GENEVA – Gary and Carol Franz said the annual Marklund Summer Games has become a special day for their son, Gary Paul Franz Jr., who is a resident at Marklund.
The West Chicago family, which also includes Gary Paul's sister, Kaitlyn, has been attending the Summer Games for the last three years. Saturday's Summer Games were no exception. The day included sports activities such as baseball, bowling, basketball and races at Marklund, which is a home for people with serious and profound developmental disabilities and special health care needs.
"It's fantastic," Carol Franz said. "It's just done with such excellence and enthusiasm."
This year's Summer Games also included visit from former Chicago White Sox third baseman, Bill Melton, and the White Sox mascot, Southpaw.
The Miracle League ball field on Marklund's Geneva campus was funded a decade ago by White Sox Charities Foundation, which was tied into Marklund's 10-year anniversary since opening its Geneva campus. Melton threw out the first pitch of the Summer Games baseball game Saturday.
Gil Fonger, president and CEO of Marklund, said the Summer Games are Marklund's version of the Special Olympics because many residents don't function high enough to participate in Special Olympics.
He said 140 volunteers from Christ Community Church campuses throughout the area helped with the summer games, along with a slew of parents and other volunteers, and 96 residents participated.
"Our vision is to make everyday life possible for individuals with profound disabilities," Fonger said. "Sports are just part of everyday life."
Vicki Beckmann of Genoa, a member of Christ Community Church in St. Charles, said Saturday was the first time she had volunteered for the Summer Games. She spent Saturday morning accompanying a Marklund resident to various sports activities, including a bean-bag toss game.
She said her church encourages its members to do volunteer work on the second Saturday of every month.
"This a super second Saturday," she said.
Beckmann said she decided to volunteer because that's what Christ does.
"It's kind of a mandate of Christ followers to live like he lived and show God's love to more people and hopefully lead more people to Christ," she said.