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Rivals come together in Cougar-land

in Baseball/Health & Wellness/Kaneland/Regional by

Photo: KHS softball coach Brian Willis, who is battling colon cancer, will be honored at Monday’s Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland-Batavia clash to benefit great causes
KANELAND—Area baseball teams aren’t only mindful of the postseason task ahead. They’re also willing and able to help out their fellow man.

“This annual tradition has given us an avenue to do something bigger than baseball and has allowed each of the programs involved to give back to the community,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

On Monday, May 19, at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars, Kaneland and Batavia will do battle for a Senior Night game that will benefit three honorees.

The honorees are Harter Middle School student Drew Hahn, son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn, and dealing with Anaplastic Large-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Phil Kassinger, father of Knight baseball player Kevin Kassinger, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer; and KHS softball coach Brian Willis, battling colon cancer.

“This year, we’ve found multiple needs in our community, and it is unfortunate that we can’t reach all the families that have been touched by this dreaded disease,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Willis, who is scheduled for his last chemotherapy treatment the day of the game, is thankful of the proceedings.

“Thankfully I am almost done and hope I am cleared of any cancer cells left in my body,” Willis said. “Every day a new struggle starts or continues and that is who we fight for.”

Admission is $5 for adults and students, with kids under 6 able to be admitted for free. All proceeds collected will be donated to the honorees and their families.

The game is also slated to be broadcast on BATV, highschoolcube.com and the radio. Shirts will be available for purchase and multiple silent auctions will be going toward the benefit of the families, as well.

“This will be a very special night for the seniors, their parents, both baseball programs, and the people that we will be honoring,” Aversa said.

First pitch for the sophomore game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., while the varsity is slated to begin at 7 p.m. under the lights.

Visit khs.kaneland.org/content/pack-park for more details.

Hultgren commends Illinois’ heroin state of emergency declaration

in Health & Wellness/Regional by

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) recently commended the Illinois State House for unanimously passing a resolution declaring a “heroin state of emergency” across the state, and pushed for the community to come together to finalize a plan to combat heroin and opioid abuse. In recent years, heroin has seen a striking reappearance in the Chicago area, including in the collar counties.

“Heroin and opioid abuse is a growing threat to our communities in Illinois, as we found out at my community leadership forum last month. I applaud the Illinois House for recognizing the seriousness of the situation, but we must act now to stem the tide of heroin deaths and overdose,” Rep. Hultgren said. “What we need is an action plan that our entire community can pursue, and I encourage everyone to review the community forum’s draft action plan and send their recommendations to my office so we can finalize a solution to move forward and coordinate our efforts across northern Illinois. I will be sharing this draft action plan with the state legislators for their review. Together, we can combat heroin and opioid abuse and provide hope for the victims and their families caught in its trap.”

Hultgren on March 7 convened a Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention in Geneva to bring together a diverse array of experts and local and state leaders—including law enforcement, drug courts, elected officials, educators, treatment providers and recovery centers—to share resources and ideas to tackle the growing threat of heroin addiction and opioid abuse in northern Illinois. Participants represented all seven of the collar counties, including Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb and Will counties.

Following the event, Hultgren launched an event summary and working draft action plan, available at www.hultgren.house.gov/heroin, based on the breakout discussion groups and ensure community coordination and follow-up to what was discussed.

Swimming with ‘sharks’

in Regional/Sugar Grove by

Sugar Grove couple’s trackless train scores investors on ABC show
SUGAR GROVE—An appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” was just the ticket for Sugar Grove residents Stan Krozel and Kevin Ullery, who scored two billionaire investors for their trackless train amusement ride in an episode that aired April 11.

The Sugar Grove pair appeared on the popular reality show to pitch their business, Fun Time Express, which offers rides on a trackless miniature train in shopping malls, to a group of wealthy entrepreneurs—the “sharks”—who look for new businesses and products to invest in.

“Shark Tank,” now in its fifth season, currently stars billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of AXS TV and the Dallas Mavericks, as well as real estate investor Barbara Corcoran, QVC star Lori Grenier, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion and branding expert Daymond John, and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary.

Krozel and Ullery flew out to Los Angeles last fall to ask the sharks for $125,000 in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the company so that they could further expand.

Despite a dramatic presentation where they rode into the room in the train, the company nearly didn’t get an investor. Grenier changed her mind at the last minute when Krozel modified the pitch to sweeten the deal, offering to pay back the $125,000 out of this year’s profits. She agreed to put up half of the $125,000 if O’Leary would partner with her—a moment that left both Krozel and Ullery cheering.

“We are going to bring a trackless train in every mall in America!” Krozel exclaimed in the episode.

It’s a great opportunity for Krozel and Ullery, but it wasn’t easy to get there.
Developing the perfect pitch for the show was one of the biggest challenges for the duo, who had only one chance to sell the concept to the sharks.

“Before you go out, they know nothing about you, and you get one shot,” Ullery said. “So you really need to be prepared, and it’s very nerve racking.”

Krozel said that presenting a clear financial picture was key to securing investors.
“We were really very prepared with our numbers, and we had evaluated our business and what it was worth,” Krozel said.

Fun Time Express is in its third year of operation—the first train began running at the Cherry Vale Mall in Rockford, Ill., in 2011—and the business has tripled since then. Eight trains are now operating in five states, including three in Illinois, and the company’s gross revenues were $300,000 in 2013, up from $96,000 in 2011. About 30 percent of that is profit, Ullery said.

Krozel handles the company’s business operations and finances, while Ullery handles the company’s marketing, website and graphic design. It’s been a good business pairing for the couple, who said working together has strengthened their relationship.

It isn’t the first time they’ve worked together. They also own Royal Service Realty, a real estate company that they opened in 2002 in Aurora, Ill. After the housing market crashed in 2008, the couple had to close their main office in Aurora, which Ullery describes as one of the toughest moments in their lives. Though they still own and operate Royal Service Realty—a smaller office survived—they needed to find a second source of income during the recession.

