If you got a drink from the concession stand at this past winter, you also gave a special group of people a unique learning opportunity.
That's because for the past year, the concession stand at Centennial has been run by , a non-profit started by a group of mothers to employ teens and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
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"We had found out that the ice rink concession stand was vacant and we thought it'd be a great idea if we took it over and employed kids with special needs, since there are not many employment opportunities for the special needs population," said Lisa Whitefield, a Highland Park resident and one of Best Futures' founders.
The nonprofit is holding a on June 12 at in Highland Park. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to shop for jewelry, clothing and purses from seven vendors. There will also be pastries and appetizers available from in Highland Park and Grande Jake's in Buffalo Grove. Admission costs $15, and 20 percent of all purchases made at the event go towards Best Futures.
"Everything is paid through fundraising," Whitefield said about running the concession stand, which currently has 22 employees.
The teens and adults with special needs typically work at the concession stand with a job coach at first. Some learn the ropes to the point where they can work independently.
"We strive for them to one day be independent with their job," Whitefield said.
The reaction to the concession stand has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Whitefield.
"People are so happy that the concession stand is open," she said. "We have a donation cup and at the end of the day the cup is always full."