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Wow, it’s already been a year since taking over The Reporter

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Jeffs Col ImpressionsWhat was that? What just whizzed by?
Was that a year? Where did it go so quickly?
Yes, dear readers, it’s been a little more than a year since I became the alleged “new sheriff’’ in town and took over this fine newspaper as editor.
That year just flew by.
My hope was to take an already strong Page-3-2-col-with-JV-col-2It’s been a wild year since Jeff Vorva took over as Reporter editor including Bobby Hull coming to Oak Lawn (top photo, by Jeff Vorva) and Evergreen Park’s Henry Hynes playing on stage with Bruce Springsteen (bottom photo, submitted) in Nashville in April.Page-3-2-col-with-jv-colnewspaper and make it even more compelling and fun. We’re running bigger photos, bigger headlines and putting a picture of Fred Flintstone on the normally conservative and reserved opinion page shows we like to have fun.
We told fun stories of your friends and neighbors accomplishing fantastic things.
In the past 12 months, cancer survivors ran in triathlons, a kid sang on stage with Bruce Springsteen, a hockey player won a silver medal in the Olympics and a Hooters waitress compete in an international competition. We wrote about local comedians, the health of Cardinal George, a wheelchair basketball pioneer, a teenager who was praised by the governor and president for her volunteer business of making stuffed hearts to comfort people, heroic cops and firemen, a high school volleyball team that finished first in the state and a high school football team that finished second.
And that’s just the tip of the ice burg.
Also in the past dozen months, we have been keeping our readers up to date on the 100th anniversaries of Chicago Ridge and Worth. We’ve followed stories about basketball courts in Oak Lawn, the ups and downs of the merged baseball and softball leagues in Palos Hills and Hickory Hills and some of the business developments and the great high school football season in Evergreen Park.
We wrote about the weather.
It was cold.
And we wrote about a couple of storms that passed the area that could have been a lot worse. We even wrote a story about an advertisement from a man’s mail in downstate Washington that reached Moraine Valley in Palos Hills during a tornado. We wrote about school closings – no, not because of the weather. We wrote about the permanent closing of Mt. Assisi High School in Lemont and St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park.
Celebrities came to town.
Governor hopeful Bruce Rauner campaigned in Hickory Hills. Olympic hero Bonnie Blair was at Stagg to speak in the winter and the Gin Blossoms played music there in the spring. Bobby Hull and Mike Ditka gave some flavor to a couple of area liquor store events. Former Cub David DeJesus and current Cubs players Edwin Jackson and Chris Coghlan stopped by Advocate Children’s Hospital to brighten kids’ days. And Dick Biondi, a legendary DJ who is all of 83 years old, climbed a 60-foot fire department ladder during an event at Standard Bank Park in Crestwood.
Yes, there were also the controversial stories as well as the sad stories that we hate to write but as long as we had to, we were going to do them as thoroughly as we could even if it meant ticking some people off. That’s a part of the job that won’t go away.
We made some friends. We made some enemies. We hope we made more friends than enemies.
The inner circle of the Reporter is small. Joining me is reporter Bob Rakow and designer Kari Nelson. They are the heart and soul of the newspaper. We have some outstanding freelance writers helping the cause and this summer we were blessed with some young, talented interns who also graced the paper with their work.

Not Blowing Smoke

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Attorney serious about bringing marijuana dispensary to Ridge

