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Relay for Life

in Featured/Regional by

“Relay for Life,” an overnight fundraiser, was held at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva on Friday to benefit the American Cancer Society. Teams and individuals, with financial pledges, walked laps around the music-filled field and participated in fun contests and activities throughout the night. During breaks from walking there was plenty to eat and drink. Kelsey Lancaster (right), Riley Hannula, Rachel Kintz and Kendall Krawczyk, students at Kaneland High School, represented Alex’s Army.

A larger group (below) coming around
the back of the outfield lined with
illuminated candle bags.

Photos by Patti Wilk

Business owners help each other

in Elburn/Featured/Regional by

Photo: Cynthia Pirok (right) of Pirok Design and President of B.A.N.G. (Business Alliance Networking Group) speaks to fellow members during the June 22 meeting in Elburn. Photo by Ellen Huxtable

by Susan O’Neill
FOX VALLEY—Pirok Design owners Kevin and Cynthia Pirok are in the business of helping other businesses establish themselves. They work with business owners to build their identity through developing a logo and designing signage, a website and other supportive graphics. This coordinated package creates a well-branded presence within the marketplace.

Early on in the development of their business, the Piroks worked with Small Business Development Center manager Harriet Parker to create marketing strategies to promote their business.

Since then, they have referred other businesses to Parker for her assistance.

“The Piroks have a propensity to connect other people they know with the assistance they need,” Parker said. “They refer other businesses to the SBDC, and they help connect entrepreneurs and small businesses with each other.”

The nature of the Piroks’ business is to help other entrepreneurs. However, they take this one step further, Parker said. They belong to several business networking groups in the area, and Cynthia is the current president of the group in Elburn.

Elburn’s Business Alliance Networking Group (B.A.N.G.) is a group of approximately 20 business people who get together on the second and fourth Friday of the month. The purpose of the group is to help and support each other in the growth of their businesses, whether it is providing information, identifying resources or suggesting leads for potential new customers.

“A person might bring up an issue or a problem, and someone else will know how to solve it. It’s a neat group,” Cynthia said.

With what Pirok calls a good cross-section of businesses, the group is industry exclusive so that no two members compete for the same clientele.

Some of the businesses are “power partners,” which means that although two businesses don’t provide the same product or service, they have the same potential clients. Sometimes it’s just a matter of remembering to mention the people you value in your group while talking to an individual who could use what they do, Cynthia said.

“We all seem to be able to benefit from what someone else has been through or through sharing helpful information about an industry,” she said. “These people become your friends. That’s what businesses need to be doing with each other.”

Goaltender Lekkas brings fire to the ice

in Elections/Featured/Miscellaneous by

Photo: Stefanos Lekkas looks to don the mask for AAA hockey once again this year, after competing at a USA Hockey camp in N.Y. Courtesy photo

Elburn resident gearing up for elite camp in N.Y.
by Mike Slodki
ELBURN—Stefanos Lekkas, 16, of Elburn has his particular tools of the trade.

“My mask is white, with all-white straps and an all-white cage,” Lekkas said. “I just fell in love with it early on.”

That’s a common theme for the honor-roll student from Kaneland, who finds a lot to love about the sport of hockey.

Threaded throughout his family, including his two siblings, Lekkas could be seen tending goal for area hockey outlets like the amateur Chicago Mission for the past four years.

Now, Lekkas prepares to head to Rochester, N.Y. for a USA Hockey National Player Development Camp held from July 7-13, at the Sports Centre.

Lekkas is slated for the Youth Select 16 grouping.

It’s no small feat; Lekkas was one of eight goaltenders selected, after being chosen from an Illinois group, and then a five-state grouping in the Midwest.

Lekkas relishes the opportunity to be between the posts, even with the players by definition being the best of a particular area.

“It’s fun, because everyone has respect for each other and everyone is a great hockey player,” Lekkas said.

He was selected by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League in their futures draft in May, and while not being selected for the under-20 team after a tryout camp earlier this month, he remains property of the franchise.

“I have another year and I’m optimistic that something can happen. They could still call me up as a prospect on a weekend if they need someone,” Lekkas said.

At 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, Lekkas makes the most of his frame with a hybrid style of goaltending.

“With hybrid, you mix technique with athleticism. I’m not tall enough to be a standup goalie and it’s different from butterfly,” Lekkas said.

Lekkas doesn’t consider himself done even when off the ice, taking in National Hockey League contests on occasion.

“I’ve been up to Detroit three or four times a year to see a game. I like Toronto, and my favorite team is the Montreal Canadiens,” Lekkas said.

Lekkas is eyeing his next move once the gathering out East concludes.

“I’ll be skating with a AAA team somewhere and want to do a goalie camp,” Lekkas said.

Wherever Lekkas stops one-timers next and on whatever level, it stands to be tough to get the ice out of his blood from now on.

“It’s more than a sport. You’re with a family and it’s cool to be around. I’ll always get used to more hockey time.”

Hybrid goaltenders in the NHL include:
Jonathan Quick
Ryan Miller
Martin Brodeur
Jaroslav Halak

Kaneland holds court in summertime

in Boys Basketball/Featured by

Photo: Drew David moves the ball upcourt against a Belleville West defender during Tuesday’s action at the 27th Annual Morris Boys Shootout. Photo by Mike Slodki

Boys hoops
competes in
Morris Shootout

by Mike Slodki
MORRIS—Twenty-minute halves, a running clock, and kids wearing something akin to rec-league warmups.

But the Kaneland boys basketball trip to the 27th annual Morris Shootout, occurring Tuesday and Wednesday, was anything but rec.

With the Knights in Pool H against the likes of Belleville West, Oswego and Pekin high schools, the Kaneland group was taking this 32-team affair as a chance to show skills.

Even with a 12-point loss to the downstate Maroons in the books to open matters, coach Brian Johnson takes each summer day to see what he has.

“We’re trying to figure out what we have, and we made mistakes, but that stuff usually irons itself out by the time the season comes around,” Johnson said.

The Knight boys have participated in leagues at Geneva and DeKalb high schools, to go along with camps and lifting during the morning hours.

It makes for a different style of basketball once tip-off happens.

“They are competing out there and it’s a little more freelance. There’s a lot of kids out there that play a lot of basketball. We’re a team with kids that play three sports, and it’s a little more freelance when it comes to the summer. We’re not really a freelance team, and I think that will show when the season rolls around.”

