Toy Box Connection aims to help all children receive the gift of a toy or a book year-round, serving as the connection between the families and businesses that donate these items and the children who need them. After accepting new and gently used toys, Toy Box Connection sorts and cleans them at its warehouse, then redistributes the toys and books to its partner nonprofit organizations. From there, the items are given directly to the children in need. Special projects include donating toys to children in the hospital, families of returning troops, and children in special needs or foster camps.
For more than 20 years, comedians of all levels of notoriety have peddled their laugh-inducing verbal wares on Riddles Comedy Clubs’ stages. An airbrushed city skyline sits behind the corner stage at the original Alsip location, where such comedians as Jeff Dunham, Louie Anderson, and Drew Carey slung jokes to side-split audiences. A full bar with overhanging LCD TVs dispenses alcoholic and nonalcoholic whistle-wetters in between sets at both the Alsip location and the new Berwyn spot. Additionally, Riddles' lots house free parking for those driving from far-off locales or patrons who can't find a limo service that takes knock-knock jokes as payment.
Now in its fifth year, the Lincoln Park Arts & Music Festival has become a celebration of art both homegrown and on loan from the rest of country. As you stroll around the fest, handcrafted items from more than 80 area artists vie for attention, with many up for accolades later in a juried art competition. The festivities run from noon to 10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and each day the main stage features a diverse lineup of live music from Chicago and throughout the country. The schedule includes The Giving Tree, an Americana rock band that has opened for The Avett Brothers, and former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page.
After attending boot camps for a while, Maizah's motivation fizzled and she dropped the course. But refusing to accept defeat— even if it weren't his own—The Boot Camp Guy's cofounder, Chris Brown, gave her a call and made a case. He showed her some before-and-after shots of people she'd met at the sessions before she left—and was astounded by their transformations.
"That could have been me," she kept thinking. So she headed back to class determined that this time, it would be. Months later, she'd gone from a size 16/18 down to a size 12 with extra energy to boot.
As a former Marine with 14 years of professional fitness experience and a passion for helping people reach their goals, Chris knows that boot camp isn't about the stereotypical screaming drill sergeants depicted on TV. Instead, he and his trainers employ a realistic, no-scales and no-diets philosophy and focus on supplying their students with the motivation they need. They identify each student's fitness level within moments and calibrate their workouts accordingly, pitching the signature boot-camp classes at beginner, intermediate, and expert levels. This approach seeks to get students to their own desired level of "skinny", whether that's a size two, size 14, or any other goal. The trainers further outfit their boot-camp base model with nine different tracks—with one designed to shed weight—and total-body sessions up the ante with weights, resistance bands, and mat exercises to strengthen entire physiques rather than honing in on left pinkies. They also encourage students to eat the food they enjoy, and to be mindful of which nutrients their body needs to address deficiencies and restore balance.
The fitness menu unfurls a feast of other group classes. Cycle circuits combine intensive spinning with ab work on the turf and toning dumbbell drills. Cardio-kickboxing classes blend aerobics, boxing, and martial arts. All told, they offer more than 100 classes each month from their well-stocked studio, which the staff stocks with free weights, strength-training machines, exercise balls, and resistance bands.
Named after a famous player of the traditional uilleann pipes, The Kerry Piper honors the tastes and history of the Emerald Isle by serving authentic Irish eats in a pub steeped in classic decor. Natural sunlight illuminates the earthen walls and richly stained wood that fills the dining room, where live performers play music throughout the week. Meanwhile, the aromas of freshly cooked shepherd’s pie, fish 'n' chips, and corned beef fill the air, transporting patrons across the Atlantic along with big-screen LCD TVs just like the ones that filled Ireland’s ancient castles.
For the third year in a row, Country Throwdown stampedes into wide-open outdoor venues with a dream team of current and future country-music superstars. With 7 million records sold and a stable of top-10 hits, rowdy honky-tonk wrangler Gary Allan headlines the festival with raucous energy. Firing off hits such as “Tough Little Boys” and “Get Off the Pain,” Allan allures with outlaw swagger and a voice as deep and rugged as Sam Elliott’s wallet. Rodney Atkins, known for monster-truck hits such as “Watching You” and “Cleaning This Gun,” performs with an everyguy grin that could charm the britches off a clothesline.
Motivating, highly trained staff and spacious facilities complement Charter Fitness's battalion of cardio machines and strength-training equipment. Huge flat-screen TVs motivate gym-goers as they lift weights, stationary bikes, and their reflections in large mirrors. Seasoned personal trainers who all hold certifications or four-year degrees in their specialty guide members through an initial personal-training session, introducing clients to the best equipment for their fitness goals. After workouts, private showers or public water fountains sluice away sweat.