Steve Weisman has a map of Chicago Ridge with lots of circles drawn on it.
The circles represent the geographic areas in the village where Weisman and his investment group cannot locate the medical marijuana dispensary they hope to locate in the village.
That’s because somewhere within all of the circles is a school, daycare center, park or recreation facility. State law and village zoning ordinances prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from being located within 1,000 feet of those facilities.
That leaves Weisman with few options, but he remains optimistic and is considering two locations—one on Harlem Avenue, the other in a strip mall on Southwest Highway, he told trustees at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
Illinois is expected to begin taking applications for 60 medical marijuana businesses in September. Those who want to apply must have “an application pinned down,” said Weisman, an attorney for Kirkland and Ellis.
Weisman’s group plans to submit five applications. They decided to include Chicago Ridge as a potential location when they learned village officials were not opposed to the idea, he said.
Other communities in the area made it clear they were not interested in adding a medical marijuana dispensary to their business community, he said.
“We don’t want to go where we’re not wanted,” he said. “We want to be very active in the community in positive ways.”
Village officials on Tuesday expressed few reservations about having a dispensary in town.
“We couldn’t say ‘no’ because we don’t like the idea,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.
“I think we’re going to have to nail down what is our incentive,” Trustee John Lind said.
Weisman stressed that the clinics would be heavily regulated by the state, including implementation of a security plan and dispensing medical marijuana only to approved clients.
Clients must possess a state ID card to purchase marijuana and can only obtain 2.5 ounces every two weeks, Weisman said.
“The state’s requirements are incredibility rigorous,” he said. “This is truly medicine. This is a business.”
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, firefighters Bob Eggert and Jim Calomino were promoted to lieutenant.
The promotions come a few weeks after the board rejected a proposal to eliminate the two lieutenant positions from the village budget.
Eggert and Calomino were sworn in by Village Clerk George Schleyer before having their badges pinned on their uniforms by their wives. Both Eggert and Calomino are 20-year veterans of the department.
Additionally, Tokar appointed Rich Blackwell as the village’s new licensing officer.
“It’s something that we need,” Tokar said, adding that the position is needed to make sure businesses are complying with licensing regulations. “I think he’s got the right personality to deal with businesses.”
Blackwell is a long-time village resident who is active in the Chamber of Commerce and other village initiatives.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Geez, I even make Penn look skinny

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

LAS VEGAS -- Yeah, I know.
What goes on in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas.
And I am not sure if people really care what I did on my trip out of town, but when I see in the archives people such as
former publisher Charles Richards writing miles of copy on his fishing trips in the past, I know I am in great company, and I am keeping the Regional Publishing tradition alive.
So bear with me as I delve into tales of goofiness from a city that never sleeps written by a guy who always has Jeff-lag and always wants to sleep.

Pencil-thin Penn
For years, I have joked to people that if they want to look skinnier, just take a photo with me. My height and weight make people look petite. I feel that providesPAGE-3-2-col-with-JVCOL2It’s magic! Look at the pounds disappear! Penn of Penn & Teller (right) is the latest person to look slim when standing next to Reporter editor Jeff Vorva. Photo by T.J. Vorva. a good service – doing God’s work if you will – in making people feel batter so give me that last slice of pizza, please.

Well, I was in Vegas with my son, T.J., for his basketball tournament and the first night we were able to catch irreverent magicians Penn & Teller at the Rio. They are usually more funny than amazing but on this night they were more amazing than funny, but it was still a great show.
Penn Jillette is this big boisterous 6-foot-7 dude who wears glasses and wears his long hair in a ponytail. And, like me, he has the frame of a guy who wants that last slice of pizza. Teller is an older, smaller guy who rarely talks on stage.
Penn looked the same on stage on this night.
Big.
After the show, the two hung out in the lobby and posed for pictures.
Being the old and jaded writer that I am, I have met a lot of celebrities in my time and posing for a picture with them is not high on my fun list. Besides, there were thousands of people gathered around in the lobby so I wasn’t figuring on any photo ops with the fellas, anyway.
But for some reason, there was this whole group of people standing to Penn’s left and no one to his right. I went toward his right to gawk because he let his hair down. Literally. His hair was out of the ponytail.
One of the security guys motioned me to come take a photo. Penn said “Come on, boss.’’ The last celebrity to call me “boss’’ was Todd Hundley when he was with the Cubs and we know that didn’t turn out so hot for him.
So my son snapped the photo and I thanked Penn and Penn said “Thanks boss” to me and we went on our way.