Kaneland’s new faces for summer ball are Dylan Nauert, Brock Robertson, Bailey Harvell, Dylan Vaca, Cole Carlson, Tom VanBogaert and Shane Jorgensen.

Returning are Clay Denlinger, Dan Miller, Drew David, Thomas Williams, Tyler Carlson and John Pruett, making for a core to build around once summer progresses to the late fall.

“They’re going to do a nice job-—all the guys coming back. They’re poised to have really nice seasons, and we need to see where everyone kind of fits into play,” Johnson said.

The Knights head off to the Geneva League Tournament on Thursday, June 28.

Photo Gallery: Take 5K

in Community Sports/Featured/Kaneland by

Robert Johnson seems to be taking Friday evening’s Kaneland Knight Run 5K in stride. All proceeds for the Knight Run were to benefit the Kaneland
Foundation. The 5K was the first of a triple-header that also featured quarter-mile kids’ track run and a one-mile Fun Run/Walk.

Photo by Marshall Farthing

Click here for more photos >> (link takes you to Facebook)

Center brings entrepreneurs, experts together

in Featured/Regional/Sugar Grove by

Guests networking during the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center event at Waterstreet Studios Art Gallery in Batavia. At the FVEC event in Batavia, (below, left to right) Dr. Christina Krause from IHAP, Harriet Parker from Small Business Development Center and FVEC Organizing Committe and Maria Kuhn from IHAP.

Courtesy Photos

Harriet Parker
Illinois Small Business
Development Center
Waubonsee Community College
18 S. River St., Room 268
Aurora, IL 60506
(630) 906-4143

Ernie Mahaffey
Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center

by Susan O’Neill
FOX VALLEY—Steve Gaspardo, a manufacturing engineer with 15 years of experience in the field, founded Gaspardo & Associates in 1996.

The company is a full-service 3-D metrology laboratory in Batavia.

Gaspardo, who has a number of degrees, including one in computer-assisted manufacturing, is one of about 25 Fox Valley entrepreneurs who have worked with experts with the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center (FVEC) to take their businesses to the next level.

Gaspardo patented an automated robotic scanner, ComScan, in 2011, but he needed the capital to move it forward. The FVEC team assisted Gaspardo in preparing financial statements and projections that helped him obtain the financing necessary to take ComScan to market and exhibit at the Quality Show in Chicago.

“Financial statements read like a novel,” Wessex 504 Corporation President Karen Lennon said. “It took three seconds to retell the story.”

Lennon went on to introduce Gaspardo to her favorite bankers, and he was on his way.

Gaspardo is proud of the fact that his equipment is 100 percent built-in-America, and most of it done within the Fox Valley area.

The Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center was founded about a year ago, in partnership with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College. The Small Business Development Center, under the leadership of Harriet Parker, an entrepreneur in her own right, has provided assistance to small businesses in the area for a number of years.

An average of 400 clients per year—mainly life-style businesses, such as hair salons, coffee shops, landscapers and retail stores—take advantage of the center’s services. Parker links them up with resources with the expertise they need to get their businesses off the ground.

“I consider myself a matchmaker,” Parker said.

Although Parker said she has been able to help many local small businesses, she found that there were entrepreneurs in the area who needed more than she could provide.

Last year, the SBDC received a $100,000 grant from the Small Business Association through the Small Business Jobs Act. The guidelines for the grant required that the funding be used for consulting services to entrepreneurs and it emphasized collaboration.

At the same time, a group of retired and semi-retired business people from Geneva, Batavia, and other Fox Valley communities approached Parker with the desire to provide mentoring to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

According to Parker, there are two things that are critical to the success of a new business: timing and a support network.

“When the stars align like this, you know it’s going to be good,” she said.

Parker, together with a number of entrepreneurs in the Fox Valley area, used the funding to form the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center, a virtual organization set up to bring advisors and mentors together to help entrepreneurs launch new products, expand into different markets, and implement other forms of innovations.

The FVEC celebrated its partnership with the SBDC last Thursday at an event that showcased a number of entrepreneurs who have been able to benefit from the wealth of expertise available through the center.

“The goal of collaboration between the Waubonsee Small Business Development Center and the Fox Valley Entrepreneurship Center is to be the ultimate dot connector,” Parker said. “We are working hard to create a network of resources that supports growing entrepreneurial businesses in meaningful ways.

HorsePower riding program helps build skills, confidence

in Featured/Health & Wellness/Maple Park/Regional by

Photo: Carrie Capes (far right) helps four-year-old Emma of Sycamore ride Tonka, a 15-year-old Belgian Cross. Helping are trainers Veronica and Karol. The program began in March. Photo by John DiDonna

by Susan O’Neill
MAPLE PARK—Maple Park resident Carrie Capes said she learned very early on with Max, her 11-year-old son with multiple disabilities, that “a child with a disability really and truly needs a village.”

“I love doing that with others,” she said.

Capes recently began providing therapeutic horseback riding lessons to children and adults with disabilities at the Fox Chase Farms horse stable in Maple Park.

The riding program is known as HorsePower.

Capes had been able to use her degree in recreational therapy while working with Max, teaching him to ride, as well as other skills that translate to his daily life. She calls what she does at the stable with Max a “work/study program” in which she gives him riding lessons twice a week. He also does barn chores, such as cleaning stalls, grooming and feeding the horses, and sweeping the stable aisles.

“He feels useful and needed and a sense of pride here,” she said. “While Max needs a service dog to navigate a trip into the grocery store, he has freedom at the barn and he is successful with his behavior. This is his happy place.”

Capes said Fox Chase Farms owner Jenise Koerner saw her working with Max, and experienced first-hand the power of horses. When Capes left another therapeutic riding job, Koerner called her to see if she would like to do her work at her barn.

“I’m new to this, but I’m a full supporter,” Koerner said.

Capes is currently working with a dozen children and adults with disabilities, using the riding to help teach her students hand-eye coordination, balance and strength, keeping their focus and other skills.

In addition to the skills the students learn, therapeutic riding helps to build their self-esteem, something that people with disabilities often have in short supply.

“It’s very empowering to lead a 1,600 pound animal to do what you want him to do,” Capes said. “It’s a great confidence builder.”

Capes recently started to work with 4-year-old Trevin, one of Sycamore resident Kalie Kuhl’s triplets. Trevin has high muscle tone in his legs, which makes walking and other activities, such as climbing up onto a couch or a chair, difficult.

Trevin’s occupational and physical therapists recommended therapeutic riding for him as a way to supplement the therapy they were doing.

