Forest Preserve District of Will County volunteer John Nerren has been named an Outstanding Citizen Volunteer of the year by the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD).
Nerren of Orland Park is captain of the Isle a la Cache Brigade, which is a group of re-enactors who portray what life was like during the 18th century fur trade era in "Illinois Country."
"John has been a tremendous gift to the Forest Preserve and to the thousands of visitors who've seen him in action at Isle a la Cache
and at a number of other programs," said Ralph Schultz, the District's chief operating officer. "I know that our brigade and our programs wouldn't be of the same caliber without him and the countless hours he has invested."
Nerren said in a written statement that he was very appreciative of the award, but he added that credit is due to the entire brigade.
" … I am part of a group, and I am accepting this award on their behalf," he said. "Some people may ask why we do it and what's the reward? When you're talking to a child or an adult and they say, 'Wow, I didn't know that,' that makes it all worthwhile."
Nerren has volunteered as the brigade’s captain for 15 years. The group participates in the District’s annual "Island Rendezvous" at Isle a la Cache Museum
and preserve in Romeoville and the site’s monthly "Living History Demonstration" programs as well as other festivals and events throughout the area.
"We dress in period clothing and bring some of the tools, implements and food used in everyday life, and items that would have been traded to the Native Americans," Nerren said.
Brigade members also continue to educate themselves on 18th century life so their portrayals are as true to life as possible.
"Personally, I have taught myself to sew, do leatherwork and construct my own period firearms," Nerren said.
Under Nerren's leadership, the Isle a la Cache Brigade has grown to an all-time high of 18 members. To date, Nerren has scheduled 150 different historical outreach events for the brigade.
The IAPD awards were announced in September and they will be presented during a "Best of the Best" award gala on October 21 in Wheeling.Photo courtesy of Jack Retterer