Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Marist wins at least one national championship

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist’s Molly Murrihy, a Palos Heights resident, wears the numeral 1 for the RedHawks. The RedHawks were No. 1 in the state after winning the Class 4A title on Nov. 11 and were named No. 1 in the nation by FloVolleyball.


Marist’s girls volleyball team might want to send a nice Christmas card to the volleyball players at O’Connor High School out of Heliotes, Texas.

 O’Connor knocked off Reagan of San Antonio Texas in regional semifinal action.

At the time, Reagan was FloVolleyball’s No. 1-ranked team in the nation while Marist was No. 2. Good ol’ O’Connor’s upset win, combined with the RedHawks’ three-set state championship victory over 13th-ranked Minooka on Nov. 11, gives the local heroes the mythical Flo50 national championship.

The 41-1 RedHawks scored wins over nationally-ranked champion Assumption out of Kentucky, St. Joseph Academy from St. Louis and Kansas’s Class 5A champion St. James.

Also on Marist’s impressive resume in splitting two matches with neighbor Mother McAuley, which won the Flo50 national championship last year as well as national championships from, USA Today/AVCA and MaxPreps.

As of the Nov. 15 MaxPreps rankings, Marist was second to Walton (Georgia). In the MaxPreps computer rankings, Marist was eighth and oddly enough, St. Joseph of St. Louis was five slots higher and Assumption was No. 1. Geez, and I thought my computer was a piece of garbage.

USA Today/AVCA’s latest rankings has Assumption first, Walton second and Marist third. Again, that’s a bit of a joke considering Marist beat Assumption and never lost since that match. And Assumption has three losses. looks like it has crowed Walton as its national champion.

So it appears that Marist has one at least one national title among its accolades.

Unless these teams square off in a national tournament, I am not buying into the fact that any of these teams are proven to be the best in the nation just because some websites or computers say so.

But it’s been a huge honor that two years in a row, someone thinks that two great volleyball teams from this area are the best in the country.


Wait until he starts playing…

Former Sandburg boys volleyball star Jake Hanes could be in for a heck of a college career.

The Regional/Reporter’s first Boys Volleyball Player of the Year in 2016 is one of the few 6-foot-10 players you will see playing in the front and back rows. And he’s a pretty good server, too.

He signed up to play at powerhouse Ohio State University and sat out his first year as a redshirt. There are not very many teams with enough depth to aske a kid with Hanes’ skills to take a redshirt year, but OSU is loaded.

So he sat out a year and the Buckeyes won their second  straight national championship.

Before pounding down his first kill or racking up his first dig as a Buckeye, the Orland Park native won an impressive looking national championship ring. A couple of weeks ago, he was waving to a huge crowd at the Buckeyes’ football stadium as the team was honored on the field.

And Friday, he and his teammates again received the hero’s treatment as they visited the White House and posed with President Donald Trump.

Say what you want about Trump – and you will – it’s still pretty cool to be honored by a United States president, especially if you play a low-profile sport such as men’s volleyball.

For Hanes, it’s been a pretty special ride – and his career is just beginning.


Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody won't run in election

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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             Edward Moody


The decision by Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody (D-6th), a Chicago Ridge resident, not to run for election in 2018 has left the field open.

Moody, 53, the former Worth Township highway commissioner, was appointed unanimously by Democratic committeemen in October 2016 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Joan Murphy on Sept. 18. She had held the seat since 2002, representing the district that stretches from Bridgeview to Steger, including portions of Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Worth.

He took a pay cut to take the seat, leaving a $100,000 job in the office of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office for the $85,000 annual salary on the County Board. He and his twin brother, Fred, got their start in politics as precinct captains in Chicago’s 13th Ward, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s home base.

Moody originally said he planned to run for election in the March 20 primary. He could not be reached for comment this week, but according to published reports, he revealed last week that he decided against running, because a close family member has a serious illness.

Among those who have announced plans to run in the Democratic primary to replace him are Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta, 67, and Joan Murphy’s daughter, Patricia Joan “Tricia” Murphy, 55, who also lives in Crestwood. Donna Miller, 52, of Lynwood, also plans to run. Candidates will be filing their petitions between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4.

Presta said he decided to run after Moody dropped out, and “a lot of unions and a good majority of the mayors” called to ask him to do so. He said he would remain as Crestwood mayor if elected to the Cook County Board.

