Week 8 of the 12 Parks in 12 Weeks tour brings me to Douglas Park, located on the West Side of Chicago at 1401 S Sacramento Dr. in the North Lawndale Community Area. While I wasn’t familiar with the landscape of Douglas Park, I’d been to this area a few times before, as my father recently graduated from one of the many rehabilitation facilities near the park.
Like many Chicagoans, I know firsthand what it’s like to have a family member struggle with drug addiction. I also know what it feels like to eat and sleep at homeless shelters, similar to those surrounding Douglas Park. And to be real, while walking around Douglas Park, I saw at least four different social facilities that were fighting the good fight, trying to eradicate the drug epidemic that exists in Chicago. Some Chicagoans even refer to the area surrounding Douglas Park as the Heroin Highway. I want to provide a quick recap of those facilities because most of these organizations were 501c3 and could use volunteers and/or donations. I dribbled past Sacred Heart Home, Schwab Rehab Hospital, a Methadone Clinic, and A Safe Haven Foundation, an organization that helped my best friend (my Father) get back on the right track. He's doing great now. Most of the photos you see on this site were taken by my Pops.
Okay, so I came to Douglas Park on Independence Day to play ball. Right away, I have to say Kudos to the staff at Douglas Park. The facilities and park maintenance are not reflective of the environment. The basketball court and the greens were in great shape—there was only one problem—nobody was on the basketball court. Come on, Man!
I looked around and saw people in the distance, but they were all located on the grass in the middle of the park. I went to see what all the fuss was about, and that’s when I realized that that this was a predominately Hispanic neighborhood and the Chicagoans here were playing soccer on this beautifully manicured field. Now, I had my new Nike Lebron 11 Low "Independence Day" shoes on, so I wasn’t trying to get any grass stains on them, but I couldn’t resist. It felt like I was walking on a putting green as I approached a group of teenagers and asked if I could play with them.
I met Isaac, Joseph and Juan, who attended the Latino Youth High School, not far from the park. Even though they didn’t have a full team to play soccer with, they showed me how to play soccer with just five people. I guess this would be equivalent to the game of 21 or 32 we play in basketball. We played a game of “Corner Kick,” which consisted of three of us taking turns trying to head a corner kick into the goal, which was guarded by a goalie. Isaac was the younger brother of Joseph, and supposedly nobody ever scores on him. I couldn't head a corner kick to save my life. I tried to, but you really have to sacrifice everything to win a corner kick. It was fun to try, though, especially since the people in the crowd were cheering me on. They were really emotional. The culture around soccer is phenomenal.
We also played a game of Penalty Kicks. This was where I shined. I’d been watching the World Cup all week, so I was going to practice the "Naymar Stutter", a nickname I gave to a penalty kick move done by Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. Neymar started fast, stutter stepped, and then kicked the ball into the right corner of the goal. My intent was to mimic this movement and try to score on Isaac. What am I writing for? You need to see for yourself how it worked out. Check out this video!