A number of volunteers at Austin’s Moore Park are more than just a little frustrated with the Chicago Park District.
On Saturday July 15, volunteers held a fundraiser for, among other things, new traveling uniforms for the park’s basketball team, as well as, a van to travel to and from games in the fall.
The uniforms, which cost $55 per set, would display the team logo and the number on the back allowing children to play without referee confusion. The fundraiser at Moore Park, 5085 W. Adams, didn’t raise the amount of money volunteers had hoped for, explained Gladys Williams, a volunteer and member of the Moore Park Advisory Council.
The fundraiser, she said, was planned through several meetings among council members where the issue of uniforms and funding was constantly discussed.
“Within the meetings, we decided we wanted to take matters in our hands since the uniforms were so expensive and the [Park District] just was not going to pay for them,” Williams said. “Right now, they don’t even have shirts to wear; they are forced to play ‘shirts verses skins’ when we play outside. It makes it even more difficult on the referees who cannot call fouls on players individually, and need to call predominantly team fouls because of it.”
Williams, who has worked with Moore Park for more than 20 years, said she had asked officials at the Park District about receiving financial help. She said the park district has not given them anything.
Efforts made by the Austin Weekly News to reach an official at the Park District were unsuccessful.
Not only has the Park District been unwilling to help financially, she said, but it has not even maintained the park itself.
“Nothing has changed at this field house in 34 years,” Willaims said of Moore Park. “The field house should reflect the climate of the community. For example, in this area, there have been many new families moving in but fewer outlets for children to occupy their time while school is out. However, the field house owners have not even bothered to build a gym for the basketball players to use, and when we have to travel to games, they mostly go in the cars of volunteers or their parents. They need a van to use for travel.”
Williams noted that there was some controversy about the fundraising event within Moore Park’s own board.
The park, she said, is generally closed on the weekend, though most parks are open on weekends for activities and programs.
Williams said it was actually Ald. Ed Smith (28th) who gave the green light to the event just days after the volunteers were told ‘no’ because the park’s supervisor would not be there for the event.
“We had been planning the event months in advance, and suddenly on the eve of it, our request to hold it was declined because the supervisor would not be available,” said Williams. “It makes no sense.”
Nevertheless, the show did indeed go on, and largely without a hitch. Volunteer vendors sold hot dogs, hamburgers, rib tips and other foods.
“The event went quite well,” said Bruce McBride, a volunteer coach at Moore Park, who sold barbecue and chicken at the fundraiser. “While the turnout wasn’t what we’d hoped for, we were happy that the people who did come out enjoyed themselves, and that some of the teams were able to obtain the uniforms they so needed.”
Gibbons Funeral Home donated a set of uniforms for one of the 16 basketball teams. Half of the teams are for players age 15 and under, and the other eight for youth 16-18. The event did raise enough to pay for traveling shirts and trophies for the winners.
The council is now in talks about funding for the traveling van. The team uniforms are still weeks away from being fully paid for.
“How can you expect to get anything out of the community if you put so little into the children’s future?” Williams asked.