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Turkey time

in Featured/Maple Park by

Grace United Methodist Church in Maple Park held its annual Turkey Drop event on Sunday, allowing area families to gather to help others in need this holiday season. The event will help put a meal on the table at Thanksgiving for 68 families—of those 68 families, 20 of them will also get a Christmas meal from Turkey Drop. There was also a craft/vendor area for local folks to sell items, chili for families who donated, a band and a craft area for kids. Pastor Ko (left) and Ann Janecek of Maple Park serve food to those who were kind enough to come out and donate at the event. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Knights’ quick turnaround

in Featured/Girls Basketball by

Girls hoops runs Luther North out of gym in IC Catholic Prep tourney opener

by Mike Slodki

ELMHURST, ILL.—It was a less-than-uplifting opening night against the visiting Lady Blackhawks of West Aurora on Thursday evening. To recover, KHS girls basketball took flight against its first round opponent out at the IC Catholic Prep Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday.

Using a rotation of uptempo players in the morning tilt in Elmhurst, Ill., the Lady Knights improved to 1-1 and made life difficult at both ends of the floor, with the buzzer sounding after a 63-9 shellacking of Chicago’s Luther North.

It marks the fourth consecutive season for Kaneland at the IC Catholic tourney, with the Lady Knights having taken the last two first-place plaques.

Other teams in Kaneland’s pool are LaGrange Park’s Nazareth Academy and Elmwood Park High School.

The win, featuring 11 points from frontcourt asset and junior Aly Van Bogaert and 10 each from towers Brittany Kemp and Bailey Crimmins, was a nice change of pace from the 60-43 loss to West Aurora.

“West Aurora is a good team,” KHS coach Ernie Colombe said. “They’ve got some players coming back who are four-year players, and they were a tough test first game. I think we did some things well on Thursday. We wanted to make a point of getting out early today. I thought we saw a little bit more of what we could do.”

KHS was also 11-for-26 from the foul line, while Luther North’s offensive struggles were exemplified by its last basket of the contest coming with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Opening up the whole floor, Kaneland was able to utilize quick passes and use second-chance points to its advantage, while not allowing follow-up chances for the hard-luck Luther North crew.

Kaneland opened up a 17-2 lead after one, and used baskets from Van Bogaert, including a late three-pointer, along with a putback by Kelly Wallner, for a 34-7 edge at halftime.

The third quarter was even more productive for the Lady Knights attack, as consecutive buckets from Van Bogaert, Wallner, Marina Schaefer and Crimmins, sandwiched around Caroline Heimerdinger foul shots, put the Lady Knights up 46-9 with 2:48 left in the third. Crimmins and junior Taylor Eaves had two buckets each in the fourth frame to pad the lead.

Van Bogaert said she feels like she’s gaining steam in her first extended varsity time.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot better than the last season,” she said. “I’m hoping I can do a lot better this season and score 10 points a game. From our first game, losing, that definitely made us go out harder. We realize we need to work a lot harder.”

Against West Aurora, Amber Winquist-Bailey led the Lady Knights with 11 points, while Wallner had nine.

Continuing on with the early stages of the 2013-14 season, Kaneland continued on with the IC Catholic gathering on Tuesday against Elmwood Park, and Wednesday against Nazareth, with results unavailable for press. On Friday, Nov. 29, Kaneland will face either IC Catholic, Westmont, Regina Dominican or Evergreen Park in the crossover.

Old-fashioned Christmas celebration in Kaneville

in Featured/Kaneville by

by Susan O’Neill

KANEVILLE—Celebrate the season with an old-fashioned Christmas in Kaneville on Saturday, Dec. 7.

The festivities will begin at 8:30 a.m. in front of the Kaneville Community Center at Harter and Main Street roads, with the inaugural lighting of the community Christmas tree donated by Kaneville business Strang Landscaping. Community members are encouraged to bring an ornament that represents their family to place on the tree. Children from the Kaneville Community Center Child Care Center will assist in decorating the tree.

Santa will pose for pictures taken with children in attendance at the Kaneville fire barn from 9 a.m. to noon.

Jim Feece will bring his team of horses and his antique wagon and put them on display over by the historical houses across from the Fire Department. Kaneville board member Carl Hauser will drive an antique tractor as a hayrack ride for people in town.

Across the street, the historic 1840’s Farley House will be open 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for visitors who wish to take a step back in time. The Christmas tree will be decorated with old-fashioned, hand-made items for the children to pick from its branches, Kaneville Historical Society Lynnette Werdin said.

A display of manger scenes donated by families in the area from their Christmases past will decorate the house.

“We try to make it a nice day, especially for the children,” Werdin said.

Hill’s Country Store owner Pat Hill will show her appreciation for its customers by offering free peppermint ice cream, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The Old Second Bank’s Kaneville branch will also host a Customer Appreciation Day, with breakfast food and drinks, as well as gifts for the children, and raffle items for children and adults.

Stop by the Kaneville United Methodist Church at 46W764 Main Street Road between 9 and 11 a.m. for the church’s annual Cookie Walk. Add to your collection of Christmas goodies at the bake sale in the Kaneville Community Center gym from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. And while you’re there, you might find a craft item for someone on your Christmas list.

Kaneville Public Library Director Ray Christiansen said he is looking forward to the activities at the library open house from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children are invited to make and take a Christmas ornament, and several times throughout the morning, children can sit and listen to a Christmas story. Music students of former Kaneville resident Elyse Napoli will play their instruments in an ongoing recital performance beginning at 10:30 a.m. Door prizes and basket raffles will be offered throughout the day.

Craft show coordinator Karen Flammond is still looking for more crafters for the sale. Those interested should call (630) 557-2854. To donate bake sale items, call Hill at (630) 557-2228.

“We’re really working hard (to make it a nice event),” Hill said.

‘Caity Strong’ bracelets keep Elburn teen’s memory alive

in Elburn/Featured by
The family of Caitlyn Phillips gathered on Sunday to accept donation money collected by Caitlyn's friends Cierra Kuipers and Katie Baird, who sold silicone bracelets in the community to help keep Caitlyn’s memory alive. The duo raised over $1,000 for the Phillips family. Kuipers (left to right); Baird; Caitlyn’s sister, Taylor Phillips; Caitlyn’s parents, Gary and Crystal Phillips, with their grandson, Noah.  Photo by Lynn Logan

by Susan O’Neill

ELBURN—Two young friends of Caitlyn Phillips have found a way to keep the memory of their friend alive, while offering some financial assistance to her family.

Elburn teenagers Katie Baird and Cierra Kuipers were devastated when their good friend, 13-year-old Caity Phillips, died last April while roller skating in her neighborhood.

Kuipers had been friends with Phillips since kindergarten. The two attended Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School, and were in the Elburn Brownie Troop together.

Phillips was such a frequent visitor to Baird’s house on the weekends, she had her own special pillow and blankets. The two enjoyed all kinds of activities together, including making a video to put on YouTube.

At Phillips’ memorial service, Kuipers and Baird heard the pastor’s words as he spoke about their friend. He said that, even though she was petite in stature, she was strong—both in her faith and in her personality. He encouraged everyone to live every day “Caity strong” to keep her memory alive.

The girls decided to have bracelets made that said “Caity Strong” on them, and to raise money for Phillips’ family by selling them to people in the community.

The girls enlisted the help of Alice’s Restaurant and Dr. Krauspe’s dental office, and also sold the bracelets at school. They ended up selling 200 bracelets and raising more than $1,000. Even though the girls asked for $3 a bracelet, people often gave much more.

“I was shocked at how many people donated money,” said Deb Baird, who is Katie’s mother. “A lot of them didn’t even take the bracelet; they just wanted to help.”

The girls met Caity’s mom Crystal Phillips at the Baird’s house to give her the check for the money they raised. They all reminisced about Caity and what a wonderful friend she was.

