This River Forest home on Monroe Avenue is one of three from the village and one of five featured in the Infant Welfare Society’s virtual Holiday Housewalk this month. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society is helping the community kick off the holidays with its annual Holiday Housewalk for Healthy Kids. As it has done since 2020, the IWS is staging a virtual housewalk, with videos of five local homes decorated inside and out for the holidays. 

Sarina Butler, writer and video chair for the walk, says that each of the 20 plus years of the walk has been instrumental in funding the IWS’s Children’s Clinic. 

“Our new clinic on Madison Street is really state-of-the-art in every respect,” Butler said. “We have more room and are serving more children, so obviously, the Holiday Housewalk becomes all the more important.”

The Children’s Clinic serves children from infancy through young adults and provides pediatric, dentistry and behavioral health services for a population in need. With the knowledge that this is one of the clinic’s biggest fundraisers, Monica Klinke, house committee chair for the walk, was tasked with finding homeowners willing to open up their houses for a good cause. 

“I’m a realtor, so that gives me some inside connections to what would be good houses,” Klinke said. “We also have a great Infant Welfare Society network. Of course, it’s great when the house is awesome, but the owners also have to be really into decorating for the house to work for our tour.” 

The decorating theme for the house on Monroe Avenue in River Forest is “My Favorite Things,” and includes favorite holiday décor items from places around the world where the homeowners have lived previously. | Alex Rogals

Of this year’s five houses, two have been on the tour before, but with previous owners, so Butler notes that each house is a completely new experience. There are three houses from River Forest and two from Oak Park.

In River Forest, a home on Lathrop Avenue is an architecturally historic home that has been redone to feature a clean-lined interior. Butler says that each room in the newly decorated home flows together in harmony. The theme of this house is “Generations of Christmas Joy,” because the young family living in the home decorates with handed-down ornaments and long-term family traditions.

Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

On Monroe Avenue, the theme is “My Favorite Things.” This house is new to the Holiday Housewalk, and Butler says the owners have recently relocated to River Forest to live near their grandchildren. 

They brought with them their favorite traditions and decorative items from their previous homes around the country. In addition to a gourmet Christmas Eve dinner, this family has a tradition of wrapping all of their holiday gifts in brown paper tied up with string, inspiring the name for the house.

On Ashland Avenue, there is another house that is new to the Holiday Housewalk. The traditional home was redone recently in a style that Butler says is, “big and bold, and very elegant.” A remodeled kitchen features a marble-topped island and a large archway to the dining room.

In Oak Park, a home on Euclid Avenue is returning the Holiday Housewalk. This restored Arts & Crafts style home is remarkable for two reasons, according to Butler. All of the decorations are fresh and installed by Moss in Forest Park, and the décor is made up of unique items the family has brought back from their extensive travels.

New to this year’s walk in Oak Park is the St. Giles Parish rectory. Butler says the public rooms are quite remarkable and feature the same elaborate Italian-style ceiling design as the church. 

As each pastor has moved in, he has added some of his favorite items to the décor. A parishioner, who also happens to be a designer, will be decorating the rooms for the walk. Butler says of the décor, which will include several creches and a dining room table set for parish party, “The creativity going into this is quite amazing.”

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Butler says that for the first 20 years the walk was an in-person event, until the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated making the walk virtual. While the virtual format has worked well for the IWS and has broadened the reach of the IWS with people able to watch from anywhere in the world, Butler says she can see a time when it would make sense to resume an in-person event.

“There are many people who would like it to go back to an actual housewalk,” Klinke added. “It’s definitely something we’ll explore because it’s part of our tradition.”

Both Klinke and Butler say that now that COVID precautions have changed, they are encouraging people to buy their tickets and then gather together for viewing parties to make participating in the Holiday Housewalk more of a celebratory event.

Whatever the format, the IWS Holiday Housewalk remains an important part of the holidays in Oak Park and River Forest. The entire event — from the videographer to the homeowners to the audio recording — is made possible by volunteers. 

“This housewalk is really a community event,” Butler said. “From donating hours to writing the scripts to buying a ticket. Everyone takes part to help raise money for our Children’s Clinic.”

What you need to know

Tickets for the Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society Holiday Housewalk can be purchased by visiting childrenscliniciws.org/holiday-housewalk-and-market and clicking the “Buy Tickets” button.

Tickets are $55 and allow streaming of the housewalk from 7 p.m. on Dec. 9 through Jan. 9, 2023.

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