Oak Brook Resident Receives Prestigious Citizen Volunteer Award

Oak Brook resident, Lara Suleiman, was recognized by the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) with a 2018 Outstanding Citizen Volunteer of the Year Award, presented at IAPD’s annual awards gala in Wheeling on Friday, October 12.

The Outstanding Citizen Volunteer of the Year award recognizes a citizen’s volunteer efforts to enhance a park district, forest preserve, conservation, recreation or special recreation agency program service, parkland, open space or facility.

Suleiman was honored for her outstanding work to increase awareness of the importance of Universal Play and her fundraising efforts for the park district’s Universal Playground Project that was completed in September.

Suleiman connected with the Universal Playground Project in August of 2017 when the park district invited her to a focus group to gauge the need and support for a fully inclusive Universal Playground in Central Park. By September of 2017, Suleiman worked to develop the Oak Brook Park District Foundation’s first fundraising committee. The project raised tens of thousands of dollars since, and Suleiman’s efforts are directly responsible for generating more than 61% of the donations.

She connected with community groups and businesses like Orange Theory, Kendra Scott, the Girl Scouts, and Special Sparkle to organize fundraisers.

Suleiman’s work with the Brook Forest Student Council inspired the students to raise $1000 in just two days. “You can't imagine how extremely proud I am of the student council and the entire Brook Forest family for committing themselves to such a challenging endeavor and achieving it beyond their expectations…they are building a legacy based on empathy, kindness and leadership through strength of character,” Suleiman said.

“Lara is not only a driving force behind the project’s fundraising success, she promotes the park district’s inclusion efforts on all levels and stresses the importance of play for all abilities at all ages,” says Laure Kosey, Oak Brook Park District’s Executive Director.

The park district and Oak Brook Park District Foundation is still accepting donations for the Universal Playground and Universal Recreation projects. For more information, please visit www.universalplayground.org.