“I can do both jobs,” he said. “I think I can go in there and balance the budget and stop the waste. I want to stop the businesses from leaving Cook County.”

Presta acknowledged that Moody may have come in for some criticism from opponents if he had run, due to his original vote in favor of the unpopular sweetened beverage tax, which ended up being repealed.

“I am sure that anyone who voted for the pop tax would be criticized, but he eventually did vote to overturn it,” he noted.

“I think they learned their lesson. You won’t get any pop tax from me. I want to raise revenue by increasing the businesses.”

Presta said he would also like to eliminate all the unincorporated areas of Cook County as a cost-saving measure.

“I think all the unincorporated areas should join municipalities. They cost the county a lot of money (in policing and other services),” he said.

He said that while unincorporated areas of Palos Heights and Midlothian border Crestwood, he is not seeking to expand Crestwood’s boundaries necessarily.

“They don’t have to join Palos Heights or Midlothian. Whichever city is closest. It should be up to the residents,” said the mayor.

Local pancreatic cancer survivor honored at Bears game

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

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Submitted photo

Oak Lawn residents Mike and Susan Shrader attended the Bears-Green Bay Packer game Sunday at Soldier Field. Mike was selected by Advocate Christ Medical Center to attend the game after surviving pancreatic cancer and in recognition of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.


Oak Lawn resident Mike Shrader and his wife, Susan, attended the Bears vs. Green Bay Packers game on Sunday at Soldier Field. But this was not just a routine family outing.

Although he is a Bears fan, Shrader is also a survivor of pancreatic cancer and because of his remarkable recovery, he was selected by Advocate Christ Medical Center to attend the November game in recognition of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

As honored guests, Shrader and his wife were recognized before the game and participated in the Bear Down flag unfurling ceremony that takes place on the field before the game.

“It was an honor and a privilege to be asked to do this,” said Shrader. “I was thrilled to be able to hold the flag and to show my respect for our veterans.”

Shrader is a former Chicago firefighter and in 2001 he joined the hundreds of firefighters who traveled to New York in the weeks after the Twin Towers crumbled in the 9/11 attacks.

“I worked on one of the bucket brigades sifting through the ruins,” he said.

Shrader said he has always been healthy and active and hardly ever sick. That is until January of 2016.

“It was during the holiday season of December, 2015 that I began to feel bad,” recalled Shrader. “I have always had a good appetite, but I just didn’t feel like eating. I was getting nauseous and had some pain on my left side and was losing weight.

“On Jan. 7, 2016, the pain was so bad I asked my wife to take me to the ER at Advocate Christ. When the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer, I figured it was the end of the line for me. I knew people usually didn’t survive this cancer. I decided not to even try any treatment. I would just let nature take its course.”

He was told that without treatment he had about 16 weeks to live. However, in his case, he was told he had an option of surgery.

“With my wife and daughter in tears, begging me not to give up and to please agree to the surgery, I realized that I wasn’t ready to die yet,” Shrader said. It was clear that they were not going to let me take a ‘do-nothing’ approach.“

On Jan. 13, just six days after his diagnosis, he underwent surgery performed by Dr. Marc Mesleh, a hepatobiliary surgeon at Advocate Christ.

Unbelievably, five weeks after his operation, Shrader was on vacation in St. Lucia and was able to do some snorkeling before he had to start his chemo and radiation treatments.

“I handled the chemo better than I did the radiation,” said Shrader. I was even able to go golfing with the chemo pump in my fanny pack. The radiation was harder on me. I took it five days a week for a month and I would be so exhausted I couldn’t even walk out to my yard.”

Today, he is cancer-free.

“I am fine now. Not quite the way I was before, but I am good. Many positives came out of this experience. I have a new appreciation for life and I am so glad I went ahead with the treatments. I used to be a pretty gruff guy, but I am a lot more emotional now. I had wonderful doctors, especially Dr. Mesleh and a wonderful nurse, Kelly Baker. Without her I couldn’t have gotten through all this. I was told attitude has a huge effect on a cancer patient’s outcome. So, I live each day with a zest for life.”

Shrader’s admiration for his doctor is mutual.

