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Oak Lawn children and parents take a walk and learn about tornados

  • Written by Kelly White

emily kenny and storywalk photo 4-6

Photo by Kelly White

Emily Kenny, Youth Services Associate at the Oak Lawn Library, points to“Twister” by Darleen Bailey Bead at the Oak Lawn “Twister StoryWalk” on Friday afternoon at Lake Shore Park in Oak Lawn.

Local children recently received a history lesson about tornados, images that many Oak Lawn residents know about all too well.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 tornado that caused heavy damage to Oak Lawn that resulted in injuries and deaths, the Oak Lawn Library and Oak Lawn Park District partnered to open up the outdoor “Twister StoryWalk” at Lake Shore Park.

Children and parents gathered at the park to read StoryWalk’s spring book “Twister” by Darleen Bailey Bead. Children were able to make a twister craft out of paper and learn about the weather phenomenon. Children and parents learned about what a tornado is and why it occurs.

Although the book is not reflective of the 1967 Oak Lawn tornado, it provided information that children are able to understand.

“My kids are fascinated with science,” said Siobhan McLoughlin, of Oak Lawn. “As soon as we heard about this, we knew we had to be here.”

McLoughlin attended with her 4-year-old twin boys, Darian and Toryn Mojiri, who were both excited to learn about tornados.

“The 1967 tornado is the definitive event in Oak Lawn’s history,” said Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator at the Oak Lawn Library. “The storm not only took a huge physical toll on the village, but impacted the lives of thousands of residents, many whom still carry memories from that day. Because of this, I believe it is important to convey the story of the tornado to those who were not there to witness its devastation first hand. Now that 50 years have passed, fewer and fewer residents from that time period remain, making our job of preserving the storm’s history and sharing its story event more important.”

The 1967 Oak Lawn tornado outbreak was a destructive tornado outbreak and severe weather event that occurred on April 21, 1967. It was the most notable tornado outbreak of 1967 and one of the most notable to occur in the Chicago area, according to Korst.

“As we head into tornado season, this event raises awareness and educates participants on the dangers of tornadoes, including the history of the 1967 tornado in Oak Lawn, and different safety tips that can be used to save lives,” said David MacDonald, Oak Lawn Park District’s recreation supervisor.

StoryWalk is an innovative way for both children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time, while encouraging physical activity. Laminated pages from a children’s picture book are installed along an outdoor path throughout the park. As children walk the path they are directed to the next page in the story. The pages are durable to remain standing and readable during any weather conditions.

“We absolutely love the StoryWalk,” said Oak Lawn resident Colleen Stedman. “It’s very cold out today, but my kids really wanted to go. They love reading and the outdoors, so it’s the perfect combination for us.”

“This is cool,” Stedman’s 5-year-old son, Michael, said, as he colored in a paper tornado. “It’s fun to learn about the weather.”

The StoryWalk book was chosen by the Oak Lawn Public Library and was read out loud to children by Emily Kenny, Youth Services Associate. The book is changed four times a year along the Lake Shore Park trail, 9610 E. Lake Shore Drive, with a story that fits each season.

“I hope that the children will want to learn more about tornadoes and respect the power of this natural phenomenon,” Kenny said. “Many children in the area have family who were affected by the 1967 tornado. This is a great opportunity for the younger generation to learn from their elders. Also, tornadoes touch down every year in Illinois and some close to Chicagoland. It is easier to learn how to be prepared for something that could truly happen to you in real life.”