“For a full hour, he is straddling the horse, which is pretty effective at stretching out the muscles in his legs,” Kuhl said. “I wouldn’t be able to replicate that at home.”

Kuhl said that, because Trevin is so young, the hardest thing is keeping him engaged in his therapy. However, with all of the external distractions involving the horse and the games Capes plays with Trevin, Kuhl said she has his full attention for a solid hour.

Because Capes uses toys, pom-poms, balls, bubbles and other non-traditional items to keep things interesting, the horses need to be well-trained and desensitized to these props.

The volunteers help with training the horses, as well as walking alongside and in front of the horse during the student’s lesson, to make sure he or she is securely on the horse and paying attention to Capes. They also pitch in with barn chores.

Marmion cadet Kyle Urbanik, a 15-year-old who has been riding horses since he was about 6 years old, is one of HorsePower’s volunteers. In the two months that he has been a side-walker, he said he has already seen the students grow and make improvements.

Many of the children have never been on a horse before, so the first challenge is to help them get over their fears, Urbanik said. One child in particular has a problem with depth perception, which made him very fearful at first. Urbanik thought it would take him months to feel comfortable, but the child was safely trotting by the third week.

“His (physical) therapists said he has made a lot of progress at school, too,” Urbanik said.

Although Urbanik’s initial goal was to obtain the service hours his school required of him, he has become passionate about what he does at Fox Chase Farms.

“I hope to change a lot of kids’ lives,” he said.

Capes said that her highest goal is to provide therapeutic riding to people with disabilities, regardless of their ability to pay.

“Our dream is to have a sliding scale,” she said. “This community is helping to make that happen.”

Capes said that area businesses and residents have been very generous in their support. Paisano’s Pizza in Elburn is helping to raise money for scholarships by giving half of every $10 ticket, redeemable for a one-item pizza, purchased between now and June 15. Their goal is to use the money to help pay for lessons for children whose families can’t afford them, Capes said. There is currently a waiting list for scholarships.

SH&D Trucking has donated $1,000 for a limestone/sand mixture to blanket the arena where the students ride. Christ Community Church has donated more than $600 for materials to build two special mounting blocks to help students get onto the horse safely. About 20 of the church’s members have committed to a work day on Wednesday, June 6, when they will help build the blocks and other tasks.

“Mounting the horse is one of the most difficult things for a person with a disability,” Capes said. “These blocks are a huge blessing. I have felt so supported by the Kaneland community.”

Carrie Capes has launched her new program, HorsePower Therapeutic Riding, at Fox Chase Farm in Maple Park. The program will teach students balance, confidence, coordination and strength. Here she helps Emma give Tonka a treat after their ride on May 14. Photo by John DiDonna

Elburn church welcomes new visitors

in Elburn/Featured by

Living Word of God Church
The Revs. David and Jessica Jones

526 N. Main St., Elburn
Sunday worship at 11 a.m.
Tuesday Bible Study at 7:30 p.m.

by Susan O’Neill
Elburn—The Revs. David and Jessica Jones opened the doors of their Living Word of God Church in February of 2011, at 526 N. Main St., on the Great Lakes Leadership campus in Elburn. Both ministers trained through the Living Word of God Church headquartered in Cleveland, Tenn. David is following in the footsteps of his father, who is the pastor of a Living Word Church in Wilmington, Ill.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” David said. “I felt the call of God to go into ministry.”

Jessica said that the service is an informal meeting. David said that he rarely wears a tie, and wants others to dress comfortably, as well, so they can feel at ease during worship.

The service, which starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings, is a contemporary service with a mixture of songs, a sermon and readings from the Bible, as well as prayers for people’s needs and concerns. People are free to stand, sit, raise their hands or kneel, however the spirit moves them.

In addition to the Sunday service, the church also offers a Tuesday night Bible study, in which David and Jessica teach about the Bible, the history of God’s word, and help people make the connection for how what the Bible says is relevant to their lives today.

“It’s also a chance to see how their week is going and to take prayer requests,” David said.

One of their goals for the church is to help people discover what their gifts are to help them grow in them and find ways to use them for God’s work.

According to Jessica, evangelism is also a tenet of the church, in which she and David teach others how to share the word of God within their own circles, whether it is at work or school or some other sphere of influence.

The couple, who live in Aurora, both grew up in Illinois and met each other on a Christian dating site. They have been married just over two years.

Currently and small congregation, they are looking to grow its membership. They attend functions within the community and try to meet with business people on a one-on-one basis to introduce themselves and their church.

They would like people to feel free to come to a service and check it out with no requirements.

Their message is as the Living Word of God Church states on its website, “Come as you are; you’ll be loved.”

It was green for miles …

in Elburn/Featured by

The Elburn Chamber of Commerce held its annual golf outing at Hughes Creek on Thursday. The Chamber raises money at this annual event to bring more activities to the Village of Elburn. Dane Male (right) of American Bank & Trust executes a chip shot onto the 9th green with Matt Hadfiel of Mosquito Authority, Dan Murphy of Edward Jones and Patrick Boehler of American Bank & Trust looking on. Photos by Patti Wilk

Cary Gillis and Kevin Schmidt of Schmidt’s Towne Tap (right) getting ready to head out for a day of golf.

Dave Stevens and Rick Russell
of Russell Automotive (right)
enjoy a good laugh before they
head out to their first hole.

Joe Howard of AAA Insurance practicing putting before the noon start.

Dick Theobald of Paisano’s Pizza and Grill tees off at the 1st hole.

Sugar Grove resident opens tutoring franchise

in Featured/Sugar Grove by

Photo: Sugar Grove resident Laura Keske has opened a Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Service franchise that offers one-on-one help to students in North Aurora, Aurora, Elburn, Maple Park and Big Rock. Here she looks over some books to be used in upcoming tutoring sessions. Photo by John DiDonna

by Keith Beebe
Sugar Grove—Sugar Grove resident Laura Keske in February bought a franchise of the Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, which is the nation’s largest one-on-one in-home tutoring service. As a result, Keske’s franchise is currently serving students in Elburn, Maple Park, Big Rock, Hinckley, North Aurora, Sycamore, DeKalb and portions of Aurora.

“We tutor all subjects, pre Kindergarten to adult, with one-on-one sessions in the student’s home,” Keske said. “Our tutors are either certified teachers or degreed professionals specializing in the higher maths and sciences.”

Prior to entering the home-tutoring business, Keske spent more than 20 years working for major corporations in finance and accounting. She got involved with home tutoring because she wanted to provide a service that benefits the local community while providing herself with a more flexible schedule for her family, which includes a 9th grader at Kaneland High School and a 6th grader at Harter Middle School.

