In 1976, busy California mother Joan Barnes wanted nothing more than to find a play place where she and her kids could enjoy age-appropriate, educational activities. Finding none, she developed her own innovative play environment within a developmental-based program structure now known as Gymboree Play & Music. Today, kids tumble and learn in more than 650 locations in 33 countries around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their children's development, their kids learn to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of their preschool knitting circles.
Tressa Thomas has a résumé most performers would envy. She launched her career on stage with dozens of performances throughout Chicago as both a solo singer and band member. She landed a role in Robert Townsend’s film about 1960s R&B music, The Five Heartbeats, which led to a duet with the legendary Patti LaBelle on the film’s soundtrack.
This was all before Thomas turned 13.
Since then, her momentum hasn’t slowed—it’s just swerved in a few new directions. The Columbia College grad was cast in other movies (including Flatliners and Message in a Bottle), produced three independent shorts, and worked on a fourth that came just short of an Academy Award nomination. In the midst of her cinematic endeavors, she also pursued plus-sized modeling, eventually appearing in Ebony, Jet, the LA Times, and other national publications.
Given that she first started singing publicly at age three, when most children can’t yet tell the difference between music and the sound the vacuum cleaner makes, Thomas has never had an issue with confidence. But she realized that as a successful African-American, plus-sized female performer, she was a rarity. And so she decided to share her confidence with other women. She founded ThYck Troupe, a group that started modestly as a “modeling interest club” and grew into a nonprofit organization that creates performance opportunities for other plus-sized women.
Today, ThYck Troupe has gained the support of Secretary of State Jesse White and Governor Pat Quinn in its mission to enrich the Chicago arts community. In addition to mentoring young women and promoting size acceptance, the troupe produces an original web series, organizes fashion shows, and showcases performers in theatrical and musical productions. The company members represent nearly every medium of the creative arts—there are singers and dancers, poets and songwriters, models and actresses, journalists and radio personalities. With the Thyck and Fit Initiative, they broadcast a message of health as well as confidence, giving full-figured women and men the tools they need to achieve good exercise and nutrition habits at any size.
Sponsored by Jerseys Pizza & Grill, Jerseys Music Festival focuses on one of the few things that pleases a crowd like a pizza—live music. While live sets from local bands fill the air with festive beats, the crowd listens while noshing on food and beer specials tastier than the traditional music festival meal of a guitar full of Jell-O.
The finish line is a blur of color. Every runner and walker that arrives at Active Care ColorBlast 5K's end point looks like he or she just escaped in slow motion from an exploding chalk factory. In addition to sporting this prismatic new fashion statement, they all seem to have smiles on their faces. That's because the event is more of a celebration than a competition—getting as much color as you can takes precedent over getting the best time you can. In fact, lingering at key points along the 5k route is encouraged. It's at these locations, named color stations, that volunteers toss colored powder—which is made from completely natural and biodegradable food-grade cornstarch—towards the participants, turning their white t-shirts into something akin to tie-die.
More hues wait at the finish line, where group color throws begin immediately after the race's end. As the vibrant cloud rises above the crowd, it announces a collective victory, not just for each participant but the community as a whole. 100% of proceeds from each Color Blast 5k benefits Clearbrook's programs and services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Golf with friends is the best kind of bonding. There's nothing like being out in the open air, hearing the wind blow through the beautiful old trees lining the fairways, and refusing to grant your compadres a mulligan. The satisfaction of a well-played hole is amplified by the amusement you get from your partner's three-shot spectacle in the woodsy rough. Today's Groupon gets you and a friend 18 holes with cart at River Oaks Golf Course for $40 (up to a $88 value, depending on the day you go). Your Groupon is good for any time Monday through Friday and after noon on weekends.
Bachman Aero's FAA-certified pilots take to the sky inside choppers for flight services such as aerial photography, sightseeing, or lessons in helicopter certification. They provide beginning pilots a chance to log hours in their helicopters, helping students prepare for commercial pilot flight exams or their oral exam on pig Latin pilot jargon. The in-house instructors also groom accomplished pilots for a career in teaching with instructor lessons.