Doug Mullaney has a vision.
When he closes his eyes, the athletic director at Community High School in West Chicago sees his facility living up to its name as a gathering place.
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Wildcat Sports Festival
When: Events begin around 4:30 p.m. today; football scrimmage at 8 p.m.
Where: Community High School, 326 Joliet St., West Chicago
Info: (630) 876-6290 or district94.dupage.k12.il.us/
The way he sees it, one of the first steps toward that goal is making sure residents throughout District 94 - including those without high school-aged children - know about West Chicago's sports programs and that the people in those programs want everyone in the community to feel a sense of ownership.
"This is a very special place, but we need community involvement," he says. "We're obligated to bring people in (to our school and sporting events). It's a great place to hang out and bring your kids. It's warm and friendly. We want to welcome everybody."
That attitude was the driving force behind the creation of the school's inaugural Wildcat Sports Festival, which opens at 4:30 p.m. today and concludes with a varsity football scrimmage around 8 p.m. under the lights at Memorial Stadium, 326 Joliet St.
In the past, Mullaney says the school traditionally held its blue and white football scrimmage on the Friday before the season officially begins.
This time around, he says, the evening will feature all of the school's fall sports teams - including football, golf, soccer, tennis, swimming, cross country, volleyball - and more than 500 athletes.
Visitors will pay $1 to get inside for a peek at a variety of teams scrimmaging, both on the outdoor field and in the gym. Athletes in different sports will be introduced to the crowd at various times throughout the evening.
Several concession stands will be open - selling everything from spirit wear to hot dogs - and there will be a corn boil, raffles and even an appearance by the Wildcat Marching Band. Proceeds will go to the Wildcat Boosters.
Visitors also will have a chance to talk to the players, the coaches and the athletic director himself.
"It's time we got our community involved in these kinds of events," Mullaney says. "Come in, watch the kids play and just have fun."
He admits no one knows exactly how many folks will attend the festival, but he says he's hoping for more than 1,300.
If it works, he says, it will allow families from throughout the district "and their munchkins" to learn what West Chicago has to offer and to feel like they're a real part of the high school community.
"We want to connect our community to our high school," he says. "Walk up to our doorstep, come in and feel welcome."
For details, call Mullaney at (630) 876-6290 or visit district94.dupage.k12.il.us.