“She was always bubbly, and she was always able to make you feel better,” Kuipers said.

“She was always nice to everyone,” Katie said. “She was like an angel from Heaven.”

Crystal told the girls that she would like to take part of the money and start a tradition of adopting a family with a teenaged girl for Christmas. Crystal said she would like Katie and Cierra to come to the store with her to help her pick out some presents for the girl.

Katie said that Caity would love that idea.

“Caity would say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Katie said.

Kuipers said she would like to say a thank you to all the people who bought a bracelet or donated money for Caity’s family. It has turned out to be a great way to keep Caity in their hearts.

Katie said that her friend is in her prayers every night.

“I know that she is listening, and that she’s near me,” Katie said.

KHS takes 2nd at Jenni’s ABC meet

in Featured/Girls Track by

Track team battles cold, competition at home on Saturday
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—What happens when you can’t get a grasp on your ABC’s?

Keep trying.

Kaneland girls track squad was able to take to the frigid grounds at Peterson Field for the annual Jenni’s ABC Meet on Saturday.

When the dust settled, the Lady Knights were able to walk away with a second-place finish out of six teams.

“In cold weather you have to stay more active, a longer warm-up where you build up more slowly, and dress appropriately for the cold,” said KHS head track coach Doug Ecker. “I thought the girls competed very hard on Saturday and were focused on not letting the weather distract them. It showed in their performances.”

The Huntley Red Raiders came away with the first-place honor, thanks to a 324-point output, compared to Kaneland’s 301. Boylan Catholic of Rockford managed third place thanks to a 219-point total.

Aurora outfit Rosary (203), Rock Falls (171) and Lemont’s Mt. Assisi Academy (66) filled out the bottom half of the standings.

With the track and field events grouped in “A” “B” and “C” flights, the room for success was ample for the Kaneland program.

For the 100 meter dash “A” event, it was Kaneland’s Lauren Zick who was able to power through the field and manage a first with a 12.30 second effort.

Zick came through again in the 200m dash “A” event with a first-place time of 25.65 seconds, followed closely by Kaneland teammate Allie Heinzer in second with a time of 27.57. In the 800m run “A” event, Kaneland’s presence was marked by the top two finishers: sophomores Victoria Clinton (2:34.47) and Jessica Kucera (2:43.76) followed with a win in the “B” flight.

The 1600m run “A” event saw Lady Knight Sydney Strang take the race with a time of 5:40.30, 22 seconds better than her closest competitor.

Meanwhile, in the 3200m run “B” event, it was KHS competitor Brianna Bower outlasting the field at 11:46.39, followed by fellow Lady Knight Abby Dodis at 12:27.80 in the “A” flight.

In the 300m hurdles “A” competition, the Lady Knights were represented in the top tier by Amanda Lesak with a second-place finish of 51.14 seconds.

Relay action saw a second place for the 4x400m relay “A” foursome of Lesak, Ashley Castellanos, Clinton and Zick with a time of 4:17.72, while the 4x800m relay “A” unit of Lesak, Kucera, Aislinn Lodwig and Maggie Brundige conquered the field at 10:29.45.

The field events had their share of highlights, beginning with Christina Delach in the pole vault. The junior managed a meet-best nine feet, six inches. Kaneland’s Zick (17-06) and Castellanos (16-08.25) took care of the long jump field at the top two places.

Castellanos’ 33-09.5 was also tops in the triple jump field.

Sophomore standout Elle Tattoni was able to wrangle second place in the shot put with an effort of 34-.5, and do well in the discus throw with a second-place, 98-1 effort. The top finisher in the category was Boylan’s Lindsay Herra at 124-1.

The girls head to the Wauconda Invitational on Friday, April 19.

Panda Express

in Featured/Kaneville by

Photo: Kaneville resident and FedEx pilot Steve Gramley recently flew two pandas from Chengdu, China, to Vancouver, Canada. Here, he takes time out from the flight to pose with his new friend Da Mao. Da Mao and Er Shun were later flown to Toronto. Courtesy Photo

Kaneville resident flies pandas from China to Canada
by Cheryl Borrowdale
KANEVILLE—Steve Gramley isn’t sure how he was chosen to pilot FedEx’s “Panda Express,” but flying two giant pandas from China to Canada on March 25 was the most interesting flight of his career.

The Kaneville resident, who works as a pilot for FedEx, was one of two pilots who flew the MD-11F aircraft that transported Er Shun, a 5-year-old female panda, and Da Mao, a 4-year-old male panda, from Chengdu, China to Vancouver, Canada. A second set of pilots took the pandas on to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met the plane for a welcoming ceremony.

The pandas were transported as part of a cooperative conservation agreement between Canada and China. Er Shun and Da Mao, a breeding pair, will spend five years at the Toronto Zoo, followed by another five years at the Calgary Zoo. It’s the first time in 20 years that pandas have been loaned to a Canadian zoo.

Gramley began working for FedEx in 2001, after several years flying regional commuter flights for Northwest AirLink and a stint in the Marine Corps as a crew member on a cargo plane. He said he was surprised to have been chosen to represent FedEx on such a prominent flight.

“I don’t know how my name came up,” Gramley said. “My chief pilot called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m looking for guys to take these pandas. Do you want to?’
Normally, it would be management pilots who get opportunities like that, not just the ordinary line guy like me. Do I think it was any great achievement that I was picked? Not really, but I am flattered that he thought I would do a good job.”

Gramley is a MD-11F first officer and typically flies the Memphis-to-Chicago route for FedEx, although he has flown all over the world for the company. On a transpacific flight, the plane’s cargo hold normally carries 100,000 pounds of cargo, but the Panda Express flew light.

“On this particular flight, there was only about 15,000 pounds because all we had on this particular airplane was the two pandas; some equipment for the pandas; three handlers, one of whom had been with the pandas since birth; and a zookeeper from the Toronto Zoo,” Gramley said.

The flight was a unique experience for Gramley, who got to leave the cockpit once the flight was underway and see the pandas.

“They were just hanging out,” he said. “They had bamboo and were just chewing on it, and they didn’t seem bothered by flying. One of them was a little upset when he was getting loaded, but as soon as we got the door closed and got them moving, they were pretty much fine for the rest of the flight.”

Gramley got quite close to the pandas and was surprised by how gentle they were.

“They were literally right there, essentially in something like a large dog cage. I could have touched them if I wanted to. They are fairly docile animals, and I think you could actually touch them and be fine,” he said.

Visiting Chengdu was also a highlight for Gramley, who went to its famed panda breeding center to see the going-away ceremony for Er Shun and Da Mao. Though Gramley has been to Shanghai and Hong Kong before, he said visiting Chengdu gave him a better understanding of China.

“I’d never even heard of Chengdu, but it has 14 million people in it,” he said. “It really got me understanding how big of a country it is.”

Unlike Shanghai and Hong Kong, where many people speak English, Gramley said he had a hard time finding anyone who spoke English.

“It was like seeing a real Chinese environment,” he said. “It was a pretty neat place.”

FedEx donates the flights and has transported several pairs of giant pandas from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, including the pair that were at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo from 2000 to 2010. There are only an estimated 2,000 giant pandas left in the wild, and the research center loans out breeding pairs of pandas for ten years to zoos involved in conservation efforts around the world.

The company will also be transporting roughly 700 pounds of bamboo from the Memphis Zoo, which maintains a 10-acre bamboo farm to provide food for its giant pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le, to the Toronto Zoo two to three times a week.

Both the panda exchange between countries and FedEx’s Panda Express flights are heavily promoted, Gramley said.

“Everybody works hard at promoting the whole panda thing—the exchange—because it’s really as much of a diplomatic thing as anything else,” Gramley said. “The reason Canada is getting these pandas is because the prime minister had requested it, and they’d been working on it for a long, long time. It’s sort of a relationship thing between the two countries.”