Then I saw the photo.
“Boss” was big. Penn looked skinny.
Maybe Penn lost weight. Maybe during the show, all of the props and stuff he needed under his jacket made him bigger than he really is.
Or maybe through the magic of the great Vorva-dini, I can make pounds disappear just by posing with me.
If that’s the case, it was the best trick of the night.

Speaking of larger than life…
I saw a young girl barf on the side of the MGM Grand hotel and then walk away like it was no big deal.
That was the second grossest thing I had seen during the trip.
The first was in a swimming pool.
Three plus-, plus-, plus-sized women got on the shoulders of three other big gals. One sang loudly “Giddyup horsey,” which nearly made me barf in the pool. So these six bigs had a race.

There is no truth to the rumor that first prize for the winning jockey and horsey was to get their picture taken with me.

Feeling hot, hot, hot
The temperature, according to my rent-a-car thermometer, was up to 118 degrees on the day that you folks enjoyed a 70-degree day.
And no, it wasn’t a dry heat. There were traces of humidity enough to keep us sweating for most of the trip.

And anyone who says there is not much difference once the temperature reaches 100, I can assure you that you can feel a difference between 118 and 100.
And a bigger difference once you get home and it is 70.

Sign of the (ouch) times
There were plenty of bums and panhandlers with signs begging for money. But on the Strip, my son found a guy with a sign that said “For $20, you can kick me in the [privates].’’
He must have once been a newspaper editor.

 

The circus is NOT in town

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Last year’s controversy in Palos Hills no bearing on absence in 2014

The Carson & Barnes Circus won’t roll into Page-1-2-col-circusThe circus that has made a stop in Palos Hills for three straight years is not back in town this year but it wasn’t because of last year’s controversy. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Palos Hills this year, but a controversy involving last year’s show had no bearing on that decision.

City and circus officials said that a dispute that arose last year over a special segment designed to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault has not adversely affected the city’s relationship with the circus.
Rather, the circus is touring Ohio this month and had not planned to make a stop in Palos Hills or other southwest suburbs.
“I don’t think they’re anywhere in this area,” said MaryJo Vincent, Palos Hills’ resource and recreation department commissioner.
The traveling circus typically contacts the city in December if it plans to make a stop the following summer, Vincent said.
“They did not contact us this year,” said Vincent, who added that the circus would have been welcome for a 2014 show.
Vincent said city officials were caught off guard last year by Carson & Barnes’ plans to conduct a segment designed to call attention to sexual assault victims.
She said the city would carefully review future contracts with the circus to avoid similar surprises.
“We’ve had success with the partnership,” said Arlinda Copeland, manager of quality assurance for Carson & Barnes.
Copeland added that new protocol calls for the circus to get approval from the sponsor regarding any advocacy group that it promotes.
Last year the circus planned on a special segment with a candlelight vigil and information about sexual assault victims and other victims under the title “Survivors Under the Stars’’ to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Jacque Hollinder, who said she is a victim of sexual assault and filed a lawsuit that she was attacked by singer James Brown, organized the segment, which was part of various stops along the circus’s tour in 2013.
T-shirts were to be sold to benefit the victims.
“It blew up bigger than it should have,” Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said. “We didn’t find out until after you guys did a story in your paper.”
But the circus was a success, Bennett recalled, and is welcome in Palos Hills in the future, he said.
The 78-year-old circus visited Palos Hills in 2007, 2009 and 2011 through 2013.
Last year, the circus performed four shows over two days.
City officials were not aware that the segment was a part of the entertainment until reading stories and seeing ads in the Reporter and Regional News and wanted that taken out, deeming it inappropriate for a family circus. 

After the city negotiated with the circus, the vigil and victims portion of the show was taken out, but Hollinder’s song “I Am the Circus” was allowed to be sung by trapeze artist Franchesca Cavallini.
Children and parents were allowed to parade in the ring and outside the ring while the song was performed but there was no mention of ICASA or victims.
“It’s sad we weren’t able to do the full presentation,” Hollinder said last year. “But I’ll do what I’m told.’’

