The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society is kicking off the holiday season all weekend from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. On top of four local homes decked out in their holiday finest, the walk includes a bonus stop at the Oak Park River Forest History Museum, also decked out in with an exhibit of vintage holiday décor and lights.
The Holiday Market held at the Nineteenth Century Club in Oak Park will feature more than 30 artisan vendors and special events to start the season off on a festive note.
Event administration chair and IWS member Mary Cate Kuhl notes that the weekend is special for the Infant Welfare Society.
“This year is our twentieth annual year of the housewalk,” Kuhl said. “It’s very exciting because it’s a major anniversary, and we’re implementing a lot of extra events to make it fun for everyone.”
Kuhl says the Holiday Housewalk and Market are the major fundraiser for the IWS, and that all proceeds are used to support the IWS’s Children’s Clinic.
“The goal of the Children’s Clinic is to be the safety net for children whose healthcare is not guaranteed,” she said. “The Children’s Clinic offers medical, dental and behavioral care and last year served over 3,500 children from forty-three neighboring communities at over 10,500 appointments.”
While aiming to create a healthcare home for children in need at the Children’s Clinic, the IWS also strives to make the clinic a happy place to be. To that end, Kuhl says the clinic has recently implemented new programming, including pet therapy and a giving library, which means that every child who visits the clinic leaves with a book.
Fundraising is the key to offering these services.
“These two programs, as well as our behavioral care are not subsidized by the government,” Kuhl said. “We rely solely on fundraising to pay for this.”
At the end of the day, Kuhl says the Holiday Housewalk and Market are about having a good time while giving back to those in need.
“This event is so fun, and we are so grateful to members of our community who open their doors to make this happen,” she said. “It’s all in the name of benefitting children, and people really get a lot out of that.”
Five Holiday Housewalk stops
Housewalk Chair Stephanie Stewart says that in honor of the walk’s 20th anniversary, they decided to veer off past practice and include a non-residence on the walk this year: the Oak Park River Forest History Museum.
“This is our 20th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the historical society and the 120th anniversary of the museum building, the Cicero Fire house,” Stewart said.
The museum will fit into the housewalk’s holiday theme, with a display from Jerry Ehrenberger, who Stewart calls a world-renowned Christmas collector.
The homes on the walk will include one home in Oak Park and three homes in River Forest, each decorated with a special holiday theme.
In Oak Park, a 1906 Prairie-style stunner will be decorated in the theme of “Seasons Greenings,” with abundance of decorations from nature. The dining room will feature an elaborate table setting for Christmas brunch, and a Dickensian Christmas village will brighten up the butler’s pantry.
A 1928 Renaissance Tudor-style home in River Forest is decorated in an “Antique Christmas” theme. Stewart says the home is filled with beautiful 18th and 19th century antiques, including an 1820s ladies’ card table built in the Jane Austen era. Every room will sport a decorated tree.
A “Traditional Meets Modern” theme will bedeck an Edward M. Probst-designed home in River Forest. The home boasts 60 original windows bearing Probst’s images of prairie fruit and plants.
Pine cones and greenery from the yard will be brought inside to decorate the home, and the dining room tree will feature birds and nature motifs.
A Victorian Eclectic-style home will sport a “Merriment and Music” theme. Stewart notes that the homeowners love music, and their many musical instruments will become a part of the holiday decorating.
The music room, which houses two pianos, will be decorated with a miniature Christmas village created by the homeowner’s mother.
Stewart says that the walk is a seasonal favorite for many.
“It’s such a fun event to start the season off, and most importantly, everyone who participates in the walk and market is giving to the health care and mental and dental care of children in need,” Steward said.