FedEx donates the panda flights because it generates so much publicity, he said.

“I can’t begin to guess what it cost FedEx to pull off that flight, but when you look at all the press they got, it was another way to reach people. When they arrived in Toronto, the plane had a big old panda decal on it to show the whole thing off, and when they had the welcome ceremony in Canada it was in front of the plane. Who doesn’t love a panda?”

Tight contest goes Lady Knights’ Way

in Featured/Softball by

Heimerdinger hit wins it in bottom of 7th against Sycamore
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like three cancellations this past week just delayed the inevitable.

But the win over visiting Sycamore on Tuesday afternoon for KHS softball was anything but.

Muddling through shelved contests with Morris and Maine West, the Lady Knights took to the field against Sycamore and went out to a 3-0 lead before Sycamore put up a three-spot in the top of the sixth.

Kaneland took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning before the visitors deadlocked it again.

It was a Caroline Heimerdinger bases-loaded single to drive Sarah Grams home with the winning run with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh to cinch a 5-4 win.

Kaneland is now 8-2 and 3-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII landscape.

The scoring began with cleanup hitter Lanie Callaghan’s two-run shot to left field for a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.

Kaneland failed to get any runs out of a bases loaded chance in the bottom of the third.

It remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth when Aly O’Herron’s sacrifice fly brought home Heimerdinger.

Sycamore finally struck in the sixth, first on a two-run homer, and then stacking runners until a flyball to right evaded Callaghan’s attempt, tying the contest.

Three consecutive Lady Knights reached base, ending with Paige Kuefler’s RBI single that drove in Lexi Roach to make it 4-3.

Ellissa Eckert (W) relieved starter Annisa Becker in the seventh, but Sycamore tied the score at 4.

In the bottom of the seventh, Grams doubled and Hayley Contorno singled. Allison Miller was hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting the stage for Heimerdinger’s third and decisive hit.

“That was clutch by Caroline, but we left a lot of baserunners out there,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “I don’t know if the odds were with us and we were due for a hit there, but Caroline did strike the ball well all day.”

“I was told it needs to be in the outfield so that’s the only thing I was looking for,” Heimerdinger said. “I mostly put it out of my head when we were tied.”

Kaneland was set to travel to Morris on Wednesday, before heading to Dixon for a crossover contest on Thursday, April 18.

Elburn’s Dewey Dash 2013 a success

in Elburn/Featured by

by Chris Paulus
ELBURN—The Elburn Town and Country Public Library last sunday held its ninth annual Dewey Dash event, with approximately 252 participants.

The dash is a fundraising gala in which participants choose to run or walk 5k, and is named after the Dewey Decimal System, a library classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876.

“Some of our patrons, who happen to be runners, came up with the idea for the fundraiser,” said Mary Lynn Alms, library director and coordinator of the event. “We use the funds to purchase our technology upgrades at the library.”

Kathy Semrick, Circulation Manager at the library, said the Dewey Dash raised over $5,000 dollars this year.

Alms has coordinated the event since its inception. Over the years, each dash has corresponded with a certain theme.

“Usually we’ve had an author’s work as a theme. In the past, we’ve had Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Dorsey Parker, James Ferber and Mark Twain,” Alms said.

This year’s theme? Fairy tales. In order to represent the theme, different quotes from fairy tales were placed on various signs throughout the course.
Participants were encouraged to wear costumes, as well. This was the first year that the event featured a costume contest, including “Best Canine Costume.”

Raffles and an international feast were also held during the dash event, with local restaurants donating food.

APHS donates playground to Maple Park

in Featured/Maple Park by

by Cheryl Borrowdale
MAPLE PARK—For the last 14 years, Captain Nick Louis has been driving down Washington Street in Maple Park on his way to a private airstrip near DeKalb, looking at the sad state of the playground equipment at Washington Park.

This year, he decided it was time to do something about it—but when he walked into the village office in February and offered to donate a set of expensive, new playground equipment, village staff was skeptical.

They put him in contact with Village President Kathy Curtis. Louis, who is the founder of the Airline Pilot’s Historical Society (APHS) and lives in St. Charles, soon convinced her that he was serious.

“I went to Kathy, and I said, ‘First of all, you’re going to think I’m trying to get money, but here’s all the information about our foundation and about me,’” Louis said. “‘Check us out, because we’re clean, and there’s no ulterior motive and no punchline. Once you’re satisfied that I’m not scamming you, we built a playground in (the) Fox Chase (subdivison) in St. Charles. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.’”

Curtis was thrilled.

“He asked us if we’d be interested. Of course we’d be interested,” Curtis said. “Park equipment is very expensive. That’s why Maple Park has never been able to invest in park equipment, because we use all our budgetary resources to serve our citizens.”

Though Louis originally had new playground equipment in mind for Washington Park, Curtis took him on a tour of the village and suggested putting the new equipment in at the Civic Center Park on Willow Street, which is in use nearly every night during the warmer months, and where she believed the equipment would get more use.

The APHS said it would pick out and purchase the equipment if Maple Park’s Public Works Department would take care of the installation. Louis said the playground is a quality piece, but he declined to say how much it would cost.

“We try not to put dollar value on it going in, because we don’t want people to feel beholden to us or to want something more,” Louis said. “We want people to say, ‘That’s nice. We don’t care what you paid for it.’ We want it to be a nice outfit that looks good.”

Curtis requested that the APHS-purchased playground equipment be designed for children ages 10 and younger, since the Civic Center Park is mainly used by young children whose older siblings are playing baseball games at the center.

Louis said the unit would have a little hut in the middle and slides off the central unit.

“Because (young children) have special needs, we tailored (the playground) a little to them so that it’s for 3- to 8-year-olds who could care less about the baseball game and want grandpa to take them over.”

The process has been moving forward quickly, and the new park equipment should be installed at the Civic Center by the end of June, Curtis said. A metal plaque will mention that the park was donated by APHS.

The APHS, a group of 10 volunteers, raised the money for this project and several others by selling off pieces of old airplanes to collectors and by offering technical consulting to Hollywood studios.

Louis founded the organization in 1997, soon after he retired from his 31-year career as a United Airlines pilot.

“I started this foundation because it was a great interest, and people like me wanted parts of old airplanes to hang on their walls, and a lot of old planes were being scrapped. And I said, ‘Gee whiz, we’ll beg, buy and sell pieces of these old airplanes, and we’ll use the money we raise to do good.’”

He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars selling those parts to collectors and to people building airplane simulators, as well as advising production crews for movies such as “Man of Steel,” a reboot of the Superman series, and “World War Z,” a zombie film starring Brad Pitt, both of which come out later this year.

“If it blows up on TV or catches fire and it’s in the air, we’ve had our finger in it,” Louis said. “The PanAm series, we worked on that, and the cockpit they did was beautiful. It was pretty hokey from an aviation standpoint though.”

The foundation has “a soft spot for sick kids,” Louis said, and donates $20,000 to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago every year. It also donates to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, gives away airline parts to students in flying programs to help further their education, and does at least one other project like the park in Maple Park every year.

Although the APHS’s five-member board had to vote on this year’s project, Louis said he was confident Maple Park would be selected.

“It’s amazing how difficult it is to give something away for free,” Louis said. “We’ve approached other towns before. Some wanted to make sure that they could pick and choose and tell us what we should buy, and it made it very difficult. The mayor of another town had a rosewood desk worth more than his car, so we knew where the money would go.”

The APHS had donated new playground equipment to Fox Chase Park in St. Charles in 2005, and “it really kind of bit us in the shorts,” Louis said.