“Mike is awesome and is truly inspirational. He initially didn’t even want surgery because he believed pancreatic cancer was unsurvivable, and now he has come so far and is doing so well. He and his wife Susan keep in touch with me and often share photos. I love seeing all of the things they are doing. His story shows that pancreatic cancer isn’t a death sentence and that people can go through surgery and still have a functioning life,” Mesleh said..

Baker, who is a GI nurse navigator at Advocate Christ, was also impressed with Shrader’s attitiude.

“When I met Mike and his family in January of 2016, I immediately felt the positive energy and love surrounding him,” Baker said. “He has inspired all of us on his team here at Advocate Christ by his high energy, positive attitude and gusto for living life to its fullest. I have been so grateful to see him surviving and thriving.”

“The support of family, friends and even people I didn’t know before the diagnosis has been unbelievable. No one can do this cancer thing alone. I know that I am so very blessed to be one of the lucky ones and am grateful to be a survivor,” Shrader said.


Evergreen Park resident focused on sending holiday help to Puerto Rico

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Submitted photo

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton greets Myriam Morales (left) and Linda Kay, the owner of the Mongan Dance Academy in the village. Morales, Kay and volunteers collected supplies that included food, water and clothing for the victims of Hurricane Maria that ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.

Myriam Morales was shaken when she learned that Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. The Evergreen Park resident was relieved when a week later she was able to contact her parents, who live on the island.

But she would not rest until she was able to contact other relatives, like her aunt, Orquidea Guzman, and her grandmother, Benedicta Burgos, who turned 100 years old this year. Morales wanted to help other people who have families in Puerto Rico, where many cities and towns were without power and roads were damaged preventing vehicles from getting in.

Linda Kay, owner of Mongan Dance Academy in Evergreen Park, accepted Morales’ suggestion that her studio could be used to collect donations to help the victims of the hurricane. Morales, whose daughter, Abigail, 9, attends the dance academy, was thankful. “Southsiders for Puerto Rico” took place less than two weeks after the hurricane hit and residents came from all over, not just Evergreen Park, to donate and help.

“Yeah, we ended up with a 17-foot truck for supplies like toiletries, paper towels and cases of water,” Morales said. “We had to rent another van for all the clothing that was donated.”

The reason Morales decided to make the collections is that through the assistance of friends from Chicago’s North Side they were able to have the goods sent on a ship with transportation provided when it reached the island. Photographer Sylk Negron, event planner Ivy Linares and Alex Talbot were able to assist to send the donations to Puerto Rico.

But Morales admits the journey took longer than expected because most roads were impassable, along with the flooding and lack of power. But Morales, who is also an event planner, was not going to give up on future endeavors.

“We just got confirmation that the shipments just went through customs today (Friday, Nov. 10),” Morales said. “I sent my mother a box and it was supposed to take three days but took 10 days. We are just crossing our fingers. You know we are hoping for the best.”

With news that a power outage in San Juan resulted in nearly 80 percent loss of electricity last Thursday, Morales knows this is a long-term crusade. After sending supplies to her parents, who shared some of the items with neighbors, it occurred to Morales that this is best way to approach this tragedy.

“I know people have said not to just send items to the island because it will never get there,” Morales said. “But if you can get the supplies to someone who can distribute it to others in a certain area, then that is progress. “

While people who live in the mountains have little access to roads or power, some areas like San German, where her parents live, does have some power, Morales said. Her next project is to make the holidays a little brighter for some of her relatives and other residents of Puerto Rico.

She is working on a “Holiday in a Box” idea. Morales said that she is using her experience as a certified wedding and events planner to send goods to the island. She is basing the idea on her “Party in a Box” business that allows her to create affordable designs for people who don’t have time to do the leg work.

“The new business venture inspired me to be able to create a Holiday in a Box for some of the families affected in my grandmother's home town of Toa Alta,” Morales said. “The box would include a table setting and decor for eight. I would personally provide the table setting and decor included in the box. I then wanted to create a free online fundraising platform via You Caring ( to provide an avenue for people in the community who want to help and donate to this cause.”

Donations received would go to purchasing canned good to add to the Holiday Box. Morales said the box will be designed to bring some families much needed holiday cheer and resources to some of the families of Puerto Rico

“These are people who have lost it all and continue to uplift one another despite lack of resources, water and power,” Morales said. “I would then send these boxes to my parents in San German, Puerto Rico and they will personally drive the boxes and distribute them and take photos with the families we have reached.”

