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Optimists rescue Friendly Forest

Jeff Morris, Independence Township Parks and Rec, with a couple costumes stored for this year’s Friendly Forest. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
September 22, 2010 - After a year's hiatus, Friendly Forest is back.

Cut from last year's Independence Township Parks and Recreation schedule, the Halloween-themed event for children returns with the help of Clarkston Area Optimists Club, 3-6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 23, in Clintonwood Park.

"We were looking for a way to make it work," said Jeff Morris, recreation programmer with Independence Township Parks and Rec. "The event's really in demand with the community. A lot of families want a program like this for Halloween."

Partnering with the township, Optimists will provide 30-40 volunteers to the event, in which children in costume walk down a Clintonwood Park path collecting candy from volunteers dressed as comic book, cartoon, and fairy tale characters.

"We'll have 15-16 stations, each decorated in a theme – the Optimists did a great job getting sponsors," Morris said. "Kids walk a trail around the park to each station."

After trick-or-treating, kids will be served cider and donuts.

The Optimists were interested in helping out last year, but found out about the cancellation too late, said Roger Diederich, Clarkston Optimist Club.

This year, they started working on it this past June, bringing the idea to Optimist youth club coordinators at Clarkston schools and their Optimist Club Board.

"No other service organization does more for kids worldwide than the Optimists," Diederich said. "This is a good program for kids, so we decided to bring it back."

About five township employees, including two fulltime and three part-timers, wll be on hand to supervise. Optimist Club adults will run the stations, while Optimist youth club members will be in costume, handing out candy.

"We have about 50 costumes, we've accumulated over the years, of almost anything you can think of – Shrek, Scooby Doo, Dora the Explorer," Morris said. "It's a fun event for everyone."

They expect about 700-800 children, about 2,000 total with parents, in the park. Tickets are on sale by the Optimists, at 5897 Dixie Highway, and township parks and rec, 6483 Waldon Center Drive. Tickets, $6/residents, $8/non-residents, must be purchased in advance – deadline is Oct. 22. Space is limited.

Proceeds pay event expenses, Morris said.

"There's no cost to the township," he said.

Profits, if any, go to Optimist youth clubs.

"We have eight youth clubs in Clarkston, at five elementary schools, Sashabaw Middle School, Clarkston Junior High, and the high school," Diederich said. "We're the only club in Michigan with that many. We're proud of that."

Rain date is Oct. 24. For more information, call 248-625-8223.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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