ROGERS PARK — North Side volunteers installed toy libraries along Loyola Park’s shoreline where kids can borrow toys to play with at the beach.
The four toy libraries were installed by members of the Loyola Park Advisory Council, including Jim Ginderske, who led the project. Kids decorated the toy boxes with their own original designs during the Artists of the Wall festival at Loyola Park, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave., in June.
Neighbors are encouraged to leave beach toys in the boxes, including pails, shovels, trucks and beach balls, so that kids can play with them in the sand.
“Folks forget toys at the beach a lot, and so almost every morning there’s a little pile of toys left over in the sand,” Ginderske said. “People try to gather them and put them in piles by the trees so they’re not in the sand, or they just toss them away. Now, folks can put the toys in the toy libraries and they can serve the next day’s kids as they come through.”
The boxes are located every few hundred feet along the shoreline in the park. There’s a box near the tennis courts near Farwell Avenue, one near the beach at the end of Morse Avenue, another near the comfort station at Lunt Avenue and one near the playground on Greenleaf Avenue.
“The toys are meant to be put back in the boxes at the end of the day so that a rotation of kids can enjoy them,” Ginderske said. “But, if some kid feels really attached to a toy and takes it home with them, that’s not the worst thing.”
The Loyola Park Advisory Council’s volunteers frequently take on projects to improve the park, host events for the community and raise money for the park’s youth programs, Ginderske said. The group hosts the annual Artists of the Wall Festival, where artists paint hundreds of murals along the park’s sea wall each year.
Ginderske built the four wooden boxes and installed metal roofs on them after he saw a photo online of a similar box located somewhere along the east coast. He designed the boxes so that they’d be sturdy, but not very large so that they didn’t seem “out of sync with the spirit of the park,” Ginderske said.
“The most exciting thing for me was that we had all of these children jump in and say they wanted to paint them, so they did,” Ginderske said. “All of the designs on the boxes were done by kids during the Artists of the Wall Festival, which was just wonderful.”
Ginderske said multiple people stopped by throughout the festival to compliment the toy libraries and say they were excited to see them out in the park. He hopes the toy boxes will become a fixture in the park over time.
“We anticipate it’ll take a minute for folks to get accustomed to them, but then they’ll fall into a rhythm the way people always do with things in the park, and it’ll work out pretty well,” Ginderske said.
“It’s a little whimsical, but that’s Rogers Park for you.”
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