“That project in St. Charles cost us $30,000, and then they came out and built a waterpark out there for $20 million,” Louis said. “We busted our butts to raise $30,000 for them and then they built that, so we don’t need to (help them).”

Maple Park was an attractive choice, Louis said, precisely because it is small and doesn’t have many facilities for families with small children.

“Why Maple Park? The people there are humble, they aren’t self-impressed, they aren’t blowing money down a hole somewhere, and that’s where you want your money to go,” Louis said. “And they needed some help.”

Curtis said that she was grateful for the APHS’s assistance.

“It’s going to be a great benefit for our citizens, because we’ll be able to give the park a facelift at no cost to the citizens. We have a great group of people who maintain the ball fields (at the Civic Center) and run a great ball program. Families spend the evenings there, and now the little kids have something to do. I couldn’t be more thankful to Mr. Louis for what he’s done for us.”

High School students recognized for Land Use Plan participation

in Elburn/Featured by

Photo: The Kaneland students that helped with the Land Use plan were presented awards and were honored at the village board meeting. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Students recognized were: Nick Albano, Erika Carlson, Madi Jurcenko, Emily Laudont,
Caitrin Mills, Eric Meuer, Anthony Parillo, Paige Wagner and Kelly Wallner

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Kaneland High School senior Nick Albano is on the varsity baseball team. He’s also an Eagle Scout, a cross country runner on his high school team, a participant in the Model United Nations Club and a member of the National Honor Society.

KHS sophomore Caitrin Mills has always been interested in acting, beginning with middle school plays and musicals. She was chosen to play a part in “Les Miserables,” and was the stage manager for “West Side Story—Kaneland Edition” this year. She is the vice president of the TINA (This Is No Act) improvisation club, and a member of the Scholastical junior varsity team.

What the two students share is a love of Elburn, and a desire to make it even better in the future. Albano and Mills last year joined eight other KHS students in providing input to help revise the Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Elburn.

The classmates on Monday were recognized for their participation by the Elburn Village Board.

Village President Dave Anderson, who introduced the students, said they made him feel good as a member of the Elburn community and as a parent.

“I wish to compliment your instructor in the selection process, because he selected a fine, fine group of students to help this community in planning for your future,” Anderson said.

Social studies teacher Mark Meyer said that Village Administrator Erin Willrett approached him about getting the students involved in the process of determining Elburn’s future. He and several other teachers then helped to identify the students. They chose two students from each class—two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors. Because the project was to cover about a year, they decided to include only students who would still be at the school the following year.

Meyer said the students had learned in their classes about sustainable development, as well as farm land usage and water sustainability, so they were aware of some of the issues regarding growth.

Mills, who has lived in Elburn 13 of her 16 years, said that there are many things she likes about Elburn, including its small-town feeling.

She likes the fact that people can feel safe walking anywhere in town. She also enjoys the library, where she works part time.

Albano has lived in Elburn since he was born, and his family has been in this area since the early 1900s. He said that although he would like to move somewhere else for a while, he plans on coming back to live in Elburn. Albano said he loves the Metra train, because he can get to downtown Chicago in an hour.

He said he hopes ShoDeen will make the Elburn Station development inviting.

“If it ends up similar to Geneva around the train station, it’ll be really really good for Elburn,” he said.

Albano, Mills, and their classmates Eric Meuer and Jeremy Faletto, during a recent discussion agreed that it would be great to have a place in town where they could hang out, such as a coffee shop or something similar. However, Albano and Meuer said their No. 1 desire was for an amphitheater on the south side of Elburn, where they could go and listen to music.

The students said they would like to see Elburn grow, but they would like to see it expand outward around the downtown area instead of being too spread out.

Meuer said he would like more green space and more trees, especially in the downtown area. Albano agreed, saying he thinks the church parking lot would better serve the village as a park.

Faletto would like a swimming pool in town, and more restaurants that aren’t bars. Meuer said there are already enough banks in Elburn—eight in total. And Albano said a music store would be great, “something to bring people to the downtown area.”

The teens are also in agreement about what they don’t want, namely another Randall Road. They also don’t want Elburn to be like Sugar Grove, which they feel is spread out too much.

The students would prefer to avoid “a lot of town houses and suburban ‘pop-ups,’” and disconnected subdivisions such as Blackberry Creek.

“I’d like to keep the small-town feel, but to add more things to draw people—something that connects the people” Faletto said.

Albano’s mother, Sheila, said that Nick really enjoyed participating in the project. During the meeting with other members of the community, he invited some of his friends to come and give their input.

“A couple adults said they were very impressed with the kids,” Sheila said.

Although the adults and the students had some very different ideas about what they would like to see for Elburn’s future, Sheila said the kids were very respectful of the other community members.

Anderson said that some of the students asked him about why they were chosen to give their input.

“Our plan at that time was 23 years old,” he said. “Twenty-three years from now, guess what? You’re sitting where we (the trustees) are now.”

Anderson said that having the high school students involved was such a success that Images Plus, the consulting firm that created the plan, is encouraging other communities to get their high school students involved.

“Be proud of yourselves, because we’re proud of you,” Anderson said to the students.

Ready for more

in Baseball/Elburn/Featured/Kaneland by
Casey Crosby fires a pitch from the mound in 2012 action as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. 					     Photo courtesy of Toledo Mud Hens

Photo: Casey Crosby fires a pitch from the mound in 2012 action as a member of the Toledo Mud Hens. Photo courtesy of Toledo Mud Hens

First big-league start whets Crosby’s appetite
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Casey Crosby certainly didn’t mind an unexpected change of plans late last May that got him to “The Show,” aka, the Major Leagues.

The former Kaneland High School star, drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007, was to make a scheduled start for the club’s Class AAA affiliate Toledo Mud Hens in Scranton, Pa., on a Thursday night, May 31, 2012, against the Yankees’ farm team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Crosby would then travel back to Toledo after the game on the team bus overnight and meet his wife, Haley, who was driving up from Elburn, so the couple could spend some time together since the Mud Hens had a home stand that weekend.

But that was all before Mud Hens’ manager Phil Nevin paid Crosby a visit on Wednesday. Nevin informed him that his start was being pushed back to Friday, June 1. Crosby instead would be heading north to Detroit to take the place of the injured Doug Fister in the Tigers’ rotation, and thus, be making his first Major League start.

“It was a dream come true,” said Crosby, rated the Tigers’ No. 8 prospect after the 2012 season by Baseball America. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do (since I was a kid) ever since I could talk, really. My hair stood up and heart started racing nonstop after that.”

After getting the good news, he called Haley in Elburn, where the couple makes their home, but downplayed the change of plans.

“I played it off as not a big deal,” he said, “kind of joking with her that my start was being moved back to Friday because throwing against the New York Yankees was better than throwing against Scranton.”

Crosby’s mound opponent for his first big-league start was none other than C.C. Sabathia. However, Crosby said he didn’t allow the fact that he was facing one of baseball’s premier pitchers to affect his mindset before the game.

“If you treat the game bigger than it actually is, you’re going to get eaten up,” said Crosby, who interestingly was called C.C. by his youth travel team teammates because he, like Sabathia, is left-handed and his initials are C.C. “You’re already amped up because you’re there, but you want to calm yourself down. It’s the same game you’ve played as a kid. Since I was a little kid I watched him (Sabathia) pitch.”

Nonetheless, Crosby said it was quite an experience to step onto the field at Comerica Park for his first start in front of over 41,000 fans.

“Going into the stadium onto the field, just taking it in size of stadium, the cameras, it was such an uplifting feeling to know that you made it,” he said, “and doing something that pretty much not every kid can experience when they‘re older.”

Sabathia and the Yanks unfortunately got the better of Crosby and the Tigers that night, beating Detroit, 9-4. However, Crosby was back on the bump June 7, and did pick up his first Major League victory after the Tigers edged Cleveland, 7-5. He gave up three earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

“It was great,” Crosby said regarding getting the “W.” “Everything from seeing the last out made to getting the game ball to getting a beer shower, it was an amazing day.”

