As the River Forest Park District celebrates 100 years of service, it seems appropriate for West Suburban Special Recreation Association to publicly applaud the district's forward thinking that led to the creation of WSSRA, which 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. River Forest and Oak Park 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. They wouldn't know the neighborhood children on their block.
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. Quickly, the two districts combined efforts with the two villages to creative a cooperative funding agreement, and WSSRA was born.
Thirty seven 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 River Forest Park District 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 156 different individuals from River Forest that WSSRA served last year, those we have served in years past, and for those we serve today, we thank the River Forest Park District and we congratulate them for 100 years of making our community a great place to live and play.
Marianne Birko, CTRS
Executive director, WSSRA