Living for a dream

By Laura Bollin

An Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School student who has yet to set foot in his classroom this year was named the school's student of the month for January.

Henry Keller, 12, of Oak Lawn, won the award for acing a test on the Constitution. The seventh-grader has been out of school the entire 2012-13 year while undergoing treatment for bone cancer.

In his honor, Oak Lawn-Hometown is raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This is hardly new territory for the school, which has been the top Make-A-Wish fundraiser in Illinois for the past eight years with $310,000 in the coffers. The school raised $3,672 at a recent staff/student volleyball tournament, and a portion of the money will go toward sending Henry to Australia at the conclusion of his treatment.

"I can't even express my gratitude toward them. They are making sure that Henry is part of the community still," said Henry's mother, Chris Keller. "Even though he can't come to school, he is a part of the school. I think it has helped his outlook to know that his friends are still there for him. They are thinking about him and they can't wait for him to come back."

Henry was diagnosed with bone cancer last August and has been homeschooled since. His mother said the family was surprised to learn of the diagnosis. Henry had been complaining of pain in his left leg for a few weeks over the summer, and a biopsy on his left tibia confirmed cancer was the cause.

"I thought it was growing pains," Keller said. "One night, he called me four or five times, and texted me, and told me his leg really hurt. We went to the doctor and got an X-ray done on Friday. On Saturday, we were on our way to Lake Geneva for a family weekend, and the doctor called us and told us we had to get him on crutches right away, because his leg couldn't bear weight."

The following Monday, Henry had an appointment at the Kaiser Center, the pediatric cancer institute at Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. He later underwent surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to remove a four-inch tumor in his left tibia, and began chemotherapy at Hope.

"We were really in shock," his mother said. "He had no symptoms, and all of a sudden, he's got cancer. We didn't have time to really think about stuff."

Henry, who is constantly on the go, said the diagnosis kept him from school.

"I was pretty irritated, I was pretty mad," Henry said. "

Henry is in the midst of a 29-week chemotherapy treatment, and has 10 weeks left to go. Each four-hour treatment requires him to take a drug that helps his kidneys process the toxic chemicals being used to kill the cancer, and he is in the hospital for four days at a time.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is there," Keller said. "He should be done, we're praying, by April."

While undergoing treatment, Henry watches military documentaries on television or plays on his iPad - the latter a gift from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, which bought the iPad with money raised at a dress-down day in November. He enjoys visits from his friends, who come to his house once a week to hang out, and uses online video chat service Skype to participate in classes. His active lifestyle that includes playing baseball and floor hockey has been sidetracked, and he plans to get back into sports as soon as possible.

"My plans for after treatment is over in April is to play a bunch of sports and have fun," Henry said. "I play second base and left field for Oak Lawn baseball. What's getting me through is knowing that I'll be able to go to Australia. That's my wish. I want to go scuba diving, and fishing in the Great Barrier Reef."

In addition to his trip to Australia, another event is keeping Henry in high spirits - his "crutch-burying party."

"We have to find out when he doesn't need them anymore, right now he cannot walk and is still using them," Chris said. "Anyone will be able to come and toss a shovelful of dirt over the crutches. The Oak Lawn Fire Department has offered to come and help. They're going to crush it with the Jaws of Life, or run over the crutch with their fire truck. One of his grandparents' friends gave him a shovel with a ribbon on it to celebrate."

Joy Gallivan, a social worker at Oak Lawn-Hometown, has known Henry since he was a kindergartner at Sward School.

"He's my buddy," Gallivan said. "I have lunch with him once a week, at home or at the hospital. He's so excited. All he wants to do is come back to school."

District 123 helped fund the wish of another child - Abby Wujcik, an Oak Lawn resident and second-grader at Kolmar School. Abby and her family went to Hawaii, said Oak Lawn-Hometown eighth-grade studies teacher Sofia Georgelos.

"Things like this help kids build character," Georgelos said of raising money to help a fellow student. "It shows what good people they are."

Fellow teacher Teresa Loch said the Make-A-Wish fundraising lets kids "help other kids." The school has a trophy case in the hallway dedicated to Henry, with a t-shirt for the May 10 Walk-A-Thon that reads "Walk 4 Henry."

Six months after treatment is over - so possibly in October - Henry, his mother, his father, Tom, and his brother, Adam, 11, will board a plane for an Australian vacation. Henry is making do with his second wish - his first wish was a little bit bigger, said his mother.

"Make-A-Wish told him to dream big, so his first wish was to go to the moon," Chris said. "There are no flights there yet, so we couldn't do that."

Remembering MLK

Third- and fourth-graders at St. Bernadette Catholic Academy presented a timeline of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. at an assembly last month. Students also participated in a prayer service and recited parts of King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

Seen here are Zarianna Oakely (front row, from left), William Sullivan, Elijah Amoh, Richard Jacobson and Romeo Hughes; David Alexander (middle, from left), Ifechukumere Okolo, Trinit Caples, Myal Hill, Reginald Sykes III, Chioma Okolo and Caleb Jennings; and Dameon Hall (top, from left), Connor McKoewn, Austin Mayer, Adam Viravec and Joshua Rickette.