Fister returned from the disabled list in mid-June, so Crosby went back to Toledo to finish out the season. He was 7-9 with Toledo last year, with a 4.01 ERA, giving up 112 hits in 125 2/3 innings while striking out 112.

Crosby is on the Tigers’ 40-man roster and spent spring training at the team’s facility in Lakeland, Fla. He pitched a total of seven innings. That might not seem like a lot to the casual baseball observer, but Crosby explained there were only so many innings to go around, given the sheer number of pitchers in camp.

“There’s so many guys in spring training that everyone needs to get their reps in,” he said. “It’s hard (to get more innings). Most of guys were around seven innings. They’ve got some solid veteran pitchers.”

Crosby pitched two innings during his final spring outing with the Tigers, giving up one hit and no earned runs vs. the New York Mets. Although Crosby was optioned to Toledo in mid-March shortly after facing the Mets, Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland said he liked what he saw from the 24-year- old.

“He started to pitch with a little more confidence in his control,” Leyland told the Detroit Free Press. “Also had a pretty good curveball, so he’s a guy we want down there stretched out. He got his feet wet a little bit last year, got a little bit of an idea what it’s about up here. That’s a good thing.”

“They just said that I showed a lot of improvement from last spring training,” Crosby said of his conversations with those in the Detroit organization prior to him going back to Toledo. “Even though I’m getting sent down doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, that (I won’t) get back into the big leagues. If I’m a guy who’s doing well down here, I’ll get the call (back up), but I just have to keep plugging away and working.”

Crosby’s curveball was rated the best in the Tigers’ farm system by Baseball America after the 2012 season, but he also possesses a fastball that’s clocked in the mid-90s.

“The main thing they told me is keep throwing strikes and not holding back with my fastball,” Crosby said. “Let it go and throw strikes with it.”

Crosby said he’ll be on a pitch count (80 to 90 pitches per start) in Toledo until late April.

“They still project me as a starter,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to spot start a game or two (this year in Detroit).”

Pint-sized bar opens

in Elburn/Featured by

Paisano’s owners to open Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill in Elburn
by Elizabeth Rago
ELBURN—Small-business owners Annette and Dick Theobald are tentatively scheduled to open the Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill, located at 117 North Main St. in Elburn, in May. The couple are Kaneville residents who have teamed up with Rob and Myra Ottoson to purchase the Main Street property.

Annette and Dick are not newcomers to the restaurant business. In 2003, they opened Paisano’s Pizza and Grill, which sits across the street from the couple’s new eatery.

“At the time we opened Paisano’s, Jim and Rita Cotti opened their bar (at 117 North Main St.) and we were able to have our pizza menu on their tables,” Annette said. “The Cottis became one of our top customers. By purchasing the bar, we are able to offer our customers a place to have a pizza and a cold beverage.”

The Theobalds purchased the pub location from Jim Cotti, but state they were not originally looking to buy a bar.

Instrumental in the design and renovation of Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill, the Ottosons and local tradesmen have been busy completing the punch list of changes to transform the restaurant’s interior and exterior.

“By renovating the bar, we hope to improve the historic section of downtown Elburn,” Annette said. “We feel we will only complement a night out on the town in downtown Elburn, which will bring more people more often to downtown.”

Besides pizza from the Paisano’s menu, Eddie Gaedel’s will serve burgers, paninis, mini-sandwiches such as pulled pork and roast beef, paired with salads, soup and appetizers. The bar will stock beverages like craft beers, wine, martinis and frozen drinks.

With their reputation for service, food and a vested interest in the Kaneland community, the Theobalds look forward to catering to existing customers, and hope to draw new patrons with the option to relax, have a meal and watch their favorite sports team.

Since Paisano’s has been widely supported by the community, Annette and Dick felt it only natural to anchor their efforts locally by rallying behind area businesses to provide free advertising on Paisano’s pizza boxes, sponsoring local sports teams and donating gift certificates to area fundraisers, to name a few.

So, how will Eddie Gaedel give back?

“That’s a good question,” Annette said. “We will sponsor adult softball teams and be on the lookout for organizations to donate gift certificates to. We are in the process of exploring other ways to give back to the community.”

To follow along with the renovation and launch of Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill, visit www.facebook.com/#!/EddieGaedelPubandGrill.

The Theobalds are happily accepting applications for experienced and certified cooks and bartenders. Interested persons can fill out an application at Paisano’s, 106 N. Main St. in Elburn, or send a direct message on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/EddieGaedelPuband Grill.

Kaneland’s got talent

in Featured/Kaneland by

The 12th Annual Kaneland Talent Show, was held Friday at the auditorium.
Dalvell Triplitt (above, left to right), Mike Karakourtis, Alex Carrillo and Chad Swieca danced to a mix of songs. Matt Vander Sande (right) of the band Atmospherica Iridescence performed “All Along the Watchtower.” Proceeds of the event went to the Kaneland High School Family and Consumer Science Department.
Photos by Patti Wilk





Baseball sees rough beginning on Missouri trail

in Baseball/Featured by

Photo: Kaneland High School starting pitcher Blake Sowell fires one home during Tuesday’s 12-10 win over visiting Sandwich. Photo by Ryan Wells

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Much like the Cubs going into Cardinals territory, there existed little welcome for the Chicago-area Kaneland Knights baseball squad (0-5).

Spring break and the season began on March 27 against Fox High School at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., home of the Frontier League’s Gateway Grizzlies, and the Knights fell 4-3.

Kaneland then lost to St. Genevieve of Mo., 13-3 on Thursday, downstate Mt. Zion in Harrisburg, Ill., on Friday by a 6-4 clip, before finally dropping a doubleheader to O’Fallon on Saturday, 4-3 and 10-2.

Against St. Genevieve, KHS took a 2-0 lead in the second and had a 3-1 lead after three innings before the hosts put up a four-spot in the fifth and 10 in the sixth to cinch the slaughter.

Nick Albano suffered the loss in relief, while Kyle Pollastrini and Tyler Bellock each had an RBI.

In the loss against Mt. Zion, KHS again went out to a lead, 4-1 after three, before the hosts scored five for the Knights’ setback, including three in the sixth.

Knight Nick Stahl took the loss in relief, while Joe Komel added a double and two RBI.

The Saturday twinbill failed to bring good news. In game one, Kaneland broke a 2-2 deadlock with a run in the top of the eighth, but the hosts scored two in the last at-bat. Curtis Thorson was tagged with the loss, with Josh Cohrs tagging a double.

The final Saturday contest saw Kaneland fall behind 8-0 after the first two inning on the way to a loss. KHS also committed four errors in the field.

Thorson suffered the loss, but Blake Sowell recorded a double.

“I think we found out who the guys are that we can lean on and who the guys are that we need to get going,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “What I know is that we were in a position to win all but one game. We held the lead at some point during the last three innings of each game but ended up relinquishing it. A play here, a call there and we come home 4-1 instead of 0-5.”

On Tuesday vs. Sandwich, the Knights kicked off the home part of their non-conference schedule with a 12-10 win in a cold slugfest.

Komel recorded the win in relief, surrendering just one run in two and a third innings. He also notched three strikeouts.

Limbrunner went two-for-two from the plate, driving in three runs, scoring three times, and adding a steal to his statline.

Wednesday had a home date against Interstate Eight stalwart Plano, with results not available for press time.

On Thursday, April 4, the Knights are set to travel north to Rockton, Ill., to face host Hononegah.

