By Bob Skolnik
A retired commodities trader who now works a couple hours a day as a lunchroom supervisor at Riverside-Brookfield High School organized a golf outing that raised $6,900 for the RBHS Best Buddies Club, which promotes friendships between special education students and regular education students.
The donation is just one example of the influence that Rich "Chubbs" Polfus has made in his short time at RBHS.
"We about dropped over," said RBHS social worker Mari Mortensen, who didn't even know of the fundraiser until after it had been held. "They kept it a secret from us," Mortensen said.
Mortensen and Best Buddies cosponsor Dawn Soprych are now pondering what to do with the largest donation the club has ever received.
"We are taking our time to figure out what we want to do with this and how we can make the most of it," Mortensen said. "We started a Best Buddies college scholarship for students who are going into either special ed or disability rights. We'll be adding to those scholarships."
Polfus, 58, retired in 2013 from his job working for Goldman Sachs managing a commodity price index at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, began working at RBHS late last spring.
A member of the Chicago 16-inch softball Hall of Fame, Polfus found out about the opening from an old softball buddy, Riverside Realtor Brian Brennan, who also supervises the lunchroom at RBHS, where he's worked for about seven years.
Brennan, who played a key role in organizing the golf outing, has known Polfus for more than 30 years and says he is excellent dealing with students.
"He's got a great personality," Brennan said. "He picks up on things easily. He's just a well-rounded individual and he's very good with students."
Polfus served as the player-manager for The Takers, a powerhouse 16-inch softball team in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He played and managed for about 30 years. Polfus became interested in Best Buddies, because a former coworker at the Merc and childhood friend, Dennis Meade, has a daughter at RBHS who is in Best Buddies.
"I've known Denny all my life," Polfus said.
Polfus said he raises money for various organizations, and that it made sense to do so for Best Buddies at RBHS.
"It's a nice feel over there; the kids are really good," Polfus said. "It's a nice place to work and I really enjoy it. It's a nice place to stay young."
Polfus, who grew up in Oak Park and now lives in Forest Park, occasionally tends bar at the McGaffers tavern on Roosevelt Road. The fundraiser included nine holes of golf at Flagg Creek Golf Course in Countryside and dinner and drinks at McGaffers. The cost was $80 person, and about 100 people participated, many who had no connection to RBHS.
"He had union electricians coming to this thing, the mayor of Forest Park was there," Mortensen said. "I saw the list of who attended and it was incredible."