A Go West Mom You Should Know: Rachel Engelhardt of Push for the Path

Thursday, Apr 26th, 2012 by

This feature is brought to you by the generosity of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and its Family Fun Series, which features crafts, activities and music-making for children before the official concert even gets underway. The next concert in the series, on Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m., is called “Through Sound-Colored Glasses: The Amazing Technicolor Orchestra.”


Longtime Go West readers might be familiar with the name Rachel Engelhardt. The Yorkville resident is a member of the Mompreneur Directory (her business is called A Closet of Her Own), and when this site first launched, she graciously allowed me to run a few columns that initially ran on her own blog.

Rachel Engelhardt, a volunteer with Push for the Path, pictured here with her three children. Photo provided

Rachel Engelhardt, a volunteer with Push for the Path, pictured here with her three children. Photo provided

But I so admire the passionate, grassroots nature of the Push for the Path project that Engelhardt is one of the lead organizers for that I just had to feature her as a Go West Mom You Should Know. The multi-use path in question is about 2.7 miles long, but it will link up to many miles of other paths and trails in northern Illinois, and volunteers like Engelhardt hope it could lead to a renaissance for downtown Yorkville.

Engelhardt lives in Yorkville with her husband Mitch — in her words, “my high school sweetheart who is still my sweetheart” — and their three children ages 6, 4 and 1. Read on to find out why Engelhardt is our latest Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you tell me about the Push for the Path organization? How did it get started, and what’s the ultimate goal?

A. Push for the Path is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that was created to raise funds to build a 2.72 mile multi-use asphalt path parallel to Kennedy Road in Yorkville, from Route 47 to the existing trail just south of Mill Road in Yorkville.

The United City of Yorkville was awarded a nearly $1.4 million grant from the State of Illinois to fund the project; this is 80% of the cost. The Yorkville aldermen voted to accept the grant only on the condition that the city’s 20% portion of the cost be privately raised. Push for the Path was formed specifically to raise the city’s portion of the cost, which is $357,000; this amount is due in smaller installments over the course of six years.

The ultimate goal is to raise that $357,000 from private donations and fundraising events.  The group was initially formed by some friends and a family member of Darlene McCue, a Bristol resident who lost her life on July 5, 2009, when she was struck by a vehicle while she was bicycling along Kennedy Road with her stepdaughter. The group wants to ensure that a tragedy like this one does not happen again and also honor her memory by raising the funds needed to construct a safe path along Kennedy Road in Yorkville.

Our immediate goal is to raise $100,000 by July 5, 2012, and we are doing this via our “Power of One campaign” in which 100 people, groups, or businesses pledge to raise $1,000 by this date.

Q. You’re a busy woman with three young children. Why did you think this was important enough to get involved with?

A. Yes, my children fill a lot of my time!  But I felt that this was too important to our community to just sit by and watch our city lose this grant money, which almost happened.  We have an incredible and rare opportunity here: to get a $1.7 million asset for our city, that will be well-used and loved by thousands of people … and we only have to pay a small portion.

This particular path is very important. It’s not just a random 2.72-mile path isolated in one neighborhood. The Kennedy Road Path is the crucial piece of path that essentially will create a “Yorkville Path” by linking together more than 12 miles of safe, multi-use, paved path in the city of Yorkville!

This “Yorkville Path” will connect to the Park & Ride facility in Oswego, providing access to public transportation. This “Yorkville Path” will also connect to numerous public parks and playgrounds, many schools, downtown Yorkville, Town Square Park and Riverfront Park where many community events are held (such as the Farmer’s Market and Music Under the Stars), and commercial areas (including shopping and dining) along Route 34 and Route 47.

And if that just isn’t awesome enough, this “Yorkville Path” – created by the addition of the Kennedy Road Path – will also connect directly into the 39-mile Fox River Trail, which currently begins in Oswego! The Fox River Trail connects into another 25 miles of path that continues up to the Wisconsin border, the scenic 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path, and the 9-mile Virgil Gilman Trail. Yorkville residents will have not only 12 wonderful, safe, connected miles of path within our city once the Kennedy Road Path is built, but we will also have access to more than 100 miles of connected path throughout northern Illinois!

Can you see how amazing this particular path really is? I say it’s a $1.7 million asset only because that is the price tag on it, but its actual value and worth is infinitely more due to its location and ability to connect other paths. It boggles my mind that we could almost let this slip away! Even though our city initially applied for this grant with the intent to fund the city’s portion, when the grant was actually awarded, our current aldermen said that they didn’t want to spend any city money on it and planned to decline the grant.  Thankfully, our community is rising to the challenge to fund the city’s portion with private donations.

This path is going to provide so much to our community in terms of health, safety, fitness, and recreation.  It is going to provide an outlet for safe, free exercise and for safe, free, sustainable – or “green” – travel.  It’s something that will be accessible to and used by people of all ages and all income levels.

So, yes, it does take a lot of time and commitment to be part of the organizational committee Push for the Path, but it’s worth it to see what we are getting for our families, for our citizens, for our entire community.

And honestly, it’s fun. It’s fun because I love our community and the people and the businesses in it. Being involved in this campaign has somewhat catapulted me back into involvement with the community, after a year of “nesting” with my family following the birth of our third child and transitioning into a new dynamic as a family of five. And it has reminded me why we chose to live here and raise our family here.

