For Karen Mullarkey Kerrins, returning to Oak Park to live with her husband Marty when they were expecting their first child was a natural decision. Both she and her husband were raised in Oak Park and graduated from OPRF and knew several young families making the same return trip after living in the city.

“Having both grandmas within a mile of us was a draw. We have quite a few family members within walking distance of our house, and it has come in very handy over the years.”

Mullarkey Kerrins’ two daughters are third generation students at Ascension, and she relishes the sense of community provided by Ascension and her long-time friends from OPRF. “When our youngest was born two months early, my cousin organized our Ascension community and they cooked dinner for us for several days a week for three months. To have that kind of support when juggling kids and a preemie is priceless. We also have lifelong friendships from OPRF high school that are more like family. This is a really special community filled with people that truly care about their family, friends and neighbors.”

Part of Oak Park’s appeal for Mullarkey Kerrins is the diverse offerings of schools, parks, libraries, stores and restaurants, and the mix of conservative and liberal people that makes Oak Park unique. As the owner of local business Affordable Backyard Tents, Mullarkey Kerrins often use the family business to support local charities and has been on the board of the OPRF Chamber of Commerce for eight years and counting.

Another cause near and dear to her heart is West Suburban Special Recreation Association, where she has served as a trustee on the foundation board for the last nine years. “Our oldest son has special needs, and the amount of services available to him in Oak Park is very important to us. WSSRA is an amazing organization, and it has enabled our son to have friendships and acitvities he wouldn’t have otherwise been able to join in on. WSSRA partners with the Oak Park Park District to offer extra support with one-on-one aides within both organization’s classes and camps. This has been life-altering for us and our son.”

Mullarkey Kerrins also says her family proudly supports local organizations Oak Leyden and Opportunity Knocks for the much-needed support and social opportunities they provide to families and participants with special needs.

For Mullarkey Kerrins, Mother’s Day, like life, is a juggling act. With time for both grandmothers, brunch and a little chaos thrown in, she also feels the day is a wonderful time to pause and reflect about how blessed she is to be a mom and to be surrounded by family and friends.

Lacey Sikora