Moms and their sons spent Friday night dancing, shooting hoops, listening to music, doing crafts and spending quality time together, while also benefiting a good cause.
“You see so many daddy and daughter events; we thought as mothers in the community it would be a great opportunity to do something with our sons,” Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club President Kelsey Austin said, adding that the turnout was better than expected for this first-time event. “We’re really pleased with the whole thing.”
The DGJWC and Downers Grove Park District hosted the inaugural Mom Son Gym Jam, which featured activities such as a moms-only free throw contest, a photo booth and tug-of-war.
DGJWC member Sarah Fischer-Reynolds said the group hopes it will become an annual event.
All the proceeds benefit the Dream Build Play Experience, a nonprofit helping the community of Downers Grove design playground equipment for all ability levels. Founded by Downers Grove resident Peg Chaidez, the concept for the organization began a year ago when she noticed her 8-year-old son Owen, who is in a wheelchair, was getting stuck on the wood chips while his peers were playing on the equipment. He had to remain on the blacktop, and she could see his demeanor change.
Owen, also the chief inspiration officer for DBP Experience, attends Hillcrest School.
“When I spoke to the district, I didn’t want to build any kind of playground; I wanted to build an accessible one,” she said. “I saw an opportunity to educate people about accessibility issues.”
Chaidez and the school district put together a focus group of children and educators from Hillcrest, and she said it was interesting to hear the kids’ perspectives regarding both fun and safety. This will be the first playground of its kind in a 20-mile radius, and the cost is projected to be $450,000.
“We hope this is going to be the first of many, and ideally, we would like to do this for every community,” Chaidez said, adding that the goal is to raise money between December and May.
To date, they have raised $5,000, and Chaidez said she has started talking to corporations and local celebrities.
Local celebrity Coach Josh Porter attended the Mom Son Gym Jam, playing tunes from all decades and leading the group of 100 mom and 140 boys in a dance party that included music from The Lego Movie, Ganghnam Style and freeze dance.
Porter started coaching in Downers Grove about 10 years ago, and he said his popularity grew once the community found out he was also a DJ. Now, Porter said he is happy to oblige schools whenever they are looking for local celebrities to read books to children.
“I help in any way I can,” he said.
Porter was on a dance team during his college years at Northern Illinois University and said he wanted to continue dancing after he graduated. He landed a job at a bat mitzvah company as a dancer.
He took what he learned from that job and started bringing it out to these types of events. Porter, 35, said he loves being able to entertain kids, adding that it gives him the opportunity to act like a kid himself.
To learn more about the Dream Build Play Experience, visit www.dbpexperience.com.