Maggie Daley, wife of Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley, will join us for the official dedication of the Willye B. White Recreational Center this Saturday, September 26th, 9:30 a.m. The center is located at 1610 W. Howard (at Marshfield).
This event culminates a 15-year effort by Rogers Park community leaders to build a safe place for families and young people to play, learn and grow. Fifteen years ago, the only public park facilities found north of Howard were Kiwanis Park, which occupied less than a quarter of a city block, and the tiny Kiwanis Park Fieldhouse.
Leveraging a $500,000 pledge for a new community center from the developer of Gateway Centre, I secured in 1995 a commitment from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District to create what is now the Willye B. White Park and Recreational Center.
When budgetary shortfalls threatened to dramatically scale down the size of the community center, I worked with community members and organizations, including the North of Howard Park Advisory Council, Family Matters, and the Howard Area Community Center, to secure additional funding from the City, the State of Illinois, and the Seabury Foundation. State Representative Julie Hamos and State Senator Carol Ronenwere particularly helpful in obtaining the state funds.
The community’s persistence paid off, and the park facility opened to the public last summer. All told, over $10 million in public and private money was invested in the Willye White Park and Recreational Center.
Willye B. White was a five-time Olympian, two-time Silver Medalist and United States Olympic Hall Fame inductee. White, the first five-time U.S. Track Olympian, competed in every Olympics between 1956 and 1972. She spent 37 years working in city government as a health administrator, a director of recreational services and a creator of sports programs for young girls in housing projects. In 1991, she founded the Willye White Foundation to help children develop self-esteem.
Joining Mrs. Daley at the dedication will be Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who was a personal friend of Willye White’s and several other elected officials and professional and Olympic Athletes.
The event will culminate with the unveiling of a new photo display honoring Willye White.
Please try to join us Saturday for this memorable event.