Family Sports Festival brings together variety of athletes

By Lindsey Woods

The second annual Family Sports Festival, which took place on Sept. 17,  hosted an array of professional and recreational sports programs, including visits from Olympic and Paralympics athletes.

The festival, which was free, took place at Armour Square Park, 3309 S. Shields Ave., starting at 11 a.m.  The purpose of the event, according to Amy Rosko, event director, was “to broaden people’s understanding of opportunities that are out there in terms of sports.” Twenty-five different sports were featured, including rugby, soccer, speed skating, archery, Judo and curling.

Sports organizations and teams that are all-inclusive, including sports for people with disabilities, also had a presence. Cycling, wheelchair basketball, beep baseball, an adaptive form of baseball for the hearing impared and bulletball were just some of the sports showcased as all-inclusive.

Hal Honeyman, executive director of Project Mobility, who brought adaptive bikes to the festival, has been involved with making athletics available to the physically impaired ever since his son Jacob, 18, who has cerebral palsy, was born.

“This festival exposes people to ways they can do physical activity, both people with disabilities and able-bodied, so it’s an inclusive event,” Honeyman said. “Lots of different kinds of people are able to participate.”

Beyond catering to disabled athletes, Family Sports Festival aimed to include both neighborhood and larger name programs, such as the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls. Robert Castaneda, executive director of Beyond the Ball, a community youth organization that serves the Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods, said that makes the festival more accessible.

Last year, the event was held at Plaisance Park, 1130 Midway Plaisance North. Castaneda said the change was made so the event could be closer to public transportation.

“Last year it rained, so I’m sure that affected foot traffic, but then it [also] wasn’t very close to public transportation,” he said. “I think that played a big factor in the change this year,” he said.  Some of the sponsors from last year’s event returned, but what didn’t return was the weather. Last year, intermittent showers dampened the spirits of participants but didn’t stop more than 1,000 people from attending.

This year, attendees enjoyed free healthy snacks and water throughout the day, as well as participatory demonstrations from the sponsors.

Rosko emphasized that while the title says “family,” the festival was not just for those who were related.

“When we say ‘family,’ it’s an all-encompassing word for ‘relationships,’” she said. “Sports are such a vehicle for bringing people together, whether it’s schools, communities or people who don’t even speak the same language.”