Usually, I don’t react to a colleague’s story.
But “Another summer, another wish fading,” by Erick Johnson, of the Chicago Crusader, really caught my attention.
Johnson wrote about the difficulty Jennifer Maddox, a Chicago police officer, is having raising money to take a group of 35 youths and six adult supervisors to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
The price of a daily ticket is $74.99, but you can get $20 off that price if you buy the ticket one day before the trip.
As a police officer, Maddox can purchase the tickets for $40. But she has to also pay for food and transportation for the group.
“Many households in Parkway Gardens are headed by single, low-income women who can’t send their children to Great America and other places,” Johnson wrote.
That’s an awful truth.
My most enduring memory of summer is going to Riverview, then the most popular amusement park in the Chicago area.
After school let out for the summer, my siblings and I would eagerly anticipate the day my parents would announce that we were going to the popular amusement park.
The only thing more exciting than Riverview was Christmas.
Maddox has been trying to create a similar memory for a bunch of deserving kids who live in Parkway Gardens, a housing complex near 63rd and King Drive.
In recent years, the private housing development has been the site of several high-profile tragedies.
Last year, Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge was fatally shot in crossfire while she was pushing her baby in a stroller near a school in Parkway Gardens.
It is also the area where 15-year-old De’Kayla Dansberry was stabbed to death during a street brawl.
Police charged Tamika Gayden with giving her 13-year-old daughter a knife to use in the fight.
Maddox began her career as a police officer 21 years ago patrolling the 3rd District that included Parkway Gardens.
“We were getting a humongous amount of calls for service. I started scoping out the area and discovered there was nothing for [youth] to do,” Maddox told me.
The police officer said she tried to talk with the kids and with their parents, but her uniform scared them away.
“We are not talking to the police,” Maddox said parents told her.
Things changed when she took a part-time security job at the housing complex.
“That started opening up the lines of communication,” she said.
Maddox found a basement area, with a kitchen and unused rooms, and turned it into a drop-in center for idle teens.
“I put in some tables and chairs, got some board games and some video games and eventually the kids started coming,” she said.
“I was having about 100 kids coming through the doors every day. I was able to get some of the parents involved, and a lot of the parents are now on the staff,” Maddox said.
Parkway Gardens’ management eventually gave her a contract to run the program. In 2010, Maddox established “Future Ties,” a nonprofit after-school program and summer camp for teens.
After years of smaller excursions, Maddox hopes to raise enough money to take the teens to Great America on Monday, Aug. 7.
But so far, she’s only raised $1,000 of the estimated $2,600 that the trip would cost.
Unfortunately, her efforts to get Great America to give the teens complimentary tickets have been unsuccessful.
Tess Claussen, communications manager for Six Flags Great America and Hurricane Harbor, sent me this email on Monday:
“We have a policy on applying for complimentary tickets for nonprofit organizations. We review all of the requests and ultimately donate roughly a thousand tickets to charitable organizations on top of our hundreds of thousands of tickets donated through our youth literacy program each season. Since this organization is not hosting a fundraising event they do not qualify for our program.”
Still, I’m sure that if this company understood the hardships that these teens go through every day, Great America would be more than happy to donate a day of thrilling memories.
Before you ask, I’ve donated.
I hope you will, too.
If you wish to help, you may donate at www.futureties.org.