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13 Amazing Chicago Stories To Start Off Your Long Weekend The Right Way

By DNAinfo Staff | September 1, 2017 1:20pm 

DOWNTOWN — It's Chicago's last weekend of summer, but there's still lots happening: A mural is paying tribute to an Englewood icon, Lincoln Square trees are putting on sweaters and an organist is celebrating 2,500 games with Wrigley Field.

Catch up with the neighborhoods:

[DNAinfo/Joe Ward]

Summer Campers Test Out Boats They Built On Chicago River

CHINATOWN — Weeks of hard work were put to the test Wednesday when kids from the city's first boat building camp took their new boats out on the Chicago River.

Wednesday was the last day of the Chicago River Boat Building Camp, a two-week course for kids to learn hands-on building and rowing skills. Held at the Canal Street Marina, 2129 S. Canal St., it was the first year of the camp, which is held in cities throughout the country, according to organizers.

The group of 13 boys and girls aged 13-17 spent the two weeks not only working with their hands, but also learning about the river, its ecology and the benefits and joys of boating, said "Captain" Toby Lindow, one of the main organizers of the camp.

Read more.

[DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]

She's A Neighborhood Treasure, So Artist Surprises Her With Mural — OF HER!

ENGLEWOOD —  A brightly painted 30-foot-long mural captures the face and hands of an Englewood woman considered a neighborhood treasure who has been a longtime youth volunteer and whose garden has brightened a blighted area.

Gwen Johnson, 79, is the “keeper of dreams” and she’s stretching to connect the children with possibilities, said the mural’s designer and lead artist Cyd Smillie.

“What I’m really trying to do is keep hope alive,” Johnson said. “I love Englewood and I’ve been here for so long. My hope and dream is that Englewood will come back.”

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[DNAinfo/David Matthews]

Anthony Rizzo Cries, Cheers After $4 Million Gift To Children's Hospital

STREETERVILLE — Cubs star Anthony Rizzo got teary-eyed after bringing a $3.5 million check to Lurie Children's Hospital on Tuesday, saying his charity's work is more important than winning the World Series.

Rizzo, a cancer survivor himself, reminisced on his days as a patient after making a gift that will fund oncology specialists and give grants to families in need at the hospital, 225 E. Chicago Ave.

"This means a lot to me," an emotional Rizzo said after cutting the ribbon in the waiting room. "I remember sitting with my mom 10 years ago saying 'we're going to do this.'"

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[DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Sweater Weather Already? These Trees Are Bundled Up For Fall

LINCOLN SQUARE — The days are getting shorter, the nights are growing cooler — autumn is in the air.

A group of trees outside Sulzer Library is ready. Bring on the chill, they're bundled up for fall, sporting the latest trends in arboreal knitwear.

Whether the sweaters are an art installation or the work of a crafting class or yarn bomber, we have just one question: Do they come in size large?

Read more.

What Ends Up In Buckingham Fountain Might Surprise You

DOWNTOWN — Buckingham Fountain attracts countless tourists and locals every day.

And one thing else that might surprise people.

In a video produced by the Associated Press and posted on YouTube over the weekend, a Park District worker explains how preparing for the day's display begins with cleaning the filters of the fountain's basin.

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[DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

WATCH: Pumped For New Year, St. Helen Kids Jog To School With PE Teacher

UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Twenty-one students from St. Helen School, a half dozen parents, three family dogs and one physical education teacher jogged through the streets of West Town and Ukrainian Village Friday morning to celebrate the new school year.

The effort — now in its second year — was also designed to promote fitness. The school year, kicked off last week at St. Helen, 2347 W. Augusta Blvd.

"These kids could be sleeping in, relaxing, eating doughnuts, but they choose to be proactive and want to  run with me," said Tracy Roessner, the school's physical education teacher, who lives in West Town and bikes or jogs to work.

Read more.