“I love this business. We are working with students one-on-one and developing customized programs to get them ahead in school. It’s so rewarding to hear the success stories of the students and the know I’m making a difference in the community,” Keske said. “Additionally, our tutors are recruited locally, so we are providing part-time jobs for folks in the community. That makes me feel good.”

Keske said Club Z! In-Home Tutoring can help raise a student’s grades, provide motivation and help build their self-esteem. Her students are tutored in the comfort and convenience of their own homes, and the service is structured around the schedule of the student’s family.

“If a parent notices their child struggling in school, the best thing they can do is take action before the problem gets worse,” Keske said. “With one-on-one tutoring, we can get to the root of the problem and help the student understand the missing concepts. This lays a solid foundation for the future.”

Keske said Club Z! has been receiving a lot of phone calls for tutoring, especially for math.

“Since each area of math is a building block, if a student is stuggling with a particular concept, it could hurt them all down the road,” she said. “Our tutors know how to help the student understand the missing concept and move them forward.

Club Z! also has study skills programs called “Learning Built to Last,” as well as ACT Prep.

Keske said the study skills program is a something every middle school and high school student should take to help them with organization, test anxiety, setting goals, memorization skills and much more to help them become a balanced learner.

“We also provide customized ACT Prep programs to help students achieve a higher score and have a chance to get into their college of choice. Our students scores increase four points on average,” she said.

For more information on Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services, or to set up a tutoring session, visit www.clubztutoring.com, or call (630) 277-8117.

Father Ganss of St. Gall’s to retire

in Elburn/Featured by

A Retirement Celebration and Reception for Father Karl Ganss
Saturday, June 23
immediately following Mass
and Sunday, June 24
immediately following the 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m. masses
St. Gall’s Church Parish Hall
120 W. Shannon St.,

All are invited to celebrate
Father Karl’s last mass at St. Gall
at 11 a.m.
Light refreshments will be served

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Father Karl Ganss will retire after nine years at St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Elburn, and after a career of 44 years in the priesthood that spanned both education and ministry. As a parish priest, Ganss has seen both the community and the families of the parish grow.

“It’s been very, very rewarding to see the community growing,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the small-town flavor, and that it’s so pleasantly agriculturally-related. And when you work with families, you see the children grow up at all the intimate moments of their lives. At this stage, the ones I baptized I now see being married.”

Ganss grew up in south Philadelphia, the son of German immigrants. His father ran a bakery, making young Ganss popular with the other kids because he smelled of sweet cakes. He attended St. Henry School in a German parish founded by a priest from Germany who was sent to work with immigrants, and staffed by a group of sisters that had come from Germany.

“At that time in 1950, the prayers were in German. Even the Irish kids had to learn the prayers in German. The sisters were very dedicated. They had great fervor. They were expected to stay in their mission country for the rest of their lives. Vatican II changed that requirement,” he said.

The sisters had ties to Sacred Heart Mission Seminary in Geneva, and encouraged the students’ vocations there. That, along with the mentorship of an elderly priest and the dynamism of a young priest at St. Edmonds, influenced Ganss to go into seminary and move to Geneva. He said goodbye to south Philly and the neighborhood where Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Jimmy Durante also came from.

Ganss was ordained a priest in 1968, and was asked to teach on the faculty of Sacred Heart Seminary in Geneva, where he was once a student. He then went on to become the area director of religious education in McHenry and the superintendent of Catholic education.

After receiving his M.A. in history and a Ph.D in educational foundation from Loyola University, Ganss taught on the faculty of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. He held several positions, including pastoral assistant in Algonquin and Crystal Lake and associate pastor of Holy Angels in Aurora.

“I really wanted to do more related to ministry,” Ganss recalled. “I received a doctorate in ministry.”

His work at St. Gall’s has involved working to prepare for the new parish that will be built.

“It takes a lot of discernment. I’ve interviewed architects and done fund raising, but it’s not just a building and a church. It’s a spiritual call to build,” Ganss said.

The congregation has raised $4.6 million and will need to reach $7 million before they begin to build the church, starting with a small capacity and keeping the current buildings for the rectory and offices.

Ganss’s future after retirement will hold some familiar pursuits and some new adventures. He will offer his ministry assisting to churches in the area where the priest goes on vacation or is back to school. However, his adventureous side calls him to the high seas. He will serve as chaplin on cruise ships, something he’s done several times already.

“I’ve been on three Alaskan cruises, to the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the fjords. Over Christmas, I will go to Sydney and New Zealand,” he said. “Next, I’d like to go to South America from the Horn to Buenos Aires to the other side of South America.”

Father Ganss will retire from active ministry on June 30.

Former Knight Crosby now in MLB win club

in Baseball/Featured/Sports by

Photo: Casey Crosby went 5.1 innings for his first-ever win as a member of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff.
Originally scheduled to start against the Cubs on Wednesday, he is slated to pitch on Friday, June 15, against
Colorado. Mark Cunningham/Detroit Tigers

KHS grad holds
Indians at bay, Tigers player development impressed

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—After his Major League Baseball debut on June 1, Casey Crosby knew he had to push on after a less-than-desirable result.

“You don’t dwell on it and you move on, and the experience is for the better,” Crosby said on June 5.

The member of Kaneland High School’s class of 2007 came back against the American League Central Division rival Cleveland Indians, and earned his first win (1-1) after leading the effort in a 7-5 result.

The lefty went 5.1 innings, two full innings more than his losing effort against the visiting New York Yankees.

Crosby allowed three earned runs on five hits, while striking out two batters and walking three. He threw 91 pitches, 54 for strikes.

Four pitchers followed the former Knight two-sport standout, with Tigers closer Jose Valverde tossing a perfect ninth.

For a highly-touted draft pick like Crosby, selected in the fifth round five years ago, it’s rewarding for the personnel keeping tabs on promise.

“He was a young kid making his first start and facing New York and obviously he didn’t have the start he wanted, but he adjusted well and did things differently in his next start,” Dave Owen, Tigers director of Player Development, said.

Owen, fresh from a trip to Detroit to prepare for the MLB Draft earlier this month, was able to see Crosby in his major league infancy.

“Obviously he’s a great competitor and had success and injuries,” Owen said. “He’s a terrific athlete and ready to emerge and help the club, and we hope he has a long career ahead of him.”