When Krozel first suggested the idea of opening a business specializing in train amusement rides, though, Ullery admits he didn’t think it was the wisest idea.

“I thought he had lost his mind,” Ullery said.

But Krozel was serious, and when Ullery went to see a similar train in action, he realized that the business had real potential.
“I thought, ‘Oh wow, we can really do this and take it to a whole other level,” Ullery said. “If you had told me four or five years ago that I would be running choo-choo trains in the mall, I would’ve said you were crazy. But it’s been amazing.”

Fun Time Express has been growing, but Krozel and Ullery thought it had the potential to be much bigger. Purchasing more trains—each one costs about $37,000—and negotiating with malls was a challenge, though.

“There’s always an uphill battle with any new business,” Krozel said. “Some of the concerns malls have is how you’re going to drive a train through a mall with shoppers.”

The trains operate at walking speed, Ullery said, which makes it easy to avoid shoppers, and because they don’t stop at stores, there’s no issue with people trying to get on or off while the train is moving. They’ve never had an accident.

An appearance on “Shark Tank,” the couple realized, could help them gain the money and contacts they needed to expand further, as well as increase the visibility of their business. They applied to be on the show a year ago, and producers were interested enough to ask them to submit a video application to see how they did on camera.

After that, producers flew them out to Los Angeles to meet the production team and film the episode last fall, but there was no guarantee they’d make it in front of the sharks until they’d worked through part of their pitch.

They were required to keep their appearance and the show’s result secret for nearly six months until the episode aired.

“It was so hard to keep it a secret,” Ullery said. “But the nature of the show is keeping people guessing. It was difficult, but it was also fun to surprise all our friends and family.”

Though their pitch was condensed to 12 minutes for television, Krozel and Ullery met with the sharks for over an hour.

“Even though it’s condensed on air, we were in front of them for four or five times as long,” Krozel said. “There were a lot more details behind the scenes. (Viewers) don’t see how they come up with their questions, but there are more details about the finances and specific details about the product and where the businesses are located.”

Some of the details about the filming aren’t supposed to be revealed, Ullery said, but each business creating a pitch is assigned a producer who helps them design the pitch.

“It’s really up to you to get it right,” he said. “We just practiced over and over.”

Producers also came out to Sugar Grove to film the couple at their home, offering a glimpse into their home and personal life, which doesn’t happen with all contestants. The “home package,” as Ullery described it, was somewhat less realistic—the episode showed the pair sitting in rocking chairs on their front porch, which they rarely do—but otherwise the show is absolutely real, he said.

“Of course they edit for television, but ‘Shark Tank’ is the real deal and the negotiations are legitimate,” he said. “The producers and everybody involved were nothing but wonderful.”

In the six months since Grenier and O’Leary committed to investing in Fun Time Express, the partnership has been moving forward. Grenier and O’Leary are serving as financial backers for the company, but the business itself hasn’t changed much yet.

“They want small businesses to keep doing what they’re doing,” Krozel said. “They are just offering advice and contacts. There’s a limit to how fast a small business can grow, and this is a catalyst to help you grow quicker and bigger.”

Their appearance on “Shark Tank” and securing investors has been an amazing experience overall, Ullery said.

“I can say this: this was one of the proudest moments we’ve had as a couple,” he said.

“Shark Tank” airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC. To watch the episode Krozel and Ullery appeared on, visit ABC’s website at abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/ and select Episode 24; the Fun Time Express pitch is the third segment.

courtesy photos

KHS, McDole in tech demonstration

in Kaneland/Regional by

SPRINGFIELD—Kaneland High School and McDole Elementary School are among approximately two of 60 schools statewide that will participate in the annual TECH 2014 Students for the Information Age event on Thursday, May 8, at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

From 1 to 3 p.m., students will show the public and elected members of the Illinois State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in the classroom to improve student achievement. Computer workstations will be set up in the Capitol Building Rotunda so students may show how technology has helped them with their schoolwork.

Taking part in the demonstrations locally are KHS seniors Andrea Petrarca and Jackson Thomas, junior Alexander Ochoa, and teacher Beth Trafton. Representing McDole Elementary School will be teachers Anne Olsen and Cathy Lannert, and selected fourth- and fifth-grade students. Students will share how their knowledge of Google documents has enhanced their
learning to better prepare them for college and beyond, as well as innovative blogging ideas for writing.

The purpose of TECH 2014 is to raise awareness of the critical role technology plays in preparing students to succeed in today’s world, and to show the need for increased funding for classroom technology. Students will demonstrate for lawmakers and the public the creative ways technology is being used to enhance and accelerate student achievement in Illinois schools today.

An Easter journey

in Faith/Maple Park/Regional by

Photo: Valleybrook Community Church Pastor Brian Smith of Batavia touches base on the meaning of Easter with the youth before excusing them to Sunday school. Photo by Lynn Logan

Valleybrook Church celebrates Easter with new location
MAPLE PARK—Valleybrook Community Church celebrated Easter on Sunday in its new location at the former Kaneland Middle School on Meredith Road, next to the high school.

Valleybrook was founded in 2002 and began life at the former campus of the Broadview Academy on Keslinger Road in La Fox. The church in 2005 moved to Blackberry Creek Elementary School in Elburn.

Valleybrook was originally a daughter church to the First Baptist Church of Geneva. Initially it had a launch team of 100 people from the First Baptist Church, and now has around 150 people who attend regularly. After experiencing an increase in attendance, Pastor Brian Smith felt it was time for Valleybrook to move to a different location that would support a bigger congregation.

“With growth in attendance beginning to squeeze us at Blackberry Creek last fall, we learned of the larger middle school and made plans to hold our larger Christmas service there in December (2013),” Pastor Smith said. “Our people were excited about the middle school facility at Christmas, and we began to explore possibilities of making a more permanent move by Easter.”

The church gathered together at their new location at 9:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday to enjoy a continental reception with coffee and rolls, followed by its worship service at 10 a.m.