[Courtesy Girl Scouts]

500 Englewood Girl Scouts To Benefit From $25,000 Healthy Living Grant

ENGLEWOOD — Nearly 500 girls in Englewood will benefit from a $25,000 grant given to Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Allstate Insurance Company awarded money for the GirlSpace Healthy Living program. The initiative is part of an after-school program for at-risk girls at 40 Chicago schools and Chicago Park District sites on the city’s underserved South and West sides.

Read more.

[Courtesy Chicago Cubs]

Wrigley Field Organist, With 2,500 Games And Counting, Living His Dream

WRIGLEY FIELD — As they belt out "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or hum along to the organ music that fills Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs fans might not realize just how Gary Pressy has touched their lives.

Pressy, 59, has presided over every home game at the Friendly Confines since 1987 as the sole organist. He was there playing the Lowrey organ when the lights lit up the first night game at Wrigley Field, and he was there for the 2016 World Series.

And as Pressy cued up his tunes and tickled the ivories Monday, it was another special game: his 2,500th in a row as Wrigley Field's sole organist.

Read more.

[Courtesy Felines & Canines]

100 Stranded Texas Cats Headed For Chicago Shelter — But It Needs Your Help

EDGEWATER — A Chicago animal shelter is stepping up to help the stranded four-legged victims of Hurricane Harvey, which has ripped through Texas this week. 

Felines & Canines, 6379 N. Paulina St. in Edgewater, has pledged to take in 100 cats who have been displaced by disastrous flood waters and expect the first transport to arrive some time between Friday and Monday, with more groups to follow. 

The animal rescue recently acquired an 8,000-square-foot facility in Alabama and said it had been monitoring relief efforts in Texas, which has left huge swaths of both residents and animals trapped, stranded and without shelter or necessary resources.

Read more.

[DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]

Can't Afford Art Classes? Hyde Park Center Allows You To Pay What You Can

HYDE PARK — The Hyde Park Art Center is testing out a pay-what-you-can model for many of its arts classes this fall.

The art center at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. is trying a community-supported model for four of its arts courses for kids and adults when registration opens on Friday.

“We believe that everyone should have access to high-quality arts education, regardless of economic circumstances,” the art center said in an announcement. “The suggested tuition donation goes directly to cover costs associated with the program.”

Read more.

[DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Streetwise: 25 Years Of Helping The Homeless Become Financially Stable

UPTOWN — About four years, John Hagan lost his job in Nevada and moved to Chicago with little money and few options.

When his unemployment checks ran out, he took a job at a temp agency.

"The thing I didn’t like about it was these were places you didn’t really want to go," said Hagan of the assignments. Public transportation made the day much longer.

"I had to get from the Wilson Men’s Hotel [in Uptown] to this place in Cicero, and then what they would usually do is send you all the way out to Romeoville, Bolingbrook or any other boonie suburbs just to go to work. You’re talking easily 12 to 14 hours a day," he said.

That's when he received a recruitment letter from a Streetwise vendor and decided to try selling the Chicago-centric magazine that focuses on the impact of poverty and homelessness, he said.

Read more.

[Ryan Brandoff Photography/Courtesy Matt Haussler]

Super-Detailed Maze Book Shows Off Chicago Icons

DOWNTOWN — A Bridgeport artist has turned dozens of Chicago landmarks into intricate mazes for a newly released book.

The book, "Start to Finish Chicago: Windy City Mazes," includes depictions of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Art Institute's lions and the Field Museum.

Matthew Haussler, the artist behind the mazes, has made a name for himself by creating record-breaking and extremely detailed mazes that show off Chicago's sights.

Read more.

[Courtesy @Properties]

This Sauganash Home Has An Incredible Playhouse Your Kids Will Love

CHICAGO — Every time Margaret Hohmeier's parents needed a break, they'd send her downstairs, to her own house.

Hohmeier grew up in a four-bedroom, 5,000 square-foot ranch home built by her father, a professional woodworker, in Sauganash at 6282 N. Kolmar Ave.

Along with a sauna and a 1,100-square-foot rec room, he created a 200-square-foot playhouse in the basement as a Christmas present for his six children.

Now, Hohmeier is putting the home on the market, basement playhouse and all.

Read more.