Stuck by Barbs

in Featured/Girls Soccer by

Photo: Freshman Kiandra Powell (above) battles with a DeKalb player during Kaneland’s 1-0 loss Tuesday. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Season opener sees Lady Knights stifled in Maple Park
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—After all the cancellations and scheduling switches, the Lady Knights’ soccer roster was ready for action.

It’s too bad it was in tundra-like conditions and against a capable rival in DeKalb High School.

A goal by the Lady Barbs with 35:44 remaining in the Tuesday afternoon tilt held up despite a handful of chances, and Kaneland fell in the 2013 curtain-jerker.

Kaneland is now 0-1.

The goal by Lady Barb Morgan Beaty kept going despite goalkeeper Jordan Ginther’s deflection attempt.

Kaneland controlled the ball for most of the second half, but the closest tries by Heather Ortiz and Kiandra Powell were stopped near the opposite goal.

Courtney Diddell’s booming rocket with 15 minutes to go was handled on the opposite goalkeeper’s end, marking the last best chance of the match.

KHS experimented with lineup modifications throughout the game due to a banged-up roster that left it down to two subs, and Michelle Ortiz had to leave the game with an ankle injury.

However, KHS coach Scott Parillo saw a silver lining on the frigid afternoon.

“I’m pretty pleased,” Parillo said. “I wish we didn’t have that little mental block where we left that girl wide open. But we’re not going to make any excuses. They capitalized when they needed to, and unfortunately we didn’t. We’ll build on this.”

The Kaneland lineup has capitalized on a suitable mix of leadership with younger talent, and the experimental lineup yielded some good signs for Parillo.

“Nicole Koczka did a nice job at stopper, Gabby Cano did a nice job at forward, Heather Ortiz did well at mid. This was not a bad effort with our first time outside being (Monday),” Parillo said.

Kaneland heads to the West Aurora Blackhawk Invite beginning on Thursday, April 4.

Staying on track

in Community Sports/Featured by

Renowned track coach hopes area can become a hub for big meets
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—One of the most successful and innovative cross country/track and field coaches in the country just might be your next door neighbor.

Skip Stolley, whose resume includes stints as an Illinois prep and college coach—he’s also coached more than 60 athletes over the years who’ve qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials—has been living in Elburn for less than a year.

Stolley moved to Elburn from St. Charles last August.

“It’s worked out well for me,” he said.

Last November, the Aurora native was named chairman of the USA Track and Field’s Illinois Long Distance Running Committee, and he quickly set the pace for the organization. Stolley created a nine-race USATF Illinois Road Race Championship Series for 2013, which began in January with the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5K at Chicago’s McCormick Place—an event that featured around 2,100 runners—and wraps up with the Evanston Flying Turkey 5K Nov. 28.

The series also includes the Fox Valley Marathon, to be held on Sept. 22 in St. Charles, and the Sycamore 10K Pumpkin Run Oct. 27.

“There hasn’t been an Illinois USTAF road championship at any distance for more than 20 years,” Stolley said, “and within 60 days we put that plan together.”

But Stolley is hoping the Fox Valley area can become a regional and national competitive running hub over the next few years.

Just before retiring as head track coach at North Park University in Chicago, Stolley founded the Chicago Area Track and Organizing Committee, a volunteer-based coalition of coaches, running enthusiasts, community and business leaders that are interested in bringing major regional and national running events to the area.

Stolley has started working with the Kane County Board on the possibility of developing a permanent cross country course on 780 acres of the Settler’s Hill property. The course would be 10 meters wide and located north of Settler’s Hill Golf Club, bordered by prairie grass with a wide start-finish area.

If development of the course comes to fruition, Stolley hopes it would be completed by the fall of 2015. He said there would be enough parking for 5,000 vehicles, along with permanent rest rooms and concession facilities.

A master plan, he said, would include a permanent finish chute, a press box, a scoreboard, a Jumbotron and underground timing pads. He envisions this course hosting events such as the NCAA, USA, open and world cross country championships.

“It’s really a tragedy that there’s no major meets in the Chicago area,” he said. “This is such a hotbed for track and field and cross country, and high school and college track is just booming.”

Stolley is clearly well plugged into the national cross country and track circuit. In addition to his current roles, he’s been a member of the USATF Men’s Track and Field executive committee, and chairman of the USATF National Club Council. He’s also been the meet director for the 1999 USA National Cross Country Championships in Long Beach, Calif., the 2004 Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the 2006 USATF National Club Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

In 1983, Stolley served as assistant meet director for the U.S. championships that were being held in Indianapolis. While working the meet, he had conversations with Bob Seagren, the 1968 Olympic pole vault gold medalist who at the time was the head of the PUMA Energizer track club in California. Seagren asked Stolley—who was still the men’s and women’s cross country and track coach at Indiana State University—if he would be interested in becoming the club’s executive director. With the Olympics being held in Los Angeles the next year, Stolley left Indiana State to join the club and moved out to Southern California.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity,” he said.

Stolley later started Track West, a USATF club that catered to developing post-collegiate men and women distances runners. During his tenure with Track West, Stolley helped produce more than 60 qualifiers for the USA Outdoor Championships and 24 athletes who took part in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

“One of the things that I’m most proud of from that club is that the vast majority of those kids were not NCAA champions or medalists,” Stolley said. “They were people who wanted to continue their running careers after college and really developed with us to the point where they were national qualifiers and contending for places on USA teams.”

In 2006, Stolley then formed the VS Athletics Track Club, which supported developing men and women athletes over a broad spectrum of events such as distances, sprints, hurdles, jumps and throws. VSA became a USATF-designated Elite Development Club and produced 10 qualifiers for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in just its third year of existence.

“VS was a great marriage,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to continue in our sport after college. While most people think that our Olympic teams are made up of the best college athletes, the truth is that the average age of our track and field Olympians is 29.2 years old. That means our best athletes have to find a way to stay in the sport for five, six, seven years after college and continue their development up to the international level.”

Stolley left the VSA for North Park in 2009, moving back to the Chicago area to be closer to his mother, who just turned 90, and his three brothers.

Outside of his affiliations with the Chicago Area Track and Organizing Committee and the USATF’s Illinois Long Distance Running Committee, Stolley hasn’t made a final decision as to what he would like to do in the future. But he did express interest in starting a track club in Illinois similar to Track West or the VS Athletics Track Club.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I would definitely use the VS Athletics model. What clubs there are (in Illinois) are mostly (for) distance running. There’s a real need for an organization like this.”

Election: Sugar Grove Village President

in April 9, 2013/Featured/Sugar Grove by

Incumbent squares off with long-time village trustee
Incumbent Sean Michels will face a challenge for his Sugar Grove village president seat from board trustee Kevin Geary.

Michels_SeanSean Michels
Sugar Grove Village President

• Kaneland High School graduate
• Illinois State University graduate
• Aurora University graduate
• Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997
• Village Board member from 1997-1999
• Elected village president in 1999

• A continued effort to reduce real estate
taxes for residents
• Establishment of an intergovernmental agreement
with the Kaneland District
• Make an effort to complete developments
in which its developers have gone bankrupt

Sean Michels has spent the better part of two decades serving the public through various elected offices. A graduate of Kaneland High School, Illinois State University and Aurora University, Michels’ served on the Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997, and then served as a Village Board member for two years before he was elected village president in 1999.

Michels is the project manager for McCue Builders, Inc., and he has involved himself in the community via roles such as Park District coach and Sunday school teacher. He’s also a former Metrowest Council of Mayors Board member.

As president of Sugar Grove’s growing community, Michels defines his role as keeping the village moving forward in a positive progressive manner while being fiscally conservative.

“It is important to remember that the decisions that are made today will have a long lasting impact on how the village develops into the future,” Michels said. “This simple truth is why the Village Board and I have focused on our Land Use Plan and other planning documents to ensure that as we grow, our decisions will fit together in the long run.”

