From 6:00 a.m.(!) to 3:00 p.m. in Pioneer Court just south of Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue, under the approving eye of the big guy with the pitchfork and his friend the metallic moose, you can take just a minute, and as little as $10.00, to support one of Chicago's great unsung treasures, the Off the Street Club. Since 1900, the club has been acing its goal of providing "a safe, supportive, Loving environment" for kids who spend most of their lives in the mean streets of one of the city's toughest neighborhoods - one of the most dangerous in America - West Garfield Park, where 8 out of 10 kids have seen gunshots fired at a loved one.
The Off the Street Club is Chicago's oldest boys and girls club, serving over 3,000 kids with a wide range of programs that range from tutoring and mentoring, to athletics, computers, arts and crafts, and a Girl's Center where high-profile speakers and role models help young women set and achieve personal goals. In the summer, " kids get to trade in the violence and drugs of their neighborhood for cookouts, sing-alongs, swimming, hiking and horseback riding." In the winter, there's skiing, sledding and other sports.
And it works. I've been lucky enough to meet a number of Off-the-Streeters, and they're great kids. You can see the club's success in their eyes and their manner. They have what long-time OTSC director Ralph Campagna calls "casual joy . . . a certain look that a child has in his or her eyes when they're loved and safe and know it. And we have too many kids who come to us and don't have that look, who haven't found it."
So here's where you come in:
Again, Friday, September 25th, 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Pioneer Court, you'll be able to adopt the Off the Street Club kid of your choice for $10.00. That's right, for not much more than a couple Frappachino's and less than an Ermenegildo Zegna collar stay, you can buy snacks for five kids for an entire summer. A single Alexander Hamilton earns you our eternal gratitude, but should there be larger denominated Presidents looking to escape the darkness of your wallet, $25.00, for example, will add six new books to the OTSC library. And so on and so on.
You can't miss us. Just head to Pioneer Court and look for all those cut-outs of Off the Street Club kids, select the one you want to adopt, and let some very nice volunteers - the really fun people I work with every day, including the cream of Chicago's creative crop - take a small smidgen of your money. A small smidgen that, trust me, will do a world of good.
Check out the really neat website we did for the Off the Street Club here. (If you can't make it to Pioneer Court, there's a place on the website to donate, too.)