serves gain athletic skills and become physically fit in our many sport, exercise and Special Olympic programs.
Participants become less isolated as they make friends, socialize and travel with WSSRA. Creating art, playing with adapted toys, growing speech and self-confidence are also daily occurrences at WSSRA programs. Most importantly, our participants have fun because of the vision of park district commissioners, village administration and staff many years ago.
On behalf of the 213 different individuals from Oak Park who participated in 2,051 WSSRA programs last year and the thousands we have served previously and currently, WSSRA thanks the Park District of Oak Park. We congratulate them for 100 years of making our community stronger and richer.
Marianne Birko, CTRS
Executive Director, WSSRA