Summer Of Joy

Summer in Chicago…it’s finally here in full force.  The weather swiftly changed from 32 degrees and snowing to a sweltering 90 degrees with thunderstorms in the forecast almost daily.  The sun is shining and birds are chirping. Outside, kids are running around, riding bikes and scooters, plunging into the pool with friends, playing baseball, eating popsicles, having lemonade stands, and living the All-American kid dream: no school for 9 whole weeks.

I have heard this saying quite a bit lately, “You only have 18 summers with your kids.”  18 summers…yikes.  As my oldest turned 12 this summer and is entering middle school, it really hit me.  I ONLY have 6 more years before she is off to college and I can only hope she still wants to come back home every summer to hang with her cool parents.  Thus, began the #SummerOfJoy.

What is #SummerOfJoy for us?  It’s #BeingPresent, #LivingInTheMoment, #YOLO, #SummerFunJar, but it’s also #SummerChores.  Ah, yes, the brilliance of the summer chore checklist.  From making beds, emptying the dishwasher, putting away laundry and feeding the dog, to math, reading, staying active, and doing something creative; it’s kept our house from those full days of electronics.  We have dipped into our summer fun jar and made popsicles, watched movies, played at the park, went to a baseball game, summer concerts, rode bikes, had a bonfire and are at the pool at least twice a week (with plenty of sunscreen)!  My kids will attend their fair share of summer camps and have enough downtime curling up with few books.  Most importantly, we are all doing things that bring us joy.

I have often been asked why I took on the playground project at Lester.  It’s simple.  We moved to this amazing community in Downers Grove almost 5 years ago and were immediately accepted and embraced.  Downers Grove instantly felt like home, so Chad and I both wanted to give back.  We found this opportunity to build a playground where kids of all abilities can have a safe, fun, and inclusive place to play before, during, and after school.  The playground will have ramps, turf surfacing, components to address emotional, social and physical needs of children, and fun equipment pieces I wish were available when I was a kid!  Giving back brings me joy.

I am so excited for this playground to be built.  As I really think about who will benefit from this playground, it will not only be my kids, our community and surrounding communities, but my future grandkids.  Yes, it’s true.  It is very likely that this playground equipment will still be around when I have grandkids.  Those 18 summers really seem to fly by now, don’t they?

As a kid, I remember my grandfather giving me and my cousins “underdogs” on the swings, chasing us around the playground and tossing a ball around.  The joy on his face and ours was a memory that remains with me forever.  He would have loved to see every child, parent and grandparent playing together at this community playground.

We need your help to build this playground.  Stay tuned for revised designs in mid-July 2019.  We are lowering our budget for the East and West side playgrounds to raise funds by end of 2019 for groundbreaking in summer of 2020.  Can you bring joy to the thousands of kids that will use this playground for years to come?  Donate today at  #PlayLearnRepeat #SummerOfJoy

Patty Esslinger