Winnetka teens run day of play for Chicago grammar-schoolers

By Joe Coughlin, The Record North Shore

June 21, 2022

Relay races, obstacle courses, tug-of-war contests, popsicles!

The activity made for an eventful and joyful Field Day for hundreds of children and volunteers. Somehow, Charlie Baron, a New Trier High School rising senior, found time to break from the action and soak it all in.

“After the chaos died down, I took a minute and looked at how the kids were smiling and running around,” Baron said. “It was such an amazing day filled with joy and happiness and that is our main goal.”

Baron again co-organized the Field Day on June 9 in Northfield for about 400 kindergarten through sixth-grade students from LEARN Excel, a charter school located in the Garfield Park community on Chicago’s West Side.

LEARN Excel is part of the LEARN Charter School Network of 11 tuition-free schools in northern Illinois (seven in Chicago) and Washington, D.C, (one school) that predominantly serve students from less-privileged communities. LEARN Excel launched in 2007 through funding by the Winnetka Family Partnership, a group of six Winnetka families.

About 30 teenage volunteers — most of whom are from Winnetka — led the event that also included yoga, inflatables and lunch.

The students enjoyed potato-sack races, dress-up relay races and plenty more, Baron said.

“Something new this year that was a big hit was bouncehouses,” he said, “The kids were dying to go through those over and over again.”

Traditionally an annual affair, the Field Day was put on hold the past two years because of the spread of COVID-19. Baron and Eleanor Proctor, of Woodlands Academy, first got involved in 2019’s Field Day. In 2020, the pair organized at-home activities for the LEARN students, and they were back again this year to revive the in-person event.

“The main goal — it’s never really about the activities we are doing — is to give these kids a fun experience outside,” Baron said. ” … They don’t get that opportunity so much.”

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