Michels believes that the long-term vision of Sugar Grove’s future development will help set short-term goals that are necessary to keep the village moving forward to meet any long-term goals, but cautions that the village must not overextend itself financially; rather, it must live within its annual budget. He notes that the village has earned a solid ranking of A+ by Standard and Poor’s, thanks to the fact that the village adheres to its annual budget.

Michels said he seeks re-election because he has the desire to make Sugar Grove the best community to live, work and raise a family. He works on that goal nearly every day by thinking about the next steps the village can take to attract new business, as well as what improvements can be made to make the quality of life better for village residents.

“I enjoy talking to the residents to find out what they like and what they think we need to improve on in order to make Sugar Grove a better place,” he said. “I understand that everyone wants to pay lower taxes, so I work hard to bring in new business to help reduce taxes, and to improve our quality of life.”

Michels believes he’s the best candidate for village president because of his passion for Sugar Grove and the goals he has set for it—both short and long term. His short-term goals include an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District, and completion of the Route 47/I-88 interchange as a means to keep taxes down. Michels’ long-term goals involve the introduction of fiber optic to each home and business in the village, and a Metra station—moves that he believes would make Sugar Grove a premier community in the future.

“I truly believe this is what separates me from my opponent,” Michels said. “My goals lead the village to a brighter future. He simply does not have goals for the future of the village.”

If re-elected, Michels’ priorities for the village will include a continued effort to reduce real estate taxes for residents; establishment of an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District; and an effort to complete developments in which its developers have gone bankrupt.

“The village has been willing to work with the bond companies or banks to get necessary improvements done so that their obligations are completed and the lawsuits can be dropped,” Michels said. “The problem is that some of the groups feel it is cheaper to go to court than it is to make the improvements. We realize that the residents of the subdivisions are caught in the middle, but the village is also caught in a predicament.”

According to Michels, if the village makes the improvements, it will relieve the bank from paying the village back. But if improvements are not made soon, significantly more money will need to be spent because the road base will fail and need to be completely replaced.

“We continue to meet with any potential developer that offers to come in and take over these projects, understanding that it is better to get work done than make the lawyers rich,” Michels said.

If given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Michels said he’d move forward with the Kaneland IGA.

“This will help keep taxes down for all of the residents of Sugar Grove by having new development pay for itself,” Michels said. “Developers will pay the impact fee to have a good school district, because developers know that a good school district sell homes.”

A video gaming referendum will appear on Sugar Grove’s April 9 General Election ballot. Michels believes video gaming isn’t as big an issue as the media has perpetuated in recent months.

“The people on both sides of the issue are very passionate, but most of the people do not seem to have an interest one way or the other in video gaming,” Michels said. “I believe the public will decide if gaming is popular or not by whether they visit the establishments that have gaming. (Otherwise), they avoid those places that have gaming.”

Michels said it’s hard to ask the state to fund capital projects if the village does not participate in the part of the funding program.

“I do not condone gaming, but I am in favor of video gaming to help our local businesses survive,” he said.

In terms of local business, Michels is pleased with the recent retail and commercial growth that the village has experienced over the past four years. He believes additional retail and commercial development is always needed to diversify the village’s tax base.

“The village continues to work to bring more business into Sugar Grove by actively soliciting businesses to locate in town through the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation and expediting the development review process,” he said. “The village has also extended critical infrastructure to commercial areas to make property ‘development ready.’”

And then theres the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, an addition that Michels said would be a critical improvement not only for Sugar Grove, but the region, as well.

“(The) project will be a catalyst for new commercial development that will help diversify the tax base for Sugar Grove residents,” he said. “In cooperation with the village of Elburn, city of Aurora and Congressman Randy Hultgren, the village has worked hard to get funds, once earmarked for the Prairie Parkway, to be reallocated to fund this interchange. It is with great optimism (that) a decision to fund this interchange will be made in the next few months.”

Kevin Geary Press PhotoKevin Geary
Sugar Grove Village trustee and Candidate for Sugar Grove Village President

• College of DuPage, Waubonsee Community College
• Real Estate Broker/Managing Broker Licensure
• Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach
• Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board
• Sugar Grove Village Trustee since 1999
• Volunteers on several other groups

• Diversification of the tax base for village residents
• Transportation improvements
• Achieveing open and honest government
• Move meeting start time to 7 p.m. for commuters

The first 23 years of Kevin Geary’s professional career were spent in telecommunications, where he held a number of professional positions, such as technical training specialist, customer service representative, and quality control process and metric engineer.

He’s spent the last 14 years serving the public as a Sugar Grove Village Board trustee.

“With my diverse background, I would like to bring my quality control, customer service, and business experiences to the table and apply my outstanding business skills to our village projects, programs and residents’ needs,” he said.

Geary’s education background includes coursework taken at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., as well as real estate sales licensure coursework at Waubonsee Community College. He furthered his education with a real estate broker licensure in 2005 and a real estate managing broker licensure in 2012. He’s required to continue his education bi-annually.

Geary has spent the last decade working and building his own real estate and property management business. He has operated in civic roles such as Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach from 1996 to 1999; a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors for over eight years; a Downtown/Main Street Re-development Committee member; Sugar Grove Corn Boil Board of Directors member for over 13 years; an associate member of the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation; and Holiday in the Grove volunteer.

Geary defines the role of village president as one to create a spirit of cooperation that brings benefits to the community and respect for the region.

“The village president is responsible to ensure the goals of the community are met in a measureable way, shares the outcome of annual evaluations and posts the results of any accolades and or corrective actions to be taken,” he said.

Geary said he cares a great deal for Sugar Grove, as well as his friends and neighbors throughout the community.

“I believe the best way to lead a community is to get involved, and the best way to really capture the needs of our community is to listen,” Geary said. “Public officials need to work together as a team. There is no ‘I’ in Geary.”

The long-time trustee is campaigning on the platform of achieving open and honest government, and said one giant step toward that goal would be the village funding video recording and online streaming of board meetings so that the taxpayers can stay informed on the issues before the board.

Geary also wants to move meeting start times to 7 p.m. in order to allow commuting residents a chance to attend meetings and “participate in the democratic process,” and said he has an additional goal to bring exceptional customer service and best practices back to the village.

Geary’s additional campaign priorities include diversification of the tax base for village residents over the next four years, and transportation improvements.

“(Transportation improvements) are not only a life safety issue, but a community development issue, as well,” he said. “With the abandonment of the Prairie Parkway project, Sugar Grove must seek as much funding as possible to aid in the improvement of our roadways that also support economic growth and ensure the safety of all who travel to and through our community.”

Geary said Sugar Grove’s first-class community and unique geographic location, coupled with world-class events and attractions (i.e. Rich Harvest Farms) put the village at a great advantage over its surrounding communities.

“There are several important projects that could benefit from Prairie Parkway funds, such as the addition of a full interchange at I-88 and Route 47, road improvements to the portion of Route 47 that is also Route 30, and Route 30 west to Dugan Road,” he said.

In addition to live streaming Village Board and Planning Commission meetings, Geary wants to “get Sugar Grove moving again.” He believes the best way to achieve that would be to do an assessment of village assets.

“I have been told that within our area, we have access to Fortune 100 and 500 business executives,” Geary said. “I would host a round table where these individuals would help the village determine Sugar Grove’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for commercial growth and development.

If he were given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Geary said he’d target the continued awarding of no-bid engineering contracts to a preferred vendor with close ties to the village president.

“Under my administration, I would require a common sense bid process and see to it that the process is followed,” Geary said. “This process will allow the residents to see who is bidding, what they are bidding, and that the village is being responsible with the taxpayer’s money.”

In terms of Geary’s stance toward video gaming in the village, he said Illinois has made provisions within the law to ensure that local municipalities and their citizens have the opportunity to do what they feel is best for their community.

