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Jon's Way youth group scares up big fun at Chicago Ridge Library

  • Written by Kelly White

elizabeth bowen photo 11-2

Photo by Kelly White

Chicago Ridge’s own teen youth group, Jon’s Way, held its first event, “Hallo-Teen,” on Friday evening with more than 100 local teens, including (from left) Elizabeth Bowen, 11, of Worth; Alyssa Acosta, 11, of Palos Hills; and Kera Gade, 11, of Oak Lawn.

Chicago Ridge’s own teen youth group, Jon’s Way, held its first event on Friday gathering more than 100 local area teens for a night of Halloween fun.

Entitled “Hallo-Teen,” the fun-filled evening began with a Chicago Ridge Lion’s Club truck-or-treat, featuring 16 decorated vehicles, held in conjunction with a haunted trail at Freedom Park, 6252 W. Birmingham. The night ended with a teen dance party at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 Oxford Ave.

The event was brainstormed and carried out by teens within the youth group, with the trunk-or-treat and haunted trail portions open to neighborhood children as well.

“There is nothing more rewarding then watching teens use their imagination to come up with an event, then take ownership of this event and make it happen,” said Karrie Grabinski, of Chicago Ridge. “These teens used critical thinking skills, showed leadership, team building skills, communication skills, excitement, commitment and so much imagination. This event shows them that they can do it. This is exactly what Jon’s Way is all about.”

With Halloween holding very high interest among teens, Grabinski knew it would be the perfect kick-off event for the youth group.

Grabinski and her husband, Roger, along with Tiffany Egan, of Chicago Ridge, started up Jon’s Way after the Grabinskis' son, Jon, died in a car crash on March 5, 2016 at the age of 17. The non-profit organization consists of more than 30 teens and, serves as an outlet where they can volunteer in the community, meet other teens and spend their free time in healthy and productive ways.

“There isn't always a lot for teens to do around here,” said Dana Wishnicki, director of the Chicago Ridge Public Library. “Our purpose of the Hallo-Teen event is to provide a venue where teens can have a safe fun night out with their friends and to introduce Jon's Way Chicago Ridge Youth Group. We want teens to know they are welcomed and valued in our community.”

irene ciciora photo 11-2

Photo by Kelly White

Irene Ciciora, head of Youth Services at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, takes part in the Jon's Way trunk-or-treat event on Friday evening at Freedom Park in Chicago Ridge.

Teens had the support of a coalition of volunteers for the event, from the Jon’s Way board members, including Wishnick, to police officers, library staff, village trustees, Lions club members and parents. The event was held at no cost to any teen attendees.

“There are no similar events for teens like this in Chicago Ridge,” Grabinski said. “The goals of Jon’s Way are to be an all-purpose organization to help teens in any way they need. We want to be able to do this in a way that they are having fun and know that this is the place they want to be. To ensure this, Jon’s Way is teen run. They will always have a coalition standing behind them to support and assist them to achieve their goals. Their imagination can take this anywhere.”

Teens are having a lot of fun with their own age-based organization, including Emma Bartlett, of Chicago Ridge.

“I think it is cool that teens can have a place to go to hang out with friends,” said Bartlett, 12. “We have really been encouraged to make this event our own.”

During the haunted trail, visitors were escorted through a trail of tents along Freedom Park. Each tent displayed an individual Halloween-themed scene with four teens that planned, decorated and acted out their own characters.

“I liked being able to plan this all with my friends,” said Joey Fraider, 13, of Chicago Ridge. “I'm having a lot of fun scaring people in the haunted trail.”

Afterwards, teens were able to enjoy a night of dancing, photos and refreshments at the Chicago Ridge Public Library. For the dance, library staff hired a DJ and also served pizza, chips, cupcakes, candy and punch. Teens were able to remember the night thanks to a photo booth created by teens by using a Fujimax Instant camera.

Teens were asked to bring a canned food or non-perishable food item to the library, with all food donated going directly to benefit the Chicago Ridge Lions Club food pantry.

“I am looking forward to seeing teens get together and having fun planning more events like this together,” Hannah Bartlett, 12, of Chicago Ridge, said. “I hope that this event will intrigue more people to join Jon's way. I am very happy with the results of this Hallo-teen event and have already had the opportunity to meet and hang out with new friends.”

Jon’s Way holds monthly meetings and is open to all local teens in junior high school and high school. Meetings have been held at the library, Finley Junior High School, the Chicago Ridge Park District and village hall.

“We want our teens to feel a sense of pride in themselves and their community,” Grabinski said. “This is a place teens can safely hang out with their friends and meet new friends. A place where they can have opportunities to have fun and be exposed to organizations, people and things they can learn from and build their skills.”

Teens looking to get involved in Jon’s Way can visit Facebook at Jon’s Way Chicago Ridge Youth Group or Twitter @jonswaycr.