Their service featured a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary music, a children’s lesson, and a message explaining why Christ’s death on the cross is the most important gift that the world has ever received, according to Pastor Smith. Kids in grades kindergarten through third had their children’s church during the service, where they learned about the importance of the meaning behind Easter.

After their regular church services, Valleybrook has what it calls a “connection time,” which is similar to Sunday school for adults and children.

A forward-thinking church, Valleybrook has already preselected a location should it choose to have a new facility built in the future.

“The location is on Hughes Road, not far from Route 47,” Pastor Smith said. “As far as the timing, that is in God’s hands.”

Teamwork turns discovery of books into opportunity

in Elburn/Kaneland/Maple Park/Regional/Sugar Grove by

Photos: Elburn Lions Club members, community supporter Melisa Taylor and surrounding school district (including Kaneland and West Aurora) and community members recently collaborated to compile a large assortment of books for the Elburn Lions for Literacy program to donate. Over 2,000 brand-new books were distributed to surrounding schools and families, including the Guerreros (right), and Julio and Erik Gallegos (below, left to right) of Sugar Grove. Photos by Lynn Logan

ELBURN—Elburn Lion Joe Kryszak said he’s good at making pork chops and raising money. That’s why, when Lion Brooke Kelley’s husband Vince and his brother Gene came upon a motherlode of beautiful, brand new books in a repossessed warehouse in early January, Kryszak called on the people who were experts on books.

The Kelley brothers were cleaning out the warehouse when they found about 4,000 mostly elementary-level children’s books. Many of the books were bilingual, with Spanish words alongside the English translation.
Vince knew that Kryszak was in charge of the Elburn Lions for Literacy program, so the brothers contacted him. The mission of the Lions program is to get age and gender-specific books into the hands of needy children within the Kaneland School District.

Kryszak enlisted the help of local librarians, as well as Dr. Sarah Mumm, Kaneland School District’s director of Educational Services for grades K-5. They were able to help sort the books by age and gender.

Representatives from Westside Services, the Maple Park Family Fund, Between Friends Food Pantry in Sugar Grove, as well as area churches, provided anonymous lists of children to receive the books.

“Everybody got involved,” Kryszak said. “The sorting process took well over a month, with various members of the community helping.”

Members of the Literacy Committee, including Lions Pam Hall, Bob Burkholder, Mary Gustafson and Hilda Meyer, helped sort, as did Town and Country Public Library employee Ben Brown and Friends of the Library members Al Guthke and Sharon Kryszak.

Lions Ron Algrim and Tom Mahan made sure that the driveway to the garage was continuously plowed so the volunteers could get into the building to sort, and Lions J.D. Lamb and Tommy McCartney gave up a Sunday afternoon of watching football for moving cases upon cases of books from one area to another.

Melisa Taylor, director of the Between Friends Food Pantry Director in Sugar Grove, received some of the books from Kryszak to distribute to the Food Pantry’s clients for their children and grandchildren.

Taylor, who also collects and distributes coats to families in need each year, contacted the West Aurora School District with coats beyond what was needed in Kaneland. When Laurie Klomhaus, principal of Aurora-based Todd Early Childhood Center, came to the food pantry to pick up the coats, Kryszak was there volunteering.

Kryszak found that Klomhaus was interested in the collection of bilingual books for her families, and he was glad to find a home for them.

“They are absolutely gorgeous books,” Klomhaus said.

They are called board books, as they are made with a hard, stiff cardboard, she said. They are smaller and thicker, making it easier for little hands to manipulate them, and they’re great for parents to read with their children.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Klomhaus said. “It’s neat how it all worked out.”

Klomhaus said she has begun to distribute the books to the families in her program, which includes 380 3- to 5-year-olds who are all at-risk for one reason or another. The Early Childhood Center gives these children a leg-up to get ready for kindergarten, she said.

The next distribution of books in the Kaneland District will take place during the Easter holiday, Kryszak said. It’s the literacy program’s second year.

“From two brothers standing in a warehouse to kids getting new books. Isn’t it surprising what can happen when a community chips in to help those less fortunate?” Kryszak said.

Kryszak said that the Elburn Lions for Literacy will host a book drive in May, and will gladly accept new or gently-used book donations. He said a good test for what “gently used” means is that they are good enough to give to his grandchildren.

“We asked the librarians, ‘Where do we start with kids?’,” Kryszak said. “They told us, ‘As soon as they can hold a book.’”

For information on how to participate and assist in combatting illiteracy in our community, visit the Elburn Lions website, www.elburnlions.com.

House of Steel

in Community Sports/Elburn/Kaneland/Regional/Winter Sports by
stefanos sioux falls cropped

Lekkas brothers have lived lives on ice
ELBURN—There’s a whole lot of hockey talent in Elburn.

Much of it is courtesy of one household.

The Lekkas brothers of Elburn have long shown an affinity for hockey, having all participated to various degrees. Even when not participating, the chill of the sport was always around.

“Hockey was always on TV in the house, always that instead of MTV,” said Stefanos, who graduated high school in Springfield this past December and has donned the goalie mask for the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues and currently for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.

Older brother Stelios, a sophomore in the medical program at University of Illinois-Chicago, also participated in cross country at Kaneland and played hockey before shoulder surgery put his ice career on the backburner. Youngest, but not least, is eighth-grader Evan, who attends Kaneland Harter Middle School and is currently playing “AAA” level with the Chicago Young Americans this spring.

“There was always 110 percent support for each other. Our house was definitely a hockey home,” Stefanos said. “I think it was great my parents (Angelo and Lisa) followed it.”

Angelo, principal of Genoa-Kingston middle school, is able to view the sport as a bonding experience for any family, not just the Lekkas’ of Elburn.

Courtesy photos
Courtesy photos
“Hockey is a very family-oriented sport,” Angelo said. “Due to the long distances and overnight trips, families and players spend many hours together in rink lobbies and hotels. Very strong bonds develop. The relationships they build last a lifetime.

