Lake Forest is place to be for funds and game vs. Orr

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The Orr High School basketball team poses with the 2017 Class 2A championship trophy. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Sometimes good things happen in this messed-up world.

And this is one of those good things.

On Saturday afternoon, the Class 2A champion Orr basketball team will play a charity game against Lake Forest at the Lake Forest main gym.

Admission is free. The first 500 fans get free T-shirts, and all proceeds after minimal expenses go to the Orr basketball program for the next three to four years.

What proceeds, you ask, if everything is free?

That would be the more than $20,000 that already has been raised by numerous donors, some anonymous, who feel this is a good way to help those in need, give back to a forgotten community and — maybe most important — try to even the stakes in a world that has become winner-take-all, losers-get-lost.

Orr is located on the West Side, in the heart of the drug-infused, gang-infested violent landscape that passes for a neighborhood just north of I-290.

Lake Forest is one of the most beautiful, wealthiest suburbs of Chicago, located 25 miles north of the city center, along the ravines next to Lake Michigan.

The contrast between these places could not be starker. The Schweppes, Armours and Swifts built Lake Forest; the gods of Hades seemed to have built the crumbling West Side.

Orr has an enrollment that is 100 percent minority; Lake Forest is 91 percent white. Nobody can help what color he or she is, nor which family or economic strata he or she was born into. But human striving, empathy and monetary assistance can help level seemingly impossible divides.

Enter the Community Church of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, led by pastor Tom Dickelman. He and member Fred Koch, a musician buddy of mine (though I am no churchgoer of any form!), read my winter series on the Orr team and its many hardships (like no sweatpants, tiny travel budget, zero healthy food, gunshots everywhere) and decided a fund-raising game could be a way to help.

Next up were Lake Forest athletic director Tim Burkhalter, assistant AD Chris Morehead, coach Phil LaScala and the high school’s energetic booster club. All said yes to the unusual, offseason, out-of-school fundraiser — oh, and so did new principal Dr. Chala Holland — and away the project went.

Some folks will say I helped with the game, but that’s not true. All I did is what a journalist does: investigate something noteworthy, find the facts, add your two cents, let the words go and stand back.

For the opportunity, I am deeply thankful to my bosses for simply saying at the start, ‘‘Go do it.’’

What I was able to do was use a remarkable man, Orr coach Louis Adams, his dedicated assistants (so underpaid as to be virtual volunteers) and principal Shanele Andrews to help root out the human side of violence and poverty and find out how, when and how much people suffer from the plague.

Lou and I became good pals, and we have vowed to take a fun road trip to his birthplace of Tunica, Mississippi. OK, so I could’ve kept more impartial distance between my subjects and me.


I met junior Dannie Smith, the smooth center, whose two best friends were shot and killed just before the season. I met Brian Hernandez, the lone Latino on the team, a cheerful orb of energy who plays basketball all day and all night when he can.

I met sophomore Rayvond Turner, who was still hampered by a bullet wound to his ankle. And I met junior Tyron Mosely, the gifted 6-5 guard/forward who’s so skinny and smart that he nearly disappears when he turns sideways and has admitted that if he tried harder, he could do much better than his excellent 3.4 GPA.

This game is a salute to getting to know everyone better, to expose two groups to one another and find that common human bond.

Both teams will have lunch at the Lake Forest beach, with its view of the great city to the south. Then the JV and varsity teams will play, and a barbecue will follow.

When Adams — a big, tough man — took the dais in front of the Community Church’s men’s group a month ago, he started to speak, then broke down and slowly wept for over half a minute.

‘‘Just to drive here,’’ he said after regaining composure. ‘‘To see people on the sidewalks, walking their dogs, kids playing, the beauty . . .’’

We all know what he means.

Stop by, if you can. It’ll be nice.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.



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