Crosby was the sixth player from the Tigers’ 2007 draft taken. The odds are immense to make it, but Crosby and teammate Rick Porcello are products of the designed strategy.

“You root for everyone to make it and want to see everyone succeed, top to bottom, no matter what round they are taken,” Owen said. “Each call-up is unique and there’s joy when they come up because you get to know them and build relationships with them.”

Owen, who also swung a bat for the 1984 National League East champ Chicago Cubs, believes Crosby has tools in his favor that stand to be heightened.

“He has a plus fastball, and a great changeup. He’s a three-pitch guy and he’s going to gain experience along the way,” Owen said.

Crosby dips into interleague play on Friday, June 15, against Colorado.

On a mission: educating about epilepsy

in Featured/Sugar Grove by

Photo: Katelyn Alderman (center) enjoying time with her sisters Jennifer (left) and Tessa. Katelyn suffers from epilepsy and spends her time educating others about her
condition. Courtesy Photo

by Lynn Meredith
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove resident Katelyn Alderman was only in the third grade when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. She was having staring spells, sometimes 20 to 40 a day, and taking 15 pills a day to try to prevent them. She didn’t know she was having staring spells, and other people may not have known she had them, but when her diagnosis came, her life changed.

Soon, she was no longer invited to birthday parties, because parents with little knowledge about the condition feared it was contagious. Teachers did not know how to handle seizures. For safety’s sake, she could no longer do the activities that are normal for kids.

“I had four sisters, and to see them doing the things I couldn’t—I couldn’t ride a bike or take a bath. I couldn’t have hard candy. I couldn’t climb a tree. I couldn’t play basketball or softball with my sisters in the yard. Those things were not accessible to me,” she said.

For the last five years, however, Alderman has been seizure and medication-free. That can happen as a child matures, but is rather unusual and unexplainable. Now, with a lifetime of living with epilepsy, the Waubonsee student majoring in elementary education is eager to get the word out about the condition and make life easier for those with epilepsy, as well as their family, friends and community.

Reaching out to people and volunteering comes naturally to Alderman. She has always done some kind of volunteer work, so deciding to educate others seemed a good fit.
“I wanted to do something besides school and work,” she said.

Alderman’s mission got a step forward when she walked into her first class as a college freshman. Her instructor asked the class to write about their greatest academic challenge. After some hesitation, Alderman decided to break her own rule about not talking about her condition.

Much to Alderman’s surprise, the instructor asked her to stay after class where the instructor disclosed that her own daughter had been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Together they contacted the Epilespy Foundation of Greater Chicago, put up posters and even filmed a public service announcement with facts about epilepsy that will air on the Waubonsee channel. They are working on ways to get out the facts about epilepsy.

One of those lesser known facts is that 6 percent of the population—roughly 50 million people—have the condition, and many don’t even know it. Alderman likes to tell about another fact that may surprise people.

“ My favorite thing to say to groups is that more people pass away from epilepsy than from breast cancer,” she said. “Breast cancer is so out there, but epilepsy can cause deaths. Plus, 77 percent of people with epilepsy will never know why they have it. No one in my family had it.”

Alderman would like to talk to middle schools or high schools, even if it’s only to the teachers, to make them aware that so many kids have the condition.

“I want to be able to educate people on what to do if someone has a seizure. My ultimate goal is to make it mandatory for teachers to have First Response training,” she said. “If I’d have had a seizure in school, they wouldn’t have known what to do. Anyone who wants me, I’ll come speak. I’ll go anywhere.”

Alderman already speaks to over eight classes a semester at Waubonsee, including English, sociology and special education classes.

“I tell underage drinkers that stress, in combination with alcohol, can be the first trigger for someone who may not know they have epilepsy. I want them to not be afraid to call for help, because people can die from it,” she said.

Alderman also expresses herself through art. She is a landscape watercolorist in the Impressionist tradition.

“Because I couldn’t do sports, my mom and I would start scrapbooking or making cards when I was diagnosed,” she said. “My aunt is a huge painter. She taught me how to draw. If I had a seizure, that wouldn’t hurt me.”

Congratulations Class of 2012

in Featured/Kaneland by

Triplets Tyler, Trever and Samantha Heinle getting ready to receive their diplomas.
Photos by Patti Wilk

Kaneland High School’s Class of 2012 held their graduation ceremony on Saturday at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb. Class President was Ashlyn Slamans, and Class Valedictorian was Malory Groen.

Graduate Kylie Siebert gets a hug from a little friend.

The 2012 class flips their tassels, symbolizing that they are now high school graduates.

Elburn native son home from Afghanistan receives rousing welcome

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Nick Sepeda views the many people who showed up on Saturday to welcome him home to Elburn from Afghanistan. Photo by Susan O’Neill

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Spc. Nick Sepeda doesn’t like to be the center of attention. He said he is usually the guy in the background, but that definitely wasn’t the case on June 2, when Sepeda arrived home for a one-month leave from the U.S. Army, after a one-year deployment to Afghanistan.

His mom picked him up at the airport and when she exited from Interstate 88, he thought they were on their way to his home in Elburn. However, when her car turned into the Sugar Grove Jewel parking lot and he saw the crowd of about 70 people waving flags, he knew he wasn’t going home any time soon.

When he saw all the people, he texted his good friend, Stephanie Merchant, who was standing in the middle of the crowd.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked her.

Sepeda’s mom and step-dad, Jayne and Michael Jordan, had kept his celebratory welcome a secret from him, inviting family and friends, the local police and fire departments and the Patriot Guard. The Elburn and the Sugar Grove fire departments were there with their engines, and the Kane County Sheriff’s Department also came to show respect.

When Sepeda stepped out of the car in his dress blues, he was met by members of the Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch, groups of former soldiers who make it a point to welcome returning soldiers home. They stood in two lines,
forming a long corridor of American flags waving in the wind.

Members of his family and friends cheered and waved smaller flags. After a brief ceremony, everyone mounted their motorcycles or got into their cars and escorted Sepeda to the Kaneville Pavilion for a big celebration.

Sepeda, who was born and raised in Elburn, played a variety of sports at Kaneland High School, including baseball and wrestling. He graduated from Kaneland in 2004, attended classes in welding at Waubonsee Community College, and worked for a time as a welding fabricator, flying to different parts of the country for his job.

He enlisted in the United States Army in April 2010, and completed Basic Infantry Training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in August of that year. He reported to Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, for combat training and spent a month at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, in the Mojave Desert before leaving for Afghanistan.

He deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in April 2011 and was based at a combat outpost in the Panjwa’i Valley in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The humidity was high and the temperature hovered around 115 degrees, as he and the others in his unit carried 50 pounds of gear, guns and ammunition on their backs. He thankfully was not wounded, but some of his friends were, and he lost a few of them. He saw his share of combat, as well as exploding IEDs. He earned a number of ribbons and medals, including the Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantry Badge, Afghan Campaign Ribbon and the NATO Award Ribbon.

He arrived back in the states—at Ft. Wainwright in Alaska—in April.

“I was so thankful when they hit American soil,” Jayne said.

While his family and friends waited for him to arrive from the airport, they shared memories of him as a boy.

Elburn residents Kim and Jim Fitzpatrick said they had known him all his life. He and their children had gone to school together.

“I remember his first birthday,” Kim said.

His brother, Danny, came from Texas to see him, arriving at the airport within hours of Nick. His aunt, Vicki Monks, who is Jayne’s sister, was there from Arizona. She hopes that he will come out there to go to school at Arizona State.

“I was graduating high school when he was a baby,” she said.

Sirens blaring and horns honking, the crowd escorted Sepeda past his old high school before arriving in Kaneville for the celebration. People who have known him forever and those who had met him that day shook his hand, hugged him, and told him they were glad he was home.

The young man who didn’t like to be the center of attention, smiled at all the people gathered in his honor. He thanked them all for coming and then his mom invited everyone to stay and eat.

“It was fun; it was definitely cool,” Sepeda said later.

When he finally tired of graciously posing with various combinations of family members for pictures, Sepeda slipped away to the library. There, he found Library Director Ray Christainsen, who gave him the use of his office to change into civilian clothes.

Prior to joining the Army, Sepeda had volunteered for about a year in the library, helping Christiansen with all kinds of tasks.

Christiansen described him as “bright, warm and funny,” and “an all-around nice guy.”

“I’m happy he’s home,” Christiansen said.

Sepeda gave him a hug before going back out to join the party.

“Yeah, he’s a warrior, and we’re glad he is, but he’s also a very caring person,” Christiansen said.

Sepeda said he’s going to spend this month hanging out with friends, and going to concerts and baseball games. He’s a Sox fan.

He’s not sure about his future after he finishes his tour of duty next year, but he said he’s got some time to think about that.

Members of the Patriot Guard and Warrior Watch get ready to welcome home U.S. Army Spc. Nick Sepeda from his tour in Afghanistan. Photo by Susan O'Neill
U.S. Army Spc. Nick Sepeda with his mom Jayne Jordan of Elburn and his aunt Vicki Monks from Chandler, Arizona at his welcome home party at the Kaneville Pavilion. He arrived in town after a year's deployment in Afghanistan. Photo by Susan O'Neill

The Crosby Show

in Baseball/Featured/Kaneland by

Photo: Casey Crosby dishes toward the plate in his major league debut on Friday in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Comerica Park in Detroit. Crosby becomes the first Kaneland High School athlete to make the major leagues. Yankee Derek Jeter was the first hitter he faced on Friday. Mark Cunningham/Detroit Tigers

Former Knight lefty officially becomes current Tiger southpaw
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Never has a pitching appearance that lasted 3.1 innings been so noteworthy or celebrated.

Elburn and the surrounding area will forever remember the name Doug Fister, as it was his left side strain that forced the Detroit Tigers to sideline him last week with a 15-day disabled list stint. The club then called up Kaneland High School Class of 2007 member Casey Crosby on May 30.


“I felt like I was going to black out. I was all excited and couldn’t stand still.”

– Detroit Tiger Casey Crosby, on receiving the news of promotion to Major League Baseball last week.


Crosby, the 181st player selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, received the call from the Tigers to go up to “The Show” and made his first start on Friday, nearly five years to the day he was selected by the Tigers.

Crosby recalled the details of the whirlwind week by phone at Comerica Park on Tuesday.

“They called around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time and I was in Rochester (N.Y.),” Crosby said. “There is no explanation or way to prepare yourself. I felt like I was going to black out. I was all excited and I couldn’t stand still.”

Crosby’s first start was a national television broadcast done by Bob Costas and John Smoltz.

It was only against the New York Yankees.

While Crosby was replaced in the fourth inning of his major league debut, the southpaw is up with the big club and ready to help the Tigers in their American League Central division race.

“When I got into the locker room I saw (pitchers) Drew Smyly, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and they said congrats.”

Crosby now serves manager Jim Leyland on the mound and was at ease when dealing with his tactics and his clubhouse.

“He’s definitely a player’s manager,” Crosby said. “He likes it loose in there, not tight. He talks with everyone before the game.”

While he flummoxed hitters like Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez on changeups, he fell victim to a bases-on-balls epidemic and surrendered a grand slam to Granderson, falling behind 5-1 in the second inning en route to getting tagged with the loss.

Going into the game, Crosby was able to have a degree of comfort due to a lineup switch.


“(Casey) is a humble kid who has come a long way.”

– KHS baseball coach Brian Aversa


“Omir Santos was the catcher that night and he caught me in Toledo (Class AAA), so he was familiar with me, and we were able to talk about what we would do,” Crosby said.

Crosby was prepared to go into Friday’s start for battle, regardless of the intimidating nature of the AL East powerhouse lineup.

“I knew entering in that it’s a big league linup and it’ll be tough. You just go in there and they are like any other hitters and you can get them out. You just try to make it through,” Crosby said.

Crosby had plenty of well-wishers that not only made a short trip to Comerica Park, but from here, as well.

“I felt like a little kid. (Casey) is a humble kid who has come a long way,” KHS baseball coach Brian Aversa said.

Aversa was able to be at the helm for Crosby’s senior season on the diamond in 2007. He was just one of approximately 25 people of a group that included family, friends, coaches and teammates like Jake Razo.

“It was so cool to see, and it’s all up to him now if he performs well. He’s shown he can pitch at this level,” Aversa said.

Crosby knows the sheer odds he had to wade through to get to Detroit. He plans to bounce back after taking the loss on Friday.

“You’ve seen the stats on players that make it to the majors after being drafted. It’s definitely cool to know you’re one that made it. You know how to succeed and you know how fail once you pitch on this level. You don’t dwell on it and you move on and that the experience is for the better.

Crosby is scheduled to face the visiting Cleveland Indians on Thursday, June 7.



• Crosby’s Tigers jersey No. 45 was most recently worn by Ryan Perry, Aquilino Lopez, Alexis Gomez and Lino Urdaneta.