“Each of the boys drove their decision to play and the level to which they take their game,” Angelo said.

Stefanos, who was named team MVP in Springfield at the conclusion of the last season, was called up to Sioux Falls and got thrown into the fire on ice, having to step into goal in the middle of the April 5 regular season finale against the Omaha Lancers. Stopping 12 of 12 shot attempts in the 3-2 loss, the netminder was cognizant of the level of play.

“Every level you move up, the players that move up with you are better,” he said. “You’re playing for an opportunity and trying to go to college for free.”

The Stampede, facing the Waterloo Black Hawks this week in the USHL playoffs first round, led the league in attendance with over 127,000 fans in 2013-14 at the Sioux Falls Arena.

“Springfield is the capital, and it’s a good team, but hockey is big in Sioux Falls. They get a lot of support there and the arena is packed and the whole town rallies,” Stelios said. “I’ll always try to give him a shoutout on Facebook after a game or call him.”

The Tier 1 junior hockey level club has accented the strides Stefanos feels he’s made in the two years since suiting up for the Chicago Mission U16 club in Midget-level hockey.

“I’m just mentally able to handle adversity better and whatever comes along,” Stefanos said. “I just try to go out every day and stick with what works.”

Stelios had to make a decision after shoulder surgery stopped his forward momentum and championship run with the “AA” level Northwest Chargers of Hoffman Estates, Ill., but can still be supportive and offer experience.

“I still wanted to play, and it kind of sucks to stop,” Stelios said. “I talked it over with my parents, who played a big role, and it was tough at the time, but it ended up being the right decision.”

The current UIC Flame student can point at his mask-donning brother as taking the passion to a new level in the family.

“Hockey is definitely our No. 1 sport. I’m not as crazy as my brother about it, he was only hockey. We would watch it all the time on TV, but we still have our stupid shows we watch,” Stelios said.

Now with Evan coming up through the ranks, the elder brothers can relive a bit of what they went through, and even issue perspective.

“Evan’s getting up there now, and it’s cool to see and to see him go through some of the same things I went through,” Stefanos said. “I’ll do anything I can for him.”

“He’s a real hard worker, and it’s going to turn out all right for him,” Stelios said. “He’s very focused.”

With the brothers having spent countless hours in chilly ice arenas, pride for the hockey accomplishments don’t need to thaw.

“I’ve been very fortunate to spend hundreds of hours with each of my kids coaching them on the ice,” Angelo said.

Stefanos and the Stampede began the first round of the Western Conference semifinals in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, losing 7-4 to Waterloo. Saturday saw the the Stampede lose 6-3, they now travel back to home ice tonight at 7:05 p.m.

When not picking
up the stick, the brothers are also musically inclined.
Stelios plays piano,
Stefanos plays trumpet
and Evan plays violin.

Broader band

in Regional/Sugar Grove by

Village Board discusses potential fiber optic grant
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed an application for a grant to fund a fiber optic project.

The competitive grant would allow the village to implement fiber optics from Kaneland Harter Middle School to John Shields Elementary School and also to Sugar Grove Village Hall, Fire District and the Public Library.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger explained the possibilities and details concerning the grant.

“It looks like this is a joint project,” Eichelberger said. “This project would have an extensive cost, but if we got the grant, it would make it affordable for us all.”

Kaneland School District hasn’t 100 percent signed off on this idea, but it is for the project, according to Eichelberger. The main base project would concern the connecting of fiber optics to John Shields Elementary.

There is currently a main fiber optic strand that runs on I-88 and Route 47, and Harter Middle School connects to that line via Waubonsee Community College. If the project were to be finalized and the grant received, a small fiber optic line would also run from the middle school and travel down Esker Drive, Municipal Drive and then Route 30 to connect to Village Hall.

According to Eichelberger, the project would potentially lay down 96 fiber optic strands and create a limitless bandwidth, according to Eichelberger.

Village President Sean Michels noted that it would be possible for village businesses to connect to the dark fiber.

“The first step would be applying for the grant,” Eichelberger said. “We think it has a good shot.”

Kaneland celebrates 15th Fine Arts Festival

in Kaneland/Regional by

Photos: The Kaneland Arts Initiative celebrated its 15th annual Fine Arts Festival on Sunday at Kaneland High School. The event boasted a wealth of professional artists, musicians, dancers and actors. Peter Thaddeus (right) creates an acrylic work of art to add to those displayed around him. Peter has a B.A. in interior design from the Illinois Institute of Art. He not only creates acrylic paintings, but enjoys teaching others to do the same. Potter Earl Heinz (below) works with McDole second-grader Gianna Walgren to create a clay masterpiece. Photos by Patti Wilk

KANELAND—More than 500 Kaneland School District art pieces were on display at the Kaneland Arts Initiative’s 15th annual Fine Arts Festival on Sunday.

The festival also had a variety of professional artists, musicians, dancers and actors. According to Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of KAI, about 2,500 attended the arts gala, held at Kaneland High School.

“There’s always something new. And always something fun,” Dripps-Paulson said.

The event showed art in the hallway, around the corner and in the pavillion, aka cafeteria.
Gloria Elliott, a fifth-grader at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School, during the festival walked to a display table and pointed out her artistic creation. Elliott, a Maple Park resident, had made a little lavender with blue specks dragon sculpture with thin wings flapped out.

She said it was cool to be able to show her work.

“People actually get to see what you’ve made,” Elliott said. “It just makes you feel really happy to see it.”

Kaneland parent Chris Wimberger, a Sugar Grove resident, expressed his appreciation for the festival.

“We have, I think, just a mix of everybody—diverse backgrounds and different cultures,” he said. “Seeing all that come together in the form of art is just amazing.”

Dylan Good Trio took center stage in the dark auditorium during the Fine Arts Festival. Good, a Kaneland High School graduate, was featured as the fest’s Kaneland Alumni Spotlight.

The trio included Good on drums, Dan Lopatka on bass and Mike Lockler on electric guitar. Together they blended jazzy, mellow and cool sounds with a beating drum pulse.

