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Hawthorne's Backyard provides strong support system for West Chicago causes

Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 2:27 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014 2:31 p.m. CDT
(Bill Ackerman -
Employees stand outside Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago in front of a wall naming some of the local organizations the restaurant and bar supports.
(Bill Ackerman -
Restaurant and bar Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago, owned by Lou Kopinski (pictured), is known for its community involvement, enjoying a reputation for hosting fundraisers.
(Bill Ackerman -
Esther Smith (from left), Tony Mazzuca and Chris Farley, all of West Chicago, talk in Hawthorne's Backyard bar and grill Tuesday in West Chicago.
(Bill Ackerman -
Arica Hannus (from left) waits on Dan Weber and Kevin Sampson, both of West Chicago, and their kids on Tuesday at Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago.
(Bill Ackerman -
Short order cook Marcus Montgomery adds tomatoes to tacos on Tuesday at Hawthorne's Backyard in West Chicago. The restaurant and bar is known for its community involvement.
(Bill Ackerman -
Hawthorne's Backyard bar and grill in West Chicago hosts various fundraisers throughout the year, including the Turkey Bowl, which benefits ovarian cancer research.

WEST CHICAGO – Those hoping to find support for a cause in West Chicago know to look no further than their own backyard – Hawthorne’s Backyard, that is.

In just five years in West Chicago, the bar and grill owned by Lou Kopinski has gained a reputation for community service, from serving as a venue for fundraisers to hosting its own benefits for causes often inspired by customers.

“It seems like whoever brings Lou a cause, he’s about it 100 percent,” said Diana Gunderson, a West Chicago Park District commissioner who has been involved with events held at Hawthorne’s Backyard.

For Kopinski, the reason behind his business attitude is simple: It’s what he’s here to do.

“I’m not here to make millions of dollars,” he said. “Obviously I have to make money, but I also want to give back.”

And give back he does.

Many groups host fundraisers at Hawthorne’s Backyard, and the restaurant donates a portion of sales during these events to the causes. One such event is the West Chicago Professional Fire Fighters Association’s Chili Cook-Off for a Cure to benefit breast cancer awareness and research.

“He’s very supportive of any type of fundraiser,” said Theresa Buenrostro, who organizes the Chili Cook Off with her husband, West Chicago firefighter Mike Buenrostro. “He’s very easy to work with.”

Some of Hawthorne’s own charity events include the Turkey Bowl to support ovarian cancer research in honor of a customer’s wife who died from the disease.

Another is a bags tournament Hawthorne’s hosts for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk and a golf outing that benefits West Chicago Boy Scout Troop 33.

“We just try to tie in everything we do to some kind of charity,” Kopinski said.

Beyond the multitude of events, Hawthorne’s Backyard also adopts a family during the holidays as part of a West Chicago Police Department program and regularly donates food to an Aurora pantry. The restaurant also provides food to local schools for events.

“If you ask, he gives,” said Michelle Fortman, secretary at Turner Elementary School in West Chicago.

Hawthorne’s also sponsors youth football and baseball teams in town.

Kopinski said he typically gets about 10 emails each day asking about donations, and in the next month and a half, he expects the restaurant will host about 10 fundraisers.

For West Chicago, it’s important to have a business that’s invested in the town the way Hawthorne’s Backyard is, Mayor Ruben Pineda said. It’s clear how much Kopinski cares about the community, he said.

“Every time you turn around, every time you go out there, he’s doing something for someone,” Pineda said.

But Kopinski won’t take all the credit.

When he first decided to set up shop in West Chicago, Kopinski was familiar with the area but not the community itself, he said. He soon learned the people here were what made the town the best place for his business to be.

“This town has some great people, especially as far as charity work goes,” Kopinski said. “It’s a very caring community.”


Hawthorne's Backyard

Where: 1200 W. Hawthorne Lane, West Chicago Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 1 a.m. Sunday Contact: 630-293-6700; Website:

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