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updated: 4/17/2014 12:43 PM

Food tax funding film project, park work in Naperville

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Food and beverage tax revenue in Naperville will be used to fund projects such as a suicide prevention film made by teens and improvements to a park and shooting range near downtown.

The city council this week allocated $2 million in Special Events and Cultural Amenities funds, which come from a 1 percent tax on food and beverages, to 84 of 90 applicants. Recipients of what's often referred to as SECA funding are planning festivals such as Ribfest, Last Fling and the annual 360 Youth Services Chocolate Festival as well as theater programs, concerts and fundraisers.

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But two of the top new initiatives to be funded are the Hope Defined project, a suicide prevention film being produced by the nonprofit organization Hope for the Day with Naperville-based Nickel a Day Films, and some aspects of work Naperville Park District is doing to improve Sportsman's Park.

The film received $14,333 of the $45,000 it sought, while the park will receive $42,000 this year and an estimated $220,000 during the next four years.

In the Hope Defined project, an outwardly successful teen who is athletic and gets good grades is struggling internally with thoughts of suicide when a friend's twin sister kills herself, said Annmarie Parker, owner of Nickel a Day Films.

"She's dying inside because she does not want to live up to those expectations that have been set for her," Parker said about the film's female lead.

The script has been written throughout the past year with help from 63 DuPage County teens, 25 parents and several experts in therapy and psychology. Parker said its aim is to give students an outlet to express feelings of being overwhelmed or bogged down by high expectations -- feelings that can lead to thoughts of suicide, Parker said.

"This film gives those kids the opportunity to say 'Hey, it's OK for me to be depressed. I need to talk about it and maybe talking about it will alleviate some of the pressure,'" she said.

Using the $14,333 SECA grant, Parker said the Hope Defined team plans to host one more round of auditions on May 18 and then begin production. If an additional $30,000 can be raised, the project will become a full-length film, otherwise, organizers will produce a short version first.

"It's a film not an after-school special," Parker said, so there won't be musical-style singing and not all the characters are happy. "The film ends with the start of a conversation. That is what we want to leave people with."

At Sportsman's Park on West Street south of Aurora Avenue, Naperville Park District has been removing lead in the soil that accumulated from the site's years as a shooting range and planning public improvements that will open the 17-acre area for use by more people. Executive Director Ray McGury said the public improvements are where roughly $262,000 in SECA funding will be applied during the next four years.

"It will really help us with some of the other cultural amenities out there from some of the shooting stations, certainly, at Sportsman's, but also the trails that are going to go in," McGury said. "We're looking at restocking both ponds with fish."

The park district recently removed invasive trees and shrubs on a section of the land where the second round of lead remediation is set to begin this spring. The removal will make room for future paths after the site is deemed in need of no further cleanup. The park district then will plant 150 trees to replace some of those that were chopped down.

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