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.
As a NASCAR Home Track, Rockford Speedway has rumbled under the wheels of hundreds of racers, including Ted Musgrave and Rusty Wallace, and after 63 years it continues to host nearly 50 automotive altercations each year. To inaugurate the 2011 season, over 50 vehicles will simultaneously take on the high banks of the quarter-mile oval track in the WXRX 104.9FM Stone & Double T 200 Lap Enduro. From the vantage point of the grandstand seating on both sides of the track, speedway spectators will watch as drivers exact road rage upon each other's vehicles to determine who is truly the best at making left turns fastest. On both the asphalt oval, as well as the Monza course, which utilizes the infield to test even the most skilled vehicular virtuosos, drivers will introduce their four-wheeled machines to walls, bumpers, side panels, and other drivers' four-wheeled machines.
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.
Volcano Falls Adventure Park's unlimited pass gives merriment-seekers a temporarily infinite supply of go-carting, laser tag, and miniature golf. The Lazer Zone allows young ones to grab light-shooting blasters and set out against their peers in futuristic battles or reenact the numerous laser skirmishes of Genghis Khan. A slick, bridge-laden go-cart track affords rubber-burners a six-minute spin around its lanes, and a kiddie track lets tykes join in on the zippy fun. Volcano Falls boasts two waterfall-flanked mini golf courses, including the 18-hole Palm course, which transplants putt-putt players to a tropical island setting surrounded by faux flora and fauna, as well as numerous marooned Tom Hanks wax figures.
The Golf Shack Super Driving Range provides golf-ball-wallopers with a place to practice swings year-round, featuring 40 stalls, 20 grass tees, and a bentgrass putting green. Twenty covered stalls stand staunchly next to 20 uncovered stalls, allowing drivers to choose their preferred ambience. Upon entry, visitors receive a basket containing 80 balls, offering golfers a chance to perfect their power drive, take a couple of reps with their new set of irons, or test their experimental rocket-propelled hover-putter. Ambitious Groupon holders also have the option of using all three buckets in one trip.