Sticker sales go online in Ridge

By Kelly White

Chicago Ridge residents will this year for the first time be able to purchase their village vehicle stickers online.

The village will partner with Third Millennium Associates for the online purchase of the stickers. Trustees voted 5-1 Feb. 19 in favor of the contract with Third Millenium, with Trustee Jim Saunoris casting the lone dissenting vote.

Chicago Ridge will pay Third Millenium a one-time cost of $8,490 for software. The village will also pay $6,000 for the decals themselves. Chicago Ridge paid an estimated $9,200 last year toward decals, overtime payroll expenses including the addition of part-time employees during sticker sales, and other fees affiliated with vehicle stickers, according to Chicago Ridge village Clerk Chuck Tokar.

Third Millenium will install a database at Village Hall that will manage online sticker purchasing. Stickers will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and online transactions will not require a convenience fee.

Third Millennium serves as a vehicle-revenue sticker management solution program that issues vehicle-licensing software. This software is designed manage municipal vehicle sticker programs.

"This is not a profit or a loss type of situation," Tokar said, "It is going to be a lot more convenient for our residents."

Since the price of vehicle stickers increased from ten to twenty dollars, the village has been profiting an estimated $200,000 from annual vehicle sticker sales, but village officials are hoping to profit more with the help of TMA in the 2013 vehicle sticker sales.

Third Millenium will send a mailing to each Chicago Ridge household as a reminder to update the sticker for each vehicle owned. The company gathers a list of registered vehicle owners based on the village's records of previous vehicle sticker sales.

The company also works with the Illinois secretary of state's database to access all vehicles registered in Chicago Ridge, so households will receive notices to buy stickers for vehicles not registered with the village. The company has vowed to "dig deeper to gain more revenue for the village."

"I feel like there's a lot of people living in town that avoid buying a vehicle sticker at all costs, and this is a way where they will - I don't want to necessarily say get caught - but yes, they will get caught," said Trustee Bruce Quintos. "With TMA, and the wider use of the Internet for vehicle sticker sales, we will be able to make sure all cars within the village are registered."

Non-drivable and garage-kept cars must have vehicle stickers; however, in the situation where a non-drivable, garage kept car has not been driven for several years and will not be drivable any time soon, the owner may file for an exemption that would have to be approved by the Village Board, Tokar explained.

Vehicle stickers go on sale June 1, and will still be available at Village Hall.

Trivia time

The speech team from Shepard High School will hold its first Team Trivia Challenge from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 8. Teams of four to six players will compete for a first prize of $500. The entry fee is $20 per team member. Teams also can win prizes for second and third places. Questions will vary, much like the selection from the board game "Trivial Pursuit." Proceeds benefit the Shepard speech program. Checks can be made out to "The Shepard Speech Team."

Worth farmers market coming to Metra lot

Last one was held in 2004

By Laura Bollin

Worth plans to resurrect its monthly farmers market this spring after an eight-year absence.

The farmers market will be held the third Sunday of the month from April through September in conjunction with a flea market in the Metra station parking lot at 110th Street and Depot Avenue, adjacent to Worth Village Hall. Worth Trustee Rich Dziedzic said he and village Clerk Bonnie Price started talking about the idea last year.

"We've got so much more space that way," Dziedzic said of holding the market in the Metra lot. "The whole idea to doing this, expanding the flea market and bringing in a farmers market, was to create more for our community. We want to bring in vendors to get people out of their houses and into the community, to buy corn or tomatoes or whatever it is."

The village used to hold a farmers market that was founded by late Worth Township Clerk Bud Gavin and late village Clerk Betty Mattera. The market closed in 2004 because the village was prohibited from hanging a 60-foot advertising banner at Harlem Avenue and 111th Street, according to Price.

"We couldn't do that anymore because it was probably dangerous, hanging someone over 111th Street," Price said.

The vendor fee for the farmers market or flea market is $20 for one market, and $15 for each additional market. The cost to vend at all six markets is $85.

Dziedzic, Price and the village's Economic Development Commission are working to bring farmers market vendors into the village.

"We're contacting 20 different vendors right now, and they sell fruit, vegetables, candles and homemade jams," Dziedzic said. "Realistically, if you have something to sell, come on out.

"My biggest reason for getting it going is the community involvement. We want to give people a place to go. Some of the byproducts of that is that people are going to get healthier food and get things they wouldn't normally get in a grocery store."

The flea market started in 2011, and was begun by Worth residents Joe and Diane Burke. The couple held five flea markets in 2011, and with Dziedzic's help held six in 2012. The 2012 markets were really scattered with respect to dates and people were getting burned out, Dziedzic said.

"We're doing it once a month this year, and there are quite a few other flea markets like Our Lady of the Ridge in Chicago Ridge and St. Bede's in Chicago that do the same thing," Dziedzic said.