Autumn Ross, a KHS sophomore, had an art piece that stood out during the arts festival. From afar it gave the appearance of a colorless drawing with eyebrows, wide almond-shaped eyes and thick, curved lashes, with the bottom of her eyes showing diamond-shaped tears.

A closer look showed no tears but rather fingers gripping, clutching.

“It’s creepy,” said Kim Yost, a Sugar Grove resident.

Paul Quitno of Rochelle, Ill., approved of Ross’ artwork.

“That’s very artistic,” Quitno said. “Very creative.”

The pavillion came alive with professional artists doing their crafts. The Kaneland Youth Orchestra serenaded those in attendance with slow tunes.

Lawrence J. Cimaglio did a glass-fusing demonstration during the festival. He rolled glass in a flame, then he blew the end of the glass and it bubbled to become a Christmas ornament.

Lee Chulwoo provided Korean calligraphy, dipping his brush in black ink and painting characters on thin, white Korean paper made of rice.

Breanna Roberts, a John Stewart Elementary School student, smiled as she watched her name written in the calligraphy.

“I’ve never seen something in Korean,” she said.

Greta Bell, a modern oil painting artist, peddled on a red bike and powered a colorful carousel, an “r/evolving circus.”

As the carousel moved, it showed vivid painted canvases. Painted pictures included a chandelier, teddy bear and cassette. Each picture represents a submitted story that Bell turned into art.

Natasha Lehrer pumped her feet up and down on treadles of a spinning wheel. She used a mix of wool and angora to create yarn.

“It brought back memories,” onlooker Martin Perez said. “It brought me back to my childhood and growing up with my great-grandparents, helping them do the same thing (Lehrer’s) doing here. So it’s an emotional thing.”

Meanwhile, Michael Shiroda, caricature artist, created standout caricatures of posed attendees, making exaggerated facial features. His tool of choice was a Caran d’Ache Fixpencil. He smudged the art with a blending stump.

“It creates a little bit more depth,” Shiroda said.

Hix Bros. Ukulele Ensemble brought in the tropical singing and ukulele sounds of Hawaii. Dancers smiled and moved hands gracefully.

People from C.AK.E. Village, an African cultural, visual and performing arts center, had volunteers on the auditorium stage as drums sounded like a party happening.

Dancers from The Barefoot Hawaiian, a professional dance troop, did hula dancing. As the lights turned off, one tossed a glowing fire-like stick and circled it round and round to the sound of a beating drum.

Michael McCormack, a junior at KHS and member of the school’s Science Club, helped students make harmonicas out of popsicle sticks, tiny straws and rubber bands.

Leah DeClue, 10, a Shabbonah, Ill., resident, used the harmonica to create a sound she described as “weird.”

“I think it’s actually interesting because I’ve never seen anything made out of popsicle sticks,” DeClue said.

KHS Art Club members painted dragons and black cats on childrens’ cheeks. One child walked around while sporting a full-faced tiger.

Art Club members also twisted balloons into pink swords and yellow and red flowers with green stems.

Brianna Silva, a sixth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, participated in an acting workshop through Avenue J Studios. She pinpointed what made the festival “a great one.”

“Probably being able to just let my personality go,” Silva said. “When we were doing charades, I didn’t have to hold back on what I was going to say or what I was going to do. I just got to do it and got to have fun in that moment.”

Student urges community to ‘Seize the Purple’

in Health & Wellness/Kaneland/Regional/Sugar Grove by

Photo: “I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves. It affects over six million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does
deserve more awareness than it is given.”
Samantha Havlin, Kaneland High School junior photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—People can learn more about epilepsy this month thanks to Samantha Havlin, a junior at Kaneland High School.

Havlin, an Elburn resident, recently organized “Seize the Purple,” a DECA project that is a 5k walk-and-run event intended to create epilepsy awareness in the local community. The event will take place on Saturday, April 19, at Kaneland Harter Middle School, 1601 Esker Drive, Sugar Grove.

Why purple? It’s the color of epilepsy awareness.

“I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves,” Havlin said. “It affects over 6 million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does deserve more awareness than it is given.”

Havlin said she has noticed KHS students who have epilepsy.

“I would say a hundred percent, they are exactly like you and I,” Havlin said. “They’re normal people. They just have frequent seizures.”

Josh Marczuk, an eighth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, was diagnosed with epilepsy during his basketball season this year.

Marczuk acknowledged that having epilepsy can sometimes be hard.

“Always having to be aware of stuff,” he said.

Marczuk pointed out that he has to sleep eight to 10 hours so that a seizure won’t be triggered. And what should a person do if they happen to be around Marczuk while he has a seizure?

“Call my mom,” Marczuk said. “Or 911. And put me on my side.”

Marczuk said he experiences a “black out” during a seizure. Sharon Marczuk, Josh’s mom, described what it is like to see her son suffer a grand mal seizure in front of her, shaking and biting his tongue for “a minute or so.”

“It seems forever,” Sharon said. “Probably one of the most traumatizing things to see.”

Sharon expressed her gratitude for the upcoming 5k event.

“I do know from my younger child (Jimmy), being diagnosed with cancer as a baby that until it touches you, you really don’t understand the whole concept of having a child who is sick,” she said. “So the fact that she doesn’t (know the concept first-hand) and wants to raise all this awareness for a good cause is just awesome.”

Havlin’s mom, Melissa Hubbard, said that she is proud of her daughter.

“(Samantha) really, really wants to make a difference,” Hubbard said. “And I think learning the awareness and bringing it in our area definitely stands for a lot.”

The walk will begin at 9 a.m., with the run scheduled to kick off at 9:15 a.m.

A free Easter Egg Dash will take place on the school’s track prior to the walk. Children aged 10 and under are invited to participate in the dash. They will have an opportunity to seek colorful eggs—particularly purple—filled with candy treats. Free pizza and water will also be available.

Both Josh and Sharon plan on being at the race.