• As of Friday, Crosby becomes the 12th player from the fifth round of the 2007 draft to make the majors, which includes Cardinals pitcher Mark Rzepczynski.

• As of Friday, Crosby becomes the 6th player from Detroit’s 2007 draft to make the majors, joining Rick Porcello, Danny Worth, Luke Putkonen, Charlie Furbush and former Cub DJ LeMahieu.

• As a Kaneland senior in 2006, Crosby nabbed 75 catches for 1,185 yards and 18 TD’s as a wide receiver for the Knights’ football squad that made it to the Class 5A semifinals.


Friday, June 1, 2012 Comerica Park, DETROIT, Mich. Detroit Tigers (24-27) vs. New York Yankees (27-23) 56 degrees, cloudy Wind: 14 mph, out to left Home plate umpire: Jerry Layne Yankees P: CC Sabathia (6-2) Crosby’s box score: Top 1: Derek Jeter singled to center, Curtis Granderson struck out looking, Mark Teixeira lined out to left, Jeter to second on passed ball, Alex Rodriguez struck out looking 0 runs, 1 hits, 0 errors NY Yankees 0, Detroit 0 A Danny Worth RBI single gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Top 2nd: Robinson Cano walked, Nick Swisher walked, Cano to second, Andruw Jones fouled out to third, Jayson Nix walked, Cano to third, Swisher to second, Chris Stewart flied out to shallow left, Jeter walked, Cano scored, Swisher to third, Nix to second, Granderson homered to deep right, Swisher, Nix and Jeter scored, Teixeira flied out to left 5 runs, 1 hits, 0 errors NY Yankees 5, Detroit 1 Top 3rd: Rodriguez struck out swinging, Cano grounded out to shortstop, Swisher flied out to left 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors NY Yankees 5, Detroit 1 A Ramon Santiago home run and a Prince Fiedler RBI single cut the Yankees lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the third inning. Top 4th: Jones grounded out to shortstop, Nix doubled to shallow right, Nix stole third Stewart singled to shallow center, Nix scored Luis Marte relieved C. Crosby 1 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors NY Yankees 6, Detroit 3 Final score: NY Yankees 9, Tigers 4 W: Sabathia (7-2) L: Crosby (0-1) SV: Rafael Soriano (7) IP H R ER BB K HR WHIP ERA Crosby 3.1 4 6 6 4 3 1 2.40 16.20 76 pitches, 40 strikes

Sterling softball too golden for Kaneland

in Featured/Softball by

Photo: Hayley Contorno slides safely into second on a hit by Sarah Grams in the second inning of Kaneland’s sectional playoff game against Sterling, hosted by Belvidere North, on May 30. Photo by John DiDonna

KHS softball (31-7) sees season end
in sectional semi

by Mike Slodki
BELVIDERE, Ill.—Kaneland softball’s season had more ups than downs in 2012.

Unfortunately, the Sterling Lady Warriors brand of diamond play made KHS land with a thud.

A Lady Knight lineup that saw the spectrum of convincing victories and dramatic comebacks in a regional championship—its first since 2005—fell victim to the pitching of Stephanie Kester and an opponent that plated nine runs in a 9-1 sectional semifinal result at Belvidere North High School on May 30.

Sterling lost to Marengo in the sectional final on Monday by a 2-1 clip.

Kaneland’s season ended at 31-7.

“They earned everything they got this year,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “Certainly it’s encouraging that we’ll be getting people back, but it’s hard to comprehend right now and it’s disappointing to go out this way.”

Kester defeated Delani Vest in the pitching matchup in what would be Vest’s final varsity game.

But Vest contributed early with her bat after allowing a run in the top of the first inning.

After a double, Allyson O’Herron sacrificed her over to third base. Third baseman Paige Kuefler drove Vest home with a single but was thrown out at second.

Sterling scored twice in the second for a 3-1 deficit, and Kaneland would find itself with two runners on base for the last time in the game.

With one out, Hayley Contorno and Sarah Grams laced back-to-back singles, but Sam Hansen lined out and Vest popped out to end the threat.

Kaneland would get just two more hits the remainder of the game, and Sterling would put up two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and three more in the seventh to ice the win.

While Sterling’s fielding kept the Lady Knights mostly in check, Willis would liked to have seen enough hitting for the defense to be irrelevant.

“We bunted the ball too hard, it was right to their third baseman, and I would put it more on us than I would on them.”

With the conclusion of Kaneland’s softball year, the program says goodbye to seniors Vest, Hansen, McKinzie Mangers, Alexis Villarreal and Sarah Kitz.

Summer Bluegrass Festival to support Farmer-Veteran Coalition

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: Heritage Prairie Farm will hold a Red, White and Bluegrass Fundraiser Festival on Saturday, June 9, 3 to 10 p.m. to raise awareness to the Farmer Veteran Coalition and to raise funds to conduct a Veterans To Farmers Workshop. Courtesy Photo

by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Building a green economy and assisting veterans as they find new careers and a way to heal … a tall order, but that’s what the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC) aims to do. Heritage Prairie Farm, a sustainable produce farm east of Elburn, is holding a “Red, White Bluegrass Fundraiser Festival” on Saturday, June 9, to benefit the organization.

The festival will feature kids activities and games, a variety of local foods, local beer and wine offerings, and bluegrass music.

“Our Saturdays on the farm are usually dedicated to weddings. We wanted to kick off summer and dedicate that Saturday to families and to the community,” said Daryn Pobanz, director of events at the farm. “It’s an opportunity to come out to the farm on a Saturday.”

Along with the bounce room, mechanical bull and dunk tank, families will have the chance to take part in an old-fashioned sack race and see the donkey, goat and peacock who live on the farm.

Concessions will be available. Families can also purchase tickets to the barbecue buffet prepared by Chef Jeremy Lycan.

The musical headliner is Bubbly Creek Bluegrass, along with Cpt. Captain and Fox Valley Grass.

The Red, White Bluegrass Festival will raise awareness, as well as funds, that Heritage Prairie Farm needs to conduct a Veterans to Farmers Workshop. The workshop will be tailored to Illinois vets who are interested in careers in sustainable agriculture.

“The end plan (for Heritage Prairie Farm) is to host a conference in the late summer and early fall where vets can get connected to agencies for training and jobs,” Pobanz said.

The conference will let returning veterans know of the options for careers in sustainable agriculture. It connects them with educational and training resources, and provides internships and support for the type of farming or food career that fits their interest, location and unique skills and abilities.

