BERWYN – Berwyn's Eighth Ward is home to the city's most colorful fire hydrants, thanks to the members of Youth Crossroads.
Youths with the community service organization artistically painted a dozen hydrants Oct. 17 on Roosevelt Road, from Wenonah Avenue to East Avenue.
Eighth Ward Alderwoman Nora Laureto said a Berwyn firefighter proposed the idea to her based on a similar project he had seen in another town.
She said the original plan was to have the Berwyn Arts Council do the painting, but when they were unable to, she turned to Youth Crossroads, which was looking for a fall project.
Youth Crossroads Youth Development Program Coordinator Joel Wallen said the teens were enthusiastic when he pitched the idea to them.
"They're excited about their artwork being permanent," he said. "It's going to be a fixture in the community."
The teens worked with local artist Aaron Mitchell to come up with a design for each hydrant – some having a theme that fit with a nearby building and others paying homage to popular culture.
"They really were very, very talented," Laureto said. "They really came up with some cute ideas."
On the day of the painting, the teens split up into groups of two to four people and spent as long as seven hours decorating the hydrants.
Youth Crossroads member Juan Valdez, a junior at Morton West High School, helped paint one of the hydrants like Mario from the "Super Mario Bros." video games.
He said painting a hydrant brought some unique challenges.
"It was difficult to actually design it with it being a three-dimensional object," he said.
Youth Crossroads member and Morton West junior Janie Dam, who helped paint a colorful microphone, said the creativity of this project was different from the community service projects the organization usually participates in.
"It feels pretty good to have people know that Youth Crossroads are actually the people who painted these hydrants," she said.
While Dam said she likes to paint regularly, Valdez said he is not normally creative like this.
"It was actually fun," he said. "I found some artistic skill that I didn't know that I had."
The teens painting the hydrants also drew the attention of many people passing by.
Valdez said several people stopped to ask them why they were painting.
"They said, 'That's actually pretty cool. That's interesting,'" he said.
Laureto said the hydrants will stay decorated until the next time they need to be repainted.
The decorating will continue in the spring, when the rest of the hydrants along Roosevelt Road will be painted, she said.
Youth Crossroads provides development and leadership programs, as well as clinical services, for youths in Berwyn, Cicero, Forest View, Lyons and Stickney.
For more information, call 708-484-7400 or visit youthcrossroads.org.