“Well, I definitely don’t think I’ll be running,” Sharon said with a laugh. “But yeah. I’m hoping to walk in it.”

The registration fee is $30, which includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. Those interested in participating can register the day of the event or by visiting raceroster.com and typing the event name “Seize the Purple.”

Dewey Dash to celebrate 10th anniversary

in Elburn/Regional by

Town and Country Public Library 10th annual Dewey Dash
Sunday, April 13, at 7:30 a.m.
320 E. North St., Elburn
(630) 365-2244 • www.elburn.lib.il.us
Fees for 1-mile walk/run: $22 ($25 on race day) for adults,
$12 ($15 on race day) for ages 12 and under
Fees for 5k: $22 ($25 on race day) for all entrants
USATF Certified 5k Course

ELBURN—This Sunday, April 13, will mark the date of the 10th annual Dewey Dash, the Town and Country Public Library’s spring run/walk and 5k race.

Same-day registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the 1-mile walk/run commencing at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 5k at 9 a.m.

Registration forms and more information are also available ahead of time at the library and on its website, www.elburn.lib.il.us, under “Dewey Dash.” Participants may re-register by clicking on the “Signmeup.com” or “Active.com” links.

The theme of the 2014 Dewey Dash is “From Pooh to Who,” with guests of honor Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Who.

“Don’t ask why—just enjoy the quotations along the way,” Library Director Lynn Alms said of this year’s theme.

Alms said that dash participants are free to dress in costume to fit the theme, and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. She said she’s looking forward to seeing what people come up with for this interesting juxtaposition of characters.

This is the second year the race will have a theme. Last year’s theme was fairy tales. At least 150 participants ran and walked in the 2013 race, but Alms said she has seen as many as 300 in some years, depending on the weather.

Funds from the race will go toward the library’s technology needs, with this year’s proceeds going to increase the speed of the public computers’ internet connection, and to purchase three new computers to replace three of the library’s public machines.

Last year the event raised $5,000, which comes from registration fees and donations from local businesses.

All 5k participants will receive a goody bag, and refreshments will be provided to all runners and walkers of both races.

Photos: Ultimate competition

in Regional/Sugar Grove by

Rocky’s Dojo and Gym in Sugar Grove held a fighting event exhibition on March 29. A combination of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai and modified mixed martial arts matches were on display. Romeoville, Ill., resident Odalis Loya (above), 18, wins her boxing match and is awarded a championship belt.
Photos by Lynn Logan

Ivan Rodriguez and Joy Sengsuwane face off in MMMA (modified mixed martial arts) with Ivan taking the lead. Both fighters are from Elgin, Ill.

Rodriguez was given the win by the ref.

Nick Heibert (red gloves) takes on Bobby Richardson (blue gloves) in kickboxing.

Odalis Loya poses following her boxing match March 29.

Metra parking to increase May 1

in Elburn/Regional by

ELBURN—Commuters will pay 25 cents more a day to park at the Elburn Metra Station beginning May 1.

Parking rates will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 per day.

Village President Dave Anderson said that the Village Board had actually approved the increase two years ago, but put off its implementation until now.

The board has discussed the need for maintaining the parking lot.

“I’m worried it’s not going to be enough down the road when we need to replace the blacktop,” Anderson said.

“The day-to-day expenses are still more than the revenue,” Finance Director Doug Elder said. “Eventually, if you do that year after year after year, the reserve will be gone and the fund will not be able to support itself.”

The fund’s revenues are $90,300 and its expenses are $100,499.

The village will honor quarterly and annual parking permits, which have already been purchased.

It’s in the stars

in Lily Lake/Regional by

Photo: During periods of particularly strong solar activity, Herman Zwirn can see the aurora borealis (seen on page 2B) from his observatory in Lily Lake. Though the aurora was visible earlier this winter, cloudy weather distorted the view. But in 2011, he captured spectacular shots (below). “The entire sky, the entire sky was the aurora,” Zwirn said. “We had run into a coronal mass ejection head on like a wave, and it just covered the entire sky. It was spectacular.” Photo by Cheryl Borrowdale

Lily Lake resident’s passion for astronomy burns bright
LILY LAKE—On a clear night, Herman Zwirn of Lily Lake can see distant nebulas or observe the icy rings of Saturn from his backyard observatory.

The observatory—a small building with a roof that rolls off to allow unobstructed views of the sky—features a large telescope, as well as a refractor, which Zwirn can use with filters to observe the sun during the day.

His telescope is powerful enough to observe surface features on the planets.

“With Jupiter, you can make out the swirls in the atmosphere, you can make out the loops and the details of the storms,” he said. “Saturn, you can see the rings pretty well and see the storms on the surface.”

Faded star charts line the observatory’s walls. He put them up when he first built his observatory in 1989, but they’re mainly decorative now. Computer programs that show the location of objects in the sky replaced them years ago.

He spends just about every clear night outside in his observatory, often accompanied by one of his collies, who like to lie nearby while he is staring into the heavens. For Zwirn, it’s all about the wonder.
“I think astronomy is one of those things. When you start doing it, there’s a wonder to it. Just opening up the telescope, there’s so much beauty to see. I watched the sun today, and there’s a nice bunch of sunspots. It makes your brain tickle, like classical music. It just takes hold of you,” Zwirn said. “The wonder never goes away. It just gets more wonderful and challenging.”

Zwirn’s passion for astronomy brought him to Lily Lake in 1987. He had been observing the sky from an observatory he’d built at his house in Lisle, Ill., before that, but when a car dealership went up nearby, the lights from the parking lot blotted out the night sky. He moved further west in search of darkness, even though he worked on the north side of Chicago for many years and had a two-hour commute.

Nearly three decades later, development is once again encroaching on Zwirn’s view, with light pollution from new stores and gas stations making it harder to see the stars. Air pollution is also making his view hazier, with fine particulate matter making it more difficult to get clear views.
Aurora lily Lake110704
That’s why Zwirn now trains his telescopes mainly on the brightest objects in the night sky, the moon and the planets, while in Lily Lake. He and his wife, Mary, now spend much of their summer on a farm in north-central Iowa, where they have a second observatory and a darker night sky—dark enough that he can photograph Andromeda.