Festival tickets are $20 (no charge for children ages 12 and under). Barbecue buffet tickets are $25 ($10 for children ages 12 and under). Tickets are available online at heritageprairiefarm.com or by calling (630) 443-5989.

For more information on FVC, visit www.farmvetco.org.

Farmer-Veteran Coalition seeks to serve veterans who fall into the following categories:
• Vets with or without previous farming experience
• Vets who are pursuing education in agriculture at a 2- or 4-year institution
• Vets looking for work in agriculture and to gain experience before starting a farm of their own
• Disabled vets seeking internships to obtain training and a peaceful environment to heal from war experiences
• Vets who grew up on family farms and came home with war-related injuries

Elburn native cuts singer-songwriter album in Nashville

in Elburn/Featured/Kaneland by

Photo: Charles Cain playing with the NIU Jazz Band. Courtesy Photo

by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—The Elburn-to-Nashville pipeline might not be thought of as a road to potential success and stardom, but it’s a path that suits Charles Cain just fine.

Cain, a former Elburn resident, 2009 Kaneland High School graduate and multi-instrumentalist, recently released his album “Civil Ghost,” an effort that took Cain a year to fund and two weeks to record. And in early May, he rang in his 21st birthday by playing a debut show in Nashville—the songwriting capital of the world, and the city where Cain currently resides.

Cain’s music is described as “rich, soulful indie music.” As for how he was bitten by the music bug, Cain’s mother Lora said it was probably due to the abundance of music that was played in their home during his childhood.

“We always had music on in the house, from the time he was little,” she said.

Charles Cain with his first drum set in 1998. Courtesy Photo
“My parents would play it loud, I remember that,” Charles said. “I’m told I would sing and dance to George Thorogood when I was 2, but mostly I remember my dad’s favorite: Van Morrison. He was always playing that. My older brother, Jonathan, studied piano, too, so music was all around. Always. In one form or another.”

Lora said the musical gene in Charlie’s family largely stems from his grandmother, Darlene Stoffa.

“She’s Elburn’s Betty White. She played piano while we kids all sang,” Lora said. “I learned to play piano, and I would play, and both our sons play piano. That’s Jonathan’s primary instrument, but he is also an aviator, so he is pursuing his career in business, often helping his little brother with music and finance decisions.”

As a young musician, Charles was involved in band and drumline. Following high school graduation, he attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts and studied jazz percussion. Charles said his attraction to percussion as a major was instinctive.

“(As a child) I told my mom I wanted drums for Christmas, and that Christmas she found a set of used drums at a used instrument store,” he said. “It’s my favorite Christmas memory. Drum set came very naturally to me even when I was really young.”

In terms of ensemble work, Charles cut his teeth in the group Bugs as Trees, which also featured keyboardist Alec Watson. Watson’s playing can be heard on several tracks on “Civil Ghost.”

“Alec is a world-class keyboard player. He studies at the Dave Brubeck Institute in California,” Lora said. “Alec literally travels the world performing. He wanted to play keyboards on Charles’ album, so we flew Alec to Nashville.”

Lora said songwriting is the next step in Charles’ career.

“Publishing is a great field for him. He’s a phenomenal musician and that’s his passion, but money is easier to attain in songwriting,” she said. “He is hoping to keep his music performance a passion and not the way to pay the mortgage.”

“(Songwriting) was always in me, but I didn’t share it until I was ready, which was in my mid-teens,” Charles said. “I’m always writing. It never ends. It’s in my head at all times. I never really sleep.”

“Civil Ghost” is available on iTunes, and can be heard on Spotify and www.artistsignal.com.

Throwing his hat into the ring

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: Mark Maxwell is a local inventor who created low-impact headgear for mechanics, kids and whoever else would be in jeopardy of a head injury. Photo by Lynn Meredith

Elburn man launches line of low-impact headgear
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—During his many years of working underneath heavy equipment and being conscious of trying not to hit his head, Mark Maxwell began to conceive of headgear that would not only protect workers’ heads should they knock up against steel, but also protect their heads and necks from the inevitable grease and grime that come with the job.

The result is a line of headgear, launched by Maxwell, that is shock-absorbent and prevents minor injuries.

The good news is that it’s not just for construction workers and mechanics. The headgear is so adaptable that it can be used as newborn caps, Little League baseball caps and protection for the elderly, law enforcement, military and skate and snow boarders—anyone who may be prone to minor head injuries from bumping their head or getting hit by an errant object. It can lessen the incidence of scrapes, bruises and even concussions that occur in household, work or recreational situations.

“It’s been in my mind for probably 20 years. Then I was sitting in a hotel in Norwalk, Conn., watching the TV show Modern Marvels. They were showing guys working on an assembly line of Corvettes, and one guy hit his head,” Maxwell said. “I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I’m doing this.’”

Maxwell resolved to call Invention Resource International (IRI), a company that helps inventors bring their product to market, much like an agent would. He gave the firm his information, and less than a week later they called back interested in working with him on the product line.

The next step was global patent research and building a prototype. The patent was approved in January, and the prototype, well, Maxwell handled that by going to Hobby Lobby.

“I found some fish-eye buttons to simulate the inside. They simulated the single-celled bubbles that are the buffer-zone that protects the head,” Maxwell said.

The headgear fits like a baseball cap with a Velcro-band closure. It has an inner lining beneath the dome shape of the cap that will absorb impacts and cushion and protect the wearer’s head. The lining is similar to protective bubble-wrap used in packaging, but tougher, more durable and more permanent. It’s light-weight and malleable to the shape of the cap and the wearer’s head, and it’s fire-retardant.

“Welders, military, law enforcement, department of transportation and municipal workers don’t have to wear hard hats. I’ve seen guys wrap carpeting around the cap and cut off the bill, so they could get in places. They used to take bubble wrap and put it under their caps,” Maxwell said.

The Low Impact Headgear also has a bandanna style that is easier to wear in tight places. Maxwell estimates the cost of the headgear to be approximately $20-30.

“This product is extra protection—like for cops when they go into a bar to break up a fight. They could get hit over the head with a bottle. You spend $25 on a hat or a bandanna, and you don’t have to pay (as much) workers’ compensation and loss of employment. What’s $25?” he said.

His immediate task is to find manufacturing. Maxwell has two stipulations: that the manufacturer follow his patent and that the product be made in the United States.

“I’m a construction guy and a proud American. I want it made in the USA,” Maxwell said.

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