It’s funny how the more things change the more they stay the same.
A few of us we were talking about our travels to Europe back in the 1980s and whenever we told someone we were from Chicago, we all got the same reply— “Chicago! Al Capone. Bang Bang.” We’d of course correct them and share how wonderful the city really is and those days were long ago.
Still, perceptions become reality and those perceptions are hard to change.
Fast forward to 2017, we almost feel like we’re reliving those experiences—as Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
So while there has been particular emphasis on Chicago’s negative reputation in the last few months, there is a bigger, brighter picture and story that needs to be told. This may be just one small step in telling that story, but the underlying positive message of hope and involvement is both positive and significant to making the world a better place — and there’s no better place to start than in your own backyard.
For more than 100 years the Off The Street Club has stood the test of time. Known as the oldest boys and girls club in Chicago, Off The Street Club has been a safe haven for children in west Chicago — a very dangerous and yes, one of the most crime ridden areas of the city. In an region where gangs rule most corners, more than 3,000 children have a beautiful clubhouse complete with a gym, theater stage, computer room, library, roller skating rink, art room, music room and more – where kids are safe to be kids. Led by the tireless and committed, Ralph Campagna and Arnett Morris who have dedicated their lives to keeping these kids off the street and away from gangs and drugs, the children of OTSC have role models, who provide boundaries and rules, who value, praise and encourage team building, individual talents and acts of kindness. Kids experience simple joy. Every day.
SPM, along with many other agencies in the Chicago advertising community, have been active participants with Off The Street Club. Raising money when it’s needed and lending a helping hand to paint, to build and even just to hug.
For some of us our relationship with The Club goes back 20 years or more in starting the “Circle of Friendship.” An annual event that brings together the children of Western Springs (the nearby suburb to SPM) and kids of Off The Street Club. While just 15 miles apart, the streets and environment where these children grow up look worlds apart. But for one special day, these kids come together, they buddy up with one another and enjoy an afternoon of fun, games and friendship. Most of the kids start out as strangers, but pretty soon they realize they have a lot in common — as people and as kids. And every kid loves fun, no matter their skin color.
So for those who only hear about the dark side of Chicago, there is plenty of light too. We believe that being an active part of the solution is the only way forward. We believe in working together rather than separate is always a stronger approach. We believe people are the solution not the problem. And we’re proud to be part of Chicago!
To find out how you can help, visit www.offthestreetclub.com or give us a call to see what we can do together.
Patti Winegar, Managing Partner
Bob Konold, SVP Creative Director
Bill Tourlas, SVP Innovation & Engagement
For those who only hear about the dark side of Chicago, there is plenty of light too.