“After listening to the public comments (regarding video gaming), there was no clear direction given from the residents for whom we serve,” Geary said. “Per the discussion at the board meeting, I voted to suspend gambling at that time, with the intent that a referendum could be drafted and the community could vote on this highly debated issue. In my opinion this is democracy at work, and is the only way to truly determine the will of our community. At my urging, the Village Board has placed the (video gaming) question on the spring ballot.”

One area where Geary differs from his political opponent is the question of whether Sugar Grove should re-enter an IGA with the Kaneland School District.

“While some would say the popular answer would have to be in the affirmative, supporting the IGA, I believe the village in these unsure times will need every tool in its toolbox to get residential development moving again. I would further say that the village has over 20 years surplus of platted lots that have fees attached.

Geary said he would much prefer to talk about how to diversify the tax base for the residents, which he believes can be accomplished through commercial and industrial development.

“These types of developments can account for a significant part of our property tax base, and it doesn’t negatively impact our schools or other governmental services,” Geary said. “Additionally, if these businesses are a point of sale, sales tax dollars can be gained. This, in turn, would lessen the burden on the already overtaxed homeowner without having to reduce village services or programs.”

Knight coach Johnson named IBCA All-Star coach

in Boys Basketball/Featured/Kaneland by

Photo: KHS head coach Brian Johnson works with his team during this past season’s action.
File Photo

Exhibition to take place at Illinois Wesleyan University this June
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—In theory, you always have a chance to witness hoops talent up close as a basketball coach.

In coach Brian Johnson’s case, the chance to do so will be right in front of his face this summer.

The four-year Kaneland High School boys basketball coach was informed last week of his appointment to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association 3A/4A All-Star Game, held at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center on June 29.

Johnson, who has won two Northern Illinois Big XII titles with the Knights roster in the last three years, said he is humbled by the opportunity and recognition.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Johnson said. “Some of those coaches that have been down there are legends.”

The IBCA has a committee select the North and South Teams, with I-80 as the boundary. The teams will be selected from a pool of senior All-State teams, with around 25 players total.

“I had been approached by the IBCA to come on as coach; I had done some stuff for them in the past,” Johnson said. “It had been brought up a couple of months ago.”

Johnson saw the Knights’ season end at the hands of St. Francis of Wheaton last month in the IMSA Regional, but his coaching prowess will be called on to manage some top-tier talent.

“We get down there on Friday and see the different players, and have a couple practices before Saturday’s game,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s trail to head coach involved Dundee-Crown High School, where he worked as an assistant, and the North coaching staff will carry significance.

“Lance Huber will be an assistant coach; he gave me a shot at Dundee-Crown and helped out so much to get me where I am today,” Johnson said.

In the midst of summer league action, Johnson will have a responsibility with quite the spotlight, but with the honor bestowed and the all-star talent at his disposal, the Knights’ sideline roamer is keeping the stress at bay.

“I’m going to go down there and have a good time,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be fun.”

The festivities in Bloomington, Ill., are also scheduled to feature a similar 1A/2A All-Star Game that same weekend.

Change coming to NIB-12

in Featured/Sports by

With Dukes, Bulldogs out, conference braintrust elects for smaller divisions
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Within the last decade of Kaneland athletics, the Knights have called several landscapes home.

Once able to call the sprawling Suburban Prairie Conference North Division home, the Knights moved to the new Western Sun Conference.

After four years, a new set-up emerged for the fall of 2010 in the form of the two-division Northern Illinois Big XII.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Knights will still be able to call the conference home, but the ambiance will be a tad different.

Dixon and Streator officially elected to vacate the conference at the end of the 2013-14 academic year, following a meeting of conference principals.

The conference’s athletic directors had previously met in early March to discuss proposals and forward them to the principals.

Dixon, with an enrollment of 803 students, has elected to move to the Big Northern Conference, after originally joining the NIB-12 from the defunct NCIC.

Streator, at 876 students, mulled several options as the southernmost school in the school grouping. It was invited to join the Interstate Eight Conference in February.

Both schools came from the West Division, meaning conference shuffling or addition had to take place.

The March 15 meeting of the conference Board of Controls put in motion the switch to a 10-team conference with two five-team divisions.

The larger East consists of DeKalb, Kaneland, Rochelle, Sycamore and Yorkville, while West play features Geneseo, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Rochelle and Sterling.

“Our attempt is to ensure the competitive and long-term health of the Northern Illinois Big XII conference,” Rochelle principal and conference president Travis McGuire said. “All topics, avenues, and positions were discussed and contemplated through this process. We will continue to look to expand our conference as we move forward.”

The new alignment becomes the lay of the land for football, with proposals still to be had for the other sports for conference crossover play.

Football’s schedule situation would involve the standard two crossover games, meaning the 2014 schedule would feature three non-conference games.

Kaneland football would have to secure three season-opening foes in 2014, with Chicago’s Brooks Prep and Elmhurst’s Immaculate Conception signed to one-year deals for 2013.

“In football, it’s such a big deal to play schools your own size and to get non-conference teams to play you,” KHS football coach Tom Fedderly said. “I think they were listening to ideas and were looking for teams to come in. Maybe one day, smaller schools can come into the conference. We’ll see what happens later with sports like basketball.”

Waubonsee’s Heiss inducted into NJCAA Hall of Fame

in Featured/Waubonsee Sports by

Danville, ILL—Waubonsee Community College’s long-time head men’s basketball coach Dave Heiss was recently inducted into the NJCAA Basketball Hall of Fame at the Division II National Tournament Banquet.

“It’s an honor, but it’s not just my honor. A lot of people have helped me get to this point,” Heiss said. “I didn’t do it by myself. Obviously, my name is on that plaque, but a lot of people at Waubonsee, the administration, athletic director Dave Randall, my assistant coaches and all the players, have helped make this possible.”

Heiss began coaching the Chiefs in 1986 and has built the program into a perennial power over the last 28 seasons. He has led Waubonsee to victory 552 times, an average of nearly 20 wins per season for almost three decades. Heiss currently is 17th among active junior college coaches on the NJCAA’s win list. Under Heiss’ guidance, the Chiefs have won 20 or more games 15 times, and tallied 19 wins on four other occasions. His squads have won 11 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) titles with 63 of his players being named First Team All-Conference, including eight league MVP Awards. In 2008 Heiss became the ISCC’s all-time record holder for career wins with his 191st victory, and currently has 249 wins and counting.

Heiss has led Waubonsee to five Region IV titles and five subsequent berths in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, finishing seventh in 1991. Heiss has been selected as the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) and the Region IV Basketball Coach of the Year five times, while the ISCC has tabbed him with that honor nine times. Previously Heiss has been inducted into the NJCAA Region IV Hall of Fame (2006), the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame (2009), the Aurora West High School Hall of Fame (2010) and the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Hall of Fame (2010).

Heiss was an All-Upstate Eight Conference performer for Aurora West in 1980, when his team finished third in the state. He went on to play at Eastern Wyoming Junior College, leading the NJCAA Region IX in scoring as a sophomore. Heiss then transferred to Bemidji (MN) State University, where he was All-Northern Sun Conference his final two years. Heiss later played for the Utah Jazz rookie team in the Pro-Am League in the summer of 1986.

Off the court, Heiss earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Bemidji (MN) State University and his master’s degree from Chicago State University. Heiss has been a full- time faculty member in Waubonsee’s Physical Education Department since 1992, and was instrumental in the establishment of Waubonsee’s S.T.A.R. program, an academic monitoring and tutoring program for student/athletes. Additionally, Heiss has guided the Chiefs’ golf program for the last 21 years, orchestrating three ISCC titles and a Region IV crown, while helping 32 golfers reach All-Conference status. A life-long resident of Aurora, Heiss has three children, D.J., Danielle and Demi.

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