“I like to do the planets and the moon, because that’s what’s best to do here,” Zwirn said. “But when I’m out further, I like to go deep sky. You can see the Milky Way. Even out here, you can see it faintly, but we’re rapidly approaching Chicago.”

He regularly consults charts created by cleardarksky.comto determine which nights are the darkest and will have the best sky transparency—both important for astrophotography, one of his favorite astronomical pursuits.

“If you’re just looking through a telescope, it’s not that critical,” Zwirn said. “But if you’re taking images, it is. Astrophotography can be something that is remarkable.”

Zwirn’s passion for both astronomy and photography began in high school, when he lived on the south side of Chicago and joined his school’s astronomy club. His father cut a hole in their garage roof so Zwirn could observe the sky better, and he still has pictures that he took of the moon as a teen. The more he learned about astronomy, the more serious he became about it.

He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studied fine art painting for a few years until he got drafted in the Vietnam War. Stationed in Thailand, where the Air Force ran operations into North Vietnam, Zwirn learned computer skills and became fluent in Thai—and when his service was over, he returned to Chicago to work in information systems.

The shift from art to science was a natural one, he said.

Herman-Zwirn-2 “One of the reasons I enjoyed working in systems so much was that it was just as creative as art. We were making new things up, and we got to see them work,” he said. “Most scientists have some artistic bent—music, painting, photography. I think they go together.”

Astronomy and astrophotography can be solitary hobbies, but Zwirn enjoys sharing his interest with others, particularly children. He’s a board member for the Fox Valley Astronomical Society, which meets at Peck Farm in Geneva. And he likes to attend the public star parties and work with area schools.

“In many cases, (the schools) don’t have any equipment at all, so we’ll go out with the kids and set up the telescopes. One of our best times was at a middle school, and it was cloudy, so the kids decided they were going to do a little dance and make the rain go away—and the sky cleared,” he said. “These are just wonderful experiences, and you just hope that these kids have the chance to make a choice (about entering STEM fields).”

His passion for astronomy has also taken him all over the world to observe total solar eclipses.

Remarkable things happen during an eclipse, Zwirn said, as the natural world reacts to the sudden disappearance of the sun. While he was eclipse chasing on a ship in the Sea of Cortez, off the western coast of Mexico, dolphins came up to observe the sky at the moment of total eclipse.

“They got up on their tails. It was like they knew they couldn’t look at it until it was total,” Zwirn said. “They were like little dolphin astronomers.”

From the deserts of Libya, where he joined 15,000 fellow eclipse chasers who arrived to view a seven-minute total solar eclipse, to the Bolivian altiplano, where he camped at 14,000 feet above sea level and in the middle of a llama path, viewing eclipses is “just an overwhelming experience,” he said.

He also rents time on telescopes around the world. To see the southern sky, he uses large telescopes in Australia that he can control remotely, viewing stars and other celestial objects that aren’t visible in the northern hemisphere.

“I haven’t been out a lot this winter because of the weather, but I’m out whenever I can,” he said. “Most of my life, I’ve been fascinated by math and science, and I can’t imagine not having that knowledge.”

Club Z! Annual Achievement Award

in Elburn/Regional by

ELBURN—It’s that time of year to apply for $10,000 in cash prizes toward education by nominating students for the Club Z! Annual Achievement Award, open to grade levels fifth through 12.

The Club Z! Annual Achievement Award allows students to showcase their talents and abilities for a chance to win cash to support their education. So whether they’ve shown strong character in the classroom, overcome obstacles at school, shown leadership among their peers or simply improved since the beginning of the year, teachers can nominate their students or encourage them to apply online

For more information, visit www.clubztutoring.com.

Madigan issues advice for tax season

in Regional by

CHICAGO—In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan today alerted Illinois consumers to the costly risk of tax refund anticipation products as they work to file their tax returns by Tuesday, April 15.

Tax preparers offer refund anticipation loans, checks and temporary debit cards as an option for consumers to receive an instant cash deposit based on their anticipated tax refund instead of waiting for their official IRS refund. But in reality these options are in essence short-term, high-cost loans that only saddle consumers with high interest rates and fees that are deducted from their tax refund. Particularly egregious is the fact that consumers who obtain refund anticipation checks and debit cards do not actually receive their returns faster because the business must still wait for the IRS to deposit the refund into the temporary account.

In addition to tax refund anticipation products, Madigan said consumers should be aware of complaints received by her office regarding tax-related identity theft. Madigan’s lawsuit against the tax preparer Mo Money in 2012 and other complaints into her office show that for some consumers, even simply consulting with a company offering tax refund anticipation products leads to problems. Consumers have reported instances of companies filing a tax return in their name without their authorization based on information the consumer provided in an initial consultation.

Madigan offered tips for consumers to avoid becoming the victim of tax-related identity theft:
• Do not open or reply to any emails claiming to be from the IRS that contain a request for personal information. Ask for a call-back number and employee badge number from anyone claiming to be an IRS agent, so that you may independently confirm the phone number and agent.
• Report any suspicious IRS paper mail correspondence to the IRS, if the sender is identified as not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1 (800) 366-4484.
• Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1 (800) 908-4490 or visit the IRS website to report tax-related identity theft.
To report a complaint involving a refund anticipation product, contact Madigan s Consumer Fraud hotlines: 1-800-386-5438 (Chicago); 1-800-243-0618 (Springfield); 1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale).

Running across Illinois for a cure

in Elburn/Regional by

Photo: Bill Babiarz is running from west to east across the state to raise awareness and money for the fight against Rett Syndrome. Babiarz’s 4-year-old daughter Cammy suffers from the rare developmental disorder. Bill finished his Friday run at the Elburn Fire Station. Photo by Lynn Logan

Wheaton man stops in Elburn during cross-state run
ELBURN—When Bill Babiarz ran into downtown Elburn on March 14—his third stop on his 150-mile Run Across Illinois to raise funds for Rett Syndrome—his focus wasn’t on the blood blisters covering his toes or even the toenails he’d lost along the way.

