Parade, cookie walk benefit Little Friends

  • Participants in the Little Friends Holiday Parade of Lights always get festive for the annual event, which this year steps off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.

      Participants in the Little Friends Holiday Parade of Lights always get festive for the annual event, which this year steps off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Mark Black | Staff Photographer/November 2016

Posted11/28/2017 8:29 AM

The first weekend of December is a Little Friends weekend, a parade weekend and a cookie weekend all in downtown Naperville.

The Holiday Parade of Lights starts off the festivities at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Jackson Avenue and Mill Street. The Holiday Cookie Walk from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, wraps things up with stops at 20 participating businesses.


And both benefit Little Friends, a Naperville nonprofit organization that assists adults and children with autism and developmental disabilities.

The 15th annual parade isn't a fundraiser in itself, as it's free to attend, featuring a lighted downtown and the arrival of Santa Claus.

But Mike Briggs, who became president and CEO of Little Friends in March, says the parade helps the organization get its name out there to new Naperville residents every year. Especially as the city has grown and conditions on the autism spectrum have become more common, Briggs said it's critical for West suburban residents to know Little Friends exists.

"Even though we're 52 years old, we can, at times, be a well-kept secret," he said about the organization, which runs three schools, offers adult day services, provides community living for 95 adults and offers diagnostic evaluations and therapies for people on the autism spectrum.

"This gives us a chance to share with others that we're a resource in town."

The parade, which almost was canceled last year over concerns it might negatively affect downtown businesses during the busy post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend, is taking place on a different day this year.

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Instead of the Sunday evening immediately after Thanksgiving, it will be effectively six days later, on the Saturday of the second weekend after Thanksgiving.

"We're so happy that they're continuing the tradition in downtown Naperville this year," said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.

The new date helps on three fronts, Wood said.

It allows residents to attend, even if they were out of town for Thanksgiving weekend. It spreads out downtown holiday festivities, which also include the opening of Christkindlmarket at the Naper Settlement on Black Friday. And it brings some fun to an early December weekend that might otherwise be dark and cold, Wood said.

The parade route starts heading east on Jackson Avenue from Mill Street. From there, it turns north on Main Street until its end at Main and Van Buren Avenue. After the route concludes, Santa and Mrs. Claus will meet with children at the Naperville Park District's Santa House along the Riverwalk at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street.


A fast-acting few, 300 in total, who snapped up the only available tickets to the third annual Holiday Cookie Walk will be able to continue the Little Friends-related festivities the day after the parade.

"I wish we could have hundreds more," Wood said about participants in the annual event. "But we're limited by the number of bakers."

To offer one cookie to each participant at 20 stops in the downtown requires 6,000 cookies.

Making the cookies are commercial cooks and bakers like the chefs from Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House, Plank Bar & Kitchen at Hotel Indigo, Craftsman by Two Brothers, and 64: A Wine Bar, as well as DeEtta's Bakery, Casey's Foods, Savory Spice and Le Chocolat du Bouchard.

Together, they'll bake and individually wrap all 6,000 cookies, which participants can receive at shops old and new to fill a commemorative tin they receive with admission.

Proceeds from the sales of $25 tickets, which sold out fast, will benefit programs of Little Friends.

"People like the sweet walks," Wood said.

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