Like many other Eagle Scout hopefuls working on community service projects, 15-year-old Christopher Umeki is on a mission to help others -- except the "others" in his case are four-legged friends of residents from Hoffman Estates, Elgin, Streamwood and the surrounding area.
Umeki, an incoming sophomore at Fremd High School and member of Boy Scout Troop No. 461, is in the process of building five pieces of agility equipment that will be installed in a new Hoffman Estates off-leash dog park, called Freedom Run. The 4-acre park, located on Hoffman Estate's border with Elgin at 6150 Russell Road, replaces two Canterbury Park South soccer fields.
A dedication and grand opening ceremony for the park will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, but members will be able to visit after its soft opening on a yet-to-be-determined day in August, said Michael Kies, director of facilities at the Hoffman Estates Park District.
Kies said the name Freedom Run not only means that the park will provide dogs a place with "the freedom ... to run," but also refers to the freedom military dogs and their handlers have preserved for U.S. citizens.
"We think it's great to honor the military service dogs," he said. "We don't hear a lot about them, and this is an opportunity to honor them and their handlers."
Several plaques honoring military dogs dating back to World War I -- and including the dog that helped with the Osama bin Laden raid -- will be on display as visitors walk into the park, Kies said.
The total cost of the project is about $133,000. The city of Elgin and the Hoffman Estates Park District are both covering 40.5 percent of the cost, while the Streamwood Park District is picking up 19 percent.
"We've seen through the master plan the need and want was there from our communities," Kies said, adding that he hopes it will attract visitors to other services offered at the park district and in the community. "We're excited to provide that service. I think it adds value to the area."
Some features at the park include a small dog area, shaded areas for handlers and their dogs to rest, water sources and Umeki's equipment: an A-Frame, a dog walk, a bar jump, a double bar jump and weave poles.
Umeki was able to raise the $600 he needed to construct the agility equipment with help from the park district, Forest View Animal Hospital, Golf Rose Animal Hospital and other community members.
"I hope that people use it and learn how to use it," Umeki said of his project.
Membership fees for residents are $49 for the first dog and $15 for each additional dog. Nonresidents pay $69 for the first dog and $20 for each additional dog. Memberships are good for a year from the date of purchase and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They can be purchased at Hoffman Estates' Willow Rec Center, 3600 Lexington Drive, or the Triphahn Center, 1685 W. Higgins Road, and require documentation of the dogs' vaccinations.
For more information on the park, visit heparks.org.