Morales reiterated that three-day priority mail will take about 10 days. The goal, Morales said, is to raise just over $2,322 (includes shipping cost and $25 of canned goods and tax) and reach 50 families. Morales said that not everybody can donate at the same time. She is considering setting up a GoFundMe page to send the boxes to Puerto Rico directly.

“This way we can keep contact with relatives in their towns,” Morales said. “It’s almost like adopting a town.”

Morales said it is difficult to remain optimistic after seeing photos of the devastation. Her parents will continue to live in Puerto Rico for now. However, her aunt and her grandmother plan to stay with a nephew of the aunt in Florida for several months while the slow process of repairs take place.

“My parents have water and power back most of the time,” Morales said. “The say it’s a little spooky. The power goes on and off. But they want to stay and help their neighbors. As far as my aunt and grandmother, God bless them. My grandma is used to that kind of life because of her past. She was used to not having running water. But it’s still hard. And that’s nothing to what people are going through in the mountains.”

She admits that it is frustrating that is has taken so long for power to be restored. And that’s why she wants to provide for people in small ways because that will lead to progress.

“With these holiday boxes, I have my parents to help me out,” Morales said. “I want people to feel empowered. I want people to keep giving. It touches me to see that no small idea is dumb. Everybody can help.”

Students get Veterans Day lessons on freedom

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

A Finley Junior High School student presents a poppy to Vietnam Marine Corps veteran Harry Ehmpke, a native of Evergreen Park, during a Veterans Day ceremony held Friday at the Chicago Ridge school. Looking on is Vietnam veteran Rodger Bale.


They shared stories about their years of service. And they also joked and discussed their childhood and what they are doing now.

Veterans of former conflicts and wars were the invited guests at the Finley Junior High School Veterans Day observance that was held at the Chicago Ridge school on Friday morning. Veterans shared their stories during a breakfast held at the school before the ceremony. Listening in to the conversations were parents, students, teachers and public officials.

Harry Ehmpke, a U.S. Marine veteran and an Evergreen Park native, discussed his years of service from 1965 through 1969. This included a tour of duty in Vietnam from 1966 through 1968.

“We had to dig ditches and lay down ready to fire,” recalled Ehmpke of his stint in Vietnam. “We had things crawling on us but you didn’t bother to look. A lot of the time, we just had to wait.”

A large crowd that included students, teachers and members of the community attended the ceremony that followed the breakfast. Laura Grachan, principal at Finley Junior High School, told the audience that “once again it is popular to express patriotism for our country. Many events that have happened make us realize what we have.”

Grachan pointed out that it is through the courage of U.S. veterans that that the nation has remained free.

“We know without them, there would be no land of the free,” Grachan said. “And without the veterans fighting the war on terrorism, we would not be free.”

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar also spoke to the crowd and mentioned that he just returned from his honeymoon in Hawaii and joked that “don’t let the white hair fool you; you can fall in love at any time.”

The mayor added that while they were there, they visited Pearl Harbor and the impact of many American servicemen killed hit him.

“There is still oil leaking from the ship Arizona,” Tokar said. “Over 2,000 people were killed after the Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941. We were then fighting in World War II. Without our veterans, we would not be free. We would not have a democracy.”

The ceremony included the call to order by Commander Rich Coluzzi, of the U.S. Army and the Glen Maker Memorial American Legion. The Richards High School JROTC took part in presenting and retiring the colors. The Richards JROTC also took part in the placing of the POW/MIA flag. The Finley Junior High School Band, directed by Brian Goodman, performed the “Star Spangled Banner.”

The Finley Junior High School Choir performed “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and the “Song for the Unsung Hero.” Eighth-grade students Sara Abdulrab, Maryam Kargar and Matt Gunderson recited their Patriot’s Pen essays on “America’s Gift to my Generation.” Lily Reinhart, a seventh-grade student, recited a Veterans Day poem.

A poppy presentation speech was given by student Rowa Alia. That was followed by Finley Junior High School students presenting poppies to veterans who attended the ceremony, including Ehmpke.

“We honor those who paid the ultimate price for freedom,” Coluzzi said. “For the men and women who serve today, they have our respect.”

Grachan added that this a valuable lesson for students to learn.

“We must tell future generations the importance of freedom,” she said.