The Wheaton, Ill., father was focused on his 5-year-old daughter, Cameron, who has Rett Syndrome and cannot walk, speak or control her hand movements.

Cammy was diagnosed with the rare neurodevelopmental disorder, which affects one of every 10,000 girls, three years ago. She was developing normally until she was 18 months old, when she began regressing and lost her language and motor skills, but Rett Syndrome hasn’t affected her mind. She now uses eye-tracking devices and buttons to communicate with her family and teachers.

Her father hopes that raising funds for research and increasing awareness of the disorder will help find a cure in Cammy’s lifetime. He sported a shirt—worn underneath a jacket on the chilly day—with the run’s motto: “I run so Cammy can.”

Bill began his run in Fulton, Ill., near the Mississippi River, and spent five days running east to finish at Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, near Lake Michigan. He ran to Sterling, Ill., on the first day and then Rochelle, Ill., on the second—running 68 miles—before setting out from Rochelle to Elburn on day three, a 32-mile journey, running down Keslinger Road for much of the way.

Several runners and bicyclists accompanied him for parts of his trip, including two friends who followed his entire 150-mile journey, Eric and Pamela Santa. Eric rode his bike alongside Bill, and Pamela drove the route, providing food and drinks to the runners and blocking traffic. Local and county police departments also provided a safety escort, including the Elburn Police Department.

Cammy joined him at several spots along the five-day journey, including the last half-mile of his trip to the day-three finish line at the Elburn Fire Station.

“I think she’s pretty excited,” Bill said. “I saw her once along the route today, and she was smiling and happy. My wife Jackie and Cammy met me at mile 22 today, just alongside the side of the road and said, ‘Hi,’ which gave me a little boost, and with about a half mile left, a friend of mine brought Cammy in a jogging stroller and we jogged the last half mile with her.”

Among the people waiting at the Elburn Fire Station for Bill and Cammy’s arrival was Jenny O’Brien, the owner of Dreams Dance Academy in La Fox. O’Brien had never met either before, but when she heard Cammy’s story, she wanted to do something to help—so she collected 15 pairs of legwarmers from her dance students to give to Cammy, who wears them to keep her legs warm while outside in her wheelchair or in her jogging stroller, and offered to host an adapted dance class for Cammy and her younger sister, Ryan.

“I waited there until (Bill) crossed the finish line, and it was so inspiring to see all that they are doing for their daughter and to see all the people that this little girl has touched,” O’Brien said. “It was the first time I had met Cammy, and she smiled when we gave her all the legwarmers and a little dance bag.”

Elburn was the first stop along the route where the runners saw other people, Bill said.

“Up until Elburn, we had pretty much only been through one town in the previous 90 miles, so it was nice to see family and friends and people cheering,” he said. “It was exciting and it was definitely a little boost.”

Bill’s run raised more than $60,000 for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation, which works to find a cure and to support families, with his Run Across Illinois. Hundreds of people sponsored his run and made donations, and New Balance Chicago provided athletic gear and shoes.

Last year, the Babiarzs raised $43,000 for the IRSF, but much of that money came from people within the Retts community. Bill knew that in order to bring in more money, he had to expand the circle of donors—and the only way to do that was to do something big and generate media attention.

“Our goal as a family is to contribute as much as possible so that a cure for Rett Syndrome can be found in a time frame where Cammy can take advantage of it, and we’re willing to do just about anything, so that’s how this came about,” Bill said.

Though Bill completed his run at Buckingham Fountain on March 16, he can still be sponsored through the IRSF website through Saturday, March 22. Donations go toward research for a cure and supporting families with Rett Syndrome. To become a sponsor, visit rettsyndrome.org/ILRUN/.

Dornback appointed Blackberry Township Supervisor

in Elburn/Regional by

BLACKBERRY TWP.—Blackberry Township Cemetery Sexton Fred Dornback was appointed Blackberry Township Supervisor on Tuesday in a 3-1 vote by township trustees. The one ‘no’ vote came from trustee Jim Feece, who had nominated himself for the supervisor position.

Dornback was sworn in following the vote. He said that he would continue his responsibilities for the cemetery on a volunteer basis until someone else was found to replace him, and asked that his stipend for the cemetery position be terminated.

Trustee Jim Michels, who had taken over discussions from former Township Supervisor Dennis Ryan regarding the township’s lease for McNair Field for use by Elburn Baseball and Softball, received a draft lease on Wednesday morning from owners TRC.

The previous lease negotiated between Blackberry Township and Burr Ridge, Ill., company Transmission Relay Corporation had lasted 10 years. The lease granted local athletic leagues the use of five of the corporation’s 20 acres located south and east of the intersection of Bateman and Rowe roads. The original lease expired April 30, 2013.

Michels said the dates of the lease are to be determined, but that it would probably be made effective sometime in March and go through the end of 2014. He said the township will attempt to negotiate a longer-term lease over the next nine months. The lease spells out that the field is to be used only for baseball and softball.

Photos: An inside look

in Kaneland/Regional by

Illinois 4-H students on Tuesday made their annual spring trip to the Kane County Government Center so that they could learn more about government and see it in action. The students arrived at the Government Center at 8:30 a.m. and then attended the Forest Preserve 9 a.m. and County Board meeting at 9:45 a.m. About half of the County Board was shadowed by the 4-H’ers. Afterward, the 4-H students had lunch with County Board members at the U of I Extension Office. Jessica Poust (right), a Maple Park resident and junior at Kaneland High School, shadowed Kane County Treasurer and CPA Dave Rickert. 4-H members Maddie Marucco (below) of St. Charles and Erik Dunteman of Big Rock shadowed Kane County Board member and Sugar Grove resident Melisa Taylor.

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