International Tom Hanks Day is no longer the April Fools’ joke that it was when it began in Kevin Turk’s basement with just a handful of his friends while attending college at Western Michigan University. Today at Fizz Bar & Grill, Turk estimates that a couple hundred Chicagoans have arrived to join in on the Tom Hanks festivities.
“I can’t believe it’s gotten to these epic proportions,” Nick Bodner, one of the original attendees of Tom Hanks Day, says. Bodner reminisces about the beginnings of the day, eight years ago in that Kalamazoo basement—some live music, barbecuing, beer pong and Tom Hanks movies.
Johnny Coughlin and Caleb Arnold are first-timers. Arnold dons the classic beard, trucker hat, sneakers and short red shorts to match the Forrest Gump look. Coughlin says “we came to spread the joy with other Tom Hanks lovers.”
At random moments the intoxicated group of Tom Hanks Day goers break out into song, to the tune of the soccer fan chant, but instead of “olés” the group replaces it with—guess what?—“Tom Hanks.” That, Turk says, is an eight-year tradition. One-dollar Pabst Blue Ribbon’s lubricate the two-room Hanks film screening while folks wait for the big prize drawing—a poster or DVD signed by Tom Hanks himself.
What started as a gag has turned into a charitable event with all proceeds going to Tom Hanks’ favorite charity, Lifeline Energy—an organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of lives of unstable communities through environmentally friendly technologies. “And the beauty is Tom is going to match us dollar for dollar on the donations we make today,” Turk says. (Nancy Wolens)
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