“Sexual assault, domestic violence, kidnapping and murder [has] now reached an epidemic level and we here at Carson and Barnes Circus want to be [a part] of shedding light on this matter,” circus officials wrote in a news release last year.

That was one problem solved, but the city also received letters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urging city officials to either cancel the circus or to not allow it to return in 2014, citing cruelty to the elephants in previous stops.
Bennett said at the time that he had no recollection of the circus abusing its animals and in the years the circus has come to Palos Hills there have been no reports of animal abuse.
Despite the incident-free shows performed by Carson & Barnes, reports surfaced that city officials favored pulling the plug on Carson & Barnes in 2014.

Weish you were here

  • Written by Declan Harty

Weishar family hosts second big bash to help cancer victims’ families

Andrew Weishar’s name will live on.guysDan and Nic Weishar are getting the word out about WeishFest II at Standard Bank Park Saturday, which raises money in the name of the late Andrew Weishar (inset photo) for cancer victims’ families. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

Even though he would not like the attention, he would love the result.
Weishar, who was known for his quiet manner and humility, will be honored Saturday at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood at the second WeishFest – pronounced Wish-fest. The 21-year-old Midlothian native passed away in October 2012 after a four-year battle with colorectal cancer, but left behind a legacy that has stricken communities across the state.
Family members said that in his final days, Weishar only thought of others. His request to have his family “pay forward” the support that it received during his battle was fulfilled in last year’s inaugural WeishFest, and will live on again this Saturday.
WeishFest, which kicks off at 2 p.m., is an all-day music festival featuring five different artists. Local and upcoming artists such as Sean & Charlie, Chris Medina, C2 and the Brothers Reed and Infinity will all lead up to the headliner, Rodney Atkins, who will go on at 9 p.m. Tickets for the event can be purchased at WeishFest.com, and Standard Bank seating tickets cost $25, and field access cost $35, with varying levels of VIP tickets available as well.
After raising $125,000 from the 2,500 people in attendance last year, Dan Weishar, president and executive director of the Andrew Weishar Foundation (AWF) and Andrew’s younger brother has managed to spearhead the event this year.
Dan Weishar said that the organization is prepared to make WeishFest huge, whether that includes keeping the event at Standard Bank Stadium for a few more years and then growing it or ending up at Wrigley Field in 10 years, he said they have an open mind. Weishar said they “just have got to have a great WeishFest 2014, thinking about this year.”
Dan, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that it is because of the support his family received before and after Andrew passed that made him want to return the favor through both the AWF and WeishFest.
“The communities around us could not have been a bigger support for us,” he said. “There are a lot of people in his (Andrew’s) situation who need help, like the help that we got, and he wanted to make sure that we pay forward that generosity. That is really what sparked the Andrew Weishar Foundation.”

Wide-ranging
impact

A St. Damien Lancer, Brother Rice Crusader and Illinois Wesleyan Titan, Andrew affected communities from central Illinois to Chicago, but it was through social media that Andrew’s story spread. After #Weish4Ever went viral, thousands of people were impacted by the 21-year-old and his relentless mindset towards his battle with cancer.
After a semester of playing football at Illinois Wesleyan, a consistent powerhouse in NCAA Division III football, Weishar’s college career was looking bright. But during the spring semester of his freshman year, he began to lose weight dramatically, and was later diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 19.
Immediately beginning treatment and having to drop out of school, Andrew was facing a battle that was uncommon for a 19-year-old.
After months of intensive chemotherapy, Andrew went into surgery in Minnesota and would later go into remission. But after spending months visiting friends at Illinois Wesleyan and even going abroad with fellow titan, Ted Delicath, who now serves on the AWF board, Andrew was re-diagnosed.
After an emotional and trying four years of battling cancer, Andrew passed away October 12, 2012, a matter of hours before some of Andrew’s best friends would take the field against Carthage in Bloomington. The game resulted in a win for the Titans, and spurred on the spreading of Andrew’s story.
“There was a group of guys that were so close