Like most 6-year olds, Jack O'Neil enjoyed playing with toys; unlike a typical 6-year-old, though, he played with his toys in the hospital. Jack was gearing up for corrective limb-lengthening surgery, a process that affected him long after his successful recovery. Once he was healthy, Jack wanted to make sure other hospital-bound kids had toys to play with. Jack began holding charitable lemonade stands, using the proceeds to buy toys. Over time, his pastime morphed into his current charity, Little Hands Make A Big Difference. Powered by fundraisers such as an annual 5K, the kid-run organization delivers Build-A-Bears and other toys to sick tots, fueling their play and filling their imaginations with geometric shapes. For more information, see the organization’s blog.
From nearly a mile above the ground, the sailplane’s wraparound windows open onto sweeping views of the Wisconsin countryside. Rolling hills and forests, streams, and lakes dot the landscape, and on a clear day, the Chicago skyline peeks out from the horizon. Sylvania Soaring Adventures’s FAA-certified flight instructors pilot guests over these vistas in a fleet of Schweizer SGS 1-26E, Schweizer 2-33, and Grob 103 sailplanes. Towed by a traditional airplane, the gliders reach altitudes of up to 5,000 feet, well above the habitat of endangered birthday balloons. Once released, professional pilots demonstrate basic flight principles, point out landmarks of interest, and sometimes hand over the controls. They also helm training programs to certify students who want to fly solo or pilot gliders for their friends and family.
Each facility in the family of Rockford-Area Bowling Centers enlivens the classic game of bowling with its own signature amenities. On Friday evenings, the staff at Don Carter Lanes temporarily extinguishes its warm, vintagey glow and replaces it with a dimly lit club atmosphere as DJs from 97 ZOK descend upon the alley, pumping out beats that mingle in the air along with a light and fog show. For supplementary entertainment, the Don Carter location also offers a gaming center, and the Park Lanes alley recharges guests with beer and deep-fried fuel at its onsite pub. The Cherry Bowl location keeps serious bowlers properly outfitted with a pro shop, saving them the hassle of paper-mâchéing their own heads to form makeshift bowling balls.
The team at Rhoades Fur Feather and Fin immortalizes prized catches with professional taxidermy services for a variety of animals. The specialists provide shoulder mounts for critters such as deer, elk, coyotes, foxes, and beavers, as well as life-size mounting upon request. Animal skulls from deer, bears, and elk shine after thorough beetle cleaning and whitening, and then proudly grin as they hang from wall mounts. Rhoades also prepares fish that range in size from 13 to 64 inches, and birds such as ducks, quails, and turkeys.
Schnitzel. Hefeweizen beer. Polka dancing. These are just a few of the facets of German culture that the German Society of Rockford has preserved and celebrated since 1964. At the group's annual German Society Oktoberfest gatherings, live bands perform and crowds take part in games such as the barmaid-stein race, which challenges men and women to carry dozens of sloshing beer steins without spilling a drop. The German Society of Rockford also organizes outreach programs, scholarships, and educational events.
It’s difficult to describe a typical trip to 3 Sheets Pub; on any given night, visitors might find themselves locked in a game of darts, dancing to a DJ’s selections, or just hanging out with a guy in a cheese hat. Pitchers of domestic and craft beer flow freely, along with hearty sandwiches and finger foods. Flat-screen televisions encircle the room where the bar quenches thirst, and a red, neon haze filters through various liquor bottles. 3 Sheets Pub also looks after its patrons by offering a free shuttle service that spirits guests home on Friday and Saturday evenings.