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Chicago Sports

Goss: Willson, Kathy and the World Series trophy

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and former Joliet Park District Director of Special Recreation for Joliet and Channahon Kathy Green had an emotional meeting when Contreras visited the park district Jan. 28. An avid Cubs fan, Green died June 26. But partially because of her meeting with Contreras that night, the Cubs' 2016 World Series trophy will visit the park district office the evening of Oct. 2.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and former Joliet Park District Director of Special Recreation for Joliet and Channahon Kathy Green had an emotional meeting when Contreras visited the park district Jan. 28. An avid Cubs fan, Green died June 26. But partially because of her meeting with Contreras that night, the Cubs' 2016 World Series trophy will visit the park district office the evening of Oct. 2.

Kathy Green would have been in seventh heaven.

Green, the Joliet Park District Director of Special Recreation for Joliet and Channahon for 30 years, died unexpectedly June 26. She was an avid Cubs fan.

A chain of events that began with a kind gesture from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has led to a special event Oct. 2 at the Joliet Park District office.

From 6 to 7:30 p.m., the 2016 World Series trophy will visit. Fans are invited to come out and, free of charge, see the trophy and get a picture taken with it.

“The Cubs will have a limited number of wristbands that they will give out,” said Sue Gulas, the Joliet Park District Board president. “If we can get people through the line quickly enough, others that don’t get a wrist band can see the trophy and get a picture taken as well.”

Fans need to bring their cellphone or camera with them and be ready to have their picture taken when they reach the front of the line. Park district personnel will take the pictures on each fan’s phone or camera. Details are scheduled to be posted on the park district website jolietpark.org Monday.

So how did the Contreras-Green connection jump-start the process?

“When Contreras was brought to the JPD on Jan. 28 by ATI for the announcement of the newly formed naming rights of the Inwood Athletic Center Powered by ATI, he did something special,” Gulas explained.

“He waited past his allotted appearance time for Kathy, who had to finish a program first. She was a huge Cubs fan, to put it mildly. Her whole life centered around her family, her special needs clients and her Cubbies. She was excited beyond belief to meet Willson.”

Gulas said when Green arrived at the meet-and-greet, she cried and thanked Contreras for waiting. He asked what she did. She told him, and he thanked her for what she did for special needs clients.

He told her it took a special person to do what she does.

After Green’s death, Gulas began seeing stories about Anthony Rizzo visiting children’s hospitals, Kris Bryant meeting kids from small towns who never had been to a Cubs game and Contreras hosting special needs kids on the field before a game. She decided the Cubs organization should know about the gesture Contreras did for Green by waiting for her and how much his kind words meant to her.

So Gulas drafted an email explaining the Contreras-Green connection, and she thought, why not take it a step further? She asked if the World Series trophy could be brought to Joliet and be put on display for residents to view and take photos.

“Can’t hurt to ask, right?” said Gulas, who sent her email directly to Cubs chairman and owner Tom Ricketts. That was at 6 p.m. July 27. About 5 p.m. the next day, she received an email from Ricketts, not from an assistant. He said it was a nice story about Contreras, but he was sorry to hear about Green. He added he would look into the possibility of a trophy visit.

An email directly from Ricketts? Gulas said she thought she was going to fall off her chair, which would happen to her again a few hours later.

She was watching the Cubs’ game that night, and at about 8:30, she received a call from Mike LuFrano, the Cubs’ executive vice president, community affairs and chief legal officer. He said Ricketts had asked him to call her about a possible trophy visit.

Gulas then began exchanging emails with LuFrano and Cubs Executive Assistant for Community Affairs Brittany Burcham about a possible date. The trophy must be at its permanent home at Wrigley Field as often as possible, so finding a date was not easy. Just recently, however, they arrived at the date that was agreeable to everyone.

Imagine how much Kathy Green would have loved to be there with all you Cubs fans.

“We are really excited about having this come to the park district, and it’s good for the city of Joliet as well,” Gulas said.

• Dick Goss can be reached at dgoss@shawmedia.com.

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