Yorktown gift-wrapping benefits special rec programs
The gift-wrapping service at Yorktown Center in Lombard does more than cover a Christmas surprise and add to the suspense of the holidays.
It also benefits a local organization that helps kids with special needs participate in park district programs.
Volunteers with the National Inclusion Project will be wrapping gifts for donations until Christmas Eve. The money they raise supports grants for inclusive recreation programs, including summer camps and other activities run by the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association.
"The concept is for all individuals with special needs to be able to participate in park district programs with their typically developing peers," said Tammy Kerrins, manager of inclusion for the special recreation association.
The association has received grants from the National Inclusion Project for the past four or five years, Kerrins said. A $25,000 grant supported a summer camp for students with special needs. Other grants fund a program called Let's All Play that helps make park district programs accessible to participants with physical or developmental disabilities.
"Let's All Play helps recreation programs open their doors and include kids with disabilities," said Aron Hall, director of services for the National Inclusion Project. "It takes summer camps and after-school sports leagues and makes the necessary accommodations to include kids with disabilities in those programs."
Services of the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association help park districts in nine communities: Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Roselle, Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton and Winfield.
Kerrins said she first heard of the National Inclusion Project when she saw the gift-wrapping station at Yorktown Center. She then encouraged the association to apply for grants from the national nonprofit, so her organization could receive funds from the "Wrapping for Inclusion" gift-wrapping services.
"We're in a great location in the mall this year, but no matter where we've been located, we get the traffic," said Michelle Manson, a National Inclusion Project volunteer who manages gift-wrapping at Yorktown Center.
Jody Gjondla, who manages the site with Manson, said more than just the volunteers' time is donated.
"All the paper, all the pens, everything that's used is all donated," Gjondla said.
Manson and Gjondla said people who use the gift wrapping service often seem happy to support the cause of inclusive recreation programs.
"Inclusion can be an expensive thing to do," Kerrins said. "But it's the right thing to do."