Naperville charity launches Chocolate Walk for a cause

  • The first Chocolate Walk will replace 360 Youth Services' former Chocolate Festival. Walkers can sample chocolates at 25 downtown Naperville shops from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13.

    The first Chocolate Walk will replace 360 Youth Services' former Chocolate Festival. Walkers can sample chocolates at 25 downtown Naperville shops from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. Courtesy of 360 Youth Services

 
 
Updated 2/4/2016 10:58 AM

Leave it to anyone with a sweet tooth to find the hidden benefits of chocolate.

Health-conscious chocolate lovers have learned it could help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart problems and prevent memory loss. Plus it has antioxidants. And that's without even thinking about its heavenly sweet taste.

 

But another hidden benefit of chocolate -- when consumed while walking among 25 downtown Naperville shops on Saturday, Feb. 13, -- is that it helps support the programs of 360 Youth Services.

The nonprofit social service provider is launching its first Chocolate Walk in place of the popular Chocolate Festival, which leaders said needed a refresher after a dozen years.

Now, 360 leaders and the Downtown Naperville Alliance are inviting chocolate lovers to buy a $25 ticket and take a stroll through the city's commercial center, snagging a chocolate treat of some kind at each stop along the way.

"The downtown Chocolate Walk allows us to reach a much broader audience with our missions," said Katy Leclair, 360's executive director. "It's a great opportunity for businesses and social services to come together to fund vital programs."

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Tickets are for sale at Country Curtains, 233 S. Main St.; the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, 55 S. Main St., Suite 351; and 360 Youth Services, 1305 Oswego Road, all in Naperville.

Couples or pairs of friends and family are encouraged to buy one ticket for the two of them, taking turns indulging in what's sure to be a delicious afternoon, said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.

"It's a win for people because they enjoy sweet treats over Valentine's Day weekend at a variety of businesses and it showcases different chocolate products," Wood said. "It's a yummy way, it's an organized way, to have fun on that weekend."

Shops that don't normally sell chocolate will have goodies furnished by donors and other businesses that do deal in the sweet stuff. And there will be a variety of chocolate-centered goodies for sampling delight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

An olive oil shop will be offering brownies baked with chocolate-infused olive oil. A spa will dole out samples of a chocolate lotion. Then there's chocolate gelato or hot chocolate or truffles to take home for a sweet treat later on.

The event is a natural showcase for downtown chocolate vendors such as Naper Nuts and Sweets, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Le Chocolat du Bouchard. Cathy Bouchard's shop will delight walkers with a tasting of liquid chocolate gold.

"We're going to have three different types of chocolate shots in cute little glasses," complete with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle and other garnishes, Bouchard said. "We'll be concocting little drinks on location at our bar."

Participants can check in between noon and 5 p.m. at Erehwon Mountain Outfitter, 47 E. Chicago Ave., to pick up a commemorative chocolate tin, a punch card and a map with each stop marked. Chocolate walkers will be directed in two different directions so there won't be a bottleneck, and participants are encouraged to take their time and enjoy the shopping along the way.

Leclair said 360 Youth Services hopes to raise at least $10,000 during the Chocolate Walk to support programs that provide housing, counseling, and drug and alcohol prevention. The money raised will prove especially critical as the agency is missing $170,000 in payments from the state.

Leclair said about 50 volunteers will be scattered among the stops, sharing stories of the ways 360 Youth Services has helped the community. Singers from local schools also will be stationed along the route and inside some stores to provide a serenade for all the indulgent action.

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