Q. Obviously the path would be great for Yorkville, but would it have an impact on the greater Fox Valley?

A. It will absolutely benefit the entire Fox Valley area! From the beginning, I’ve been saying that this isn’t just a Yorkville issue; this is a Fox Valley community issue. This path is going to be open to anyone, from anywhere, to use. This path is also going to provide an additional 12 miles for everyone out using the Fox River Trail!

All of those cities that are already connected into the Fox River Trail are going to have access to our path system once the Kennedy Road Path is constructed. Citizens in Geneva and Batavia and Oswego and many other cities will be able to take the Fox River Trail all the way to downtown Yorkville. They can bike on over to our newly constructed, state-of-the-art canoe/kayak chute, rent a canoe or kayak from Geneva Kayak Center, and go for a trip down the Fox River  It’s so exciting to think about downtown Yorkville being linked up with so many other fabulous downtowns. I am hopeful that the Yorkville downtown is in the beginning stages of a renaissance, and I hope that by the time the Kennedy Road Path is constructed, our downtown will be a destination that residents across the Fox Valley will want to visit and enjoy.

Click for a larger-sized map of the Kennedy Road Multi-Use Path.

Q. How can Go West readers help support Push for the Path?

A. There are many ways to help! The first way is to donate money, as our ultimate goal is to raise the funds needed to get this path constructed. All donations are tax-deductible and 100% of the donations go towards the path’s construction. It’s easy to make a safe, secure, credit card donation online at our web site, www.pushforthepath.org.  Checks can be made out to “Push for the Path” and mailed to PO Box 705, Yorkville, IL, 60560. Any amount, big or small, is welcome.

Another way to help is by simply spreading the word about this project. The more people who hear about it, the more chances we have that someone will want to get involved and contribute their time and/or money.

Readers can also “like” our Facebook page, or visit our website, www.pushforthepath.org, to keep informed about other fundraising events that we have coming up and then join us at one or more of those fundraisers.  We have many different events in the works to keep our entire community involved, to appeal to many different people, and to keep the cause fresh in everyone’s minds.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about your children — their personalities and interests?

A. All three of them are just so full of life, spirit, curiosity, and joy. They are particularly fond of playing basketball and baseball, playing in dirt, spraying each other with the hose, building houses out of blocks and dollhouse furniture, singing and dancing, playing with their cousins and grandparents, riding bikes, playing computer games, participating in imaginative role play and eating ice-cream. They love trips to the library, parks, playgrounds, and forest preserves. They also love one-on-one “dates” with mom or dad.  They are sweet, sensitive, special souls, and it’s a joy to be their mom!

Q. How do you describe your parenting style? 

A. I think that my parenting-style reflects my living-style, and I’ll summarize it with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I love: “Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it.  You will find you dance with everything.”  I think that my parenting style is based in trust. Trust in my kids and in their wonder and passion, in their communication with me, in myself and in my husband to know and feel what is right for us as a family, in our ability to forge our own path, in Life to support us and provide us with what we need and desire, and in the unfolding of all things in their own right time.

Q. What do you like most about living in the Fox Valley?

A. I love living here!  My husband and I have lived in Yorkville for most of our lives.  We grew up here, spent a few years away, and moved back before having our children.  I love living in a small town.  Yorkville is much bigger than it was when I was a child (about four times as big) but to me, it still has a small-town feel, and I like that I love knowing so many people and places.  I love feeling connected and “at home” here.  I also love all the beautiful, wide-open spaces.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask here?

A. Yes! I am honored to get the chance to be the spokeswoman for Push for the Path here at Go West Young Mom, but it is important to know that there are so many other amazing volunteers who are sharing their heart, soul, time and money with this cause: the other six people on our leadership team, the 51 people who have pledged to raise $1,000 for the path (and this list of pledges is growing!), the many other individuals, groups, and businesses who are helping those 51 with their fundraising.

Also, it is an honor to get to know and work with the family members of Darlene McCue.  I never got the chance to meet Darlene, so I am getting to know her through the involvement of her very large network of friends and family. They are a fun, funny, and super kind group of people.  One of Darlene’s very dear friends, Lynn Dubajic – who is also the Executive Director of the Yorkville Economic Development Corporation – is really the “go-to” person who is making this entire movement happen.

Darlene lost her husband, Dan, to cancer a few years before she lost her own life.  Her husband’s brothers have been holding an annual golf outing during the past six years, at first in Dan’s honor – and later, in Darlene’s honor as well. The money raised was previously donated to different causes, but the brothers have pledged that, from this point forward, the proceeds will go to Push for the Path, to fund the construction of the Kennedy Road Path.

They have raised over $200,000 during the past six years, and we are hopeful for that success to continue.  Their generosity is going to provide a substantial part of the funding needed for this path’s construction.  Push for the Path is committed to raising whatever else is needed beyond the golf outing’s contributions.

The entire McCue family has been so supportive of all of our plans. Many of them have signed up as team leaders in our Power of One Campaign, and many of them attend our local business fundraiser nights, too.  Darlene has become the face of this campaign, and her legacy will be the safety, the health, and the fun provided to our entire community via this path.  It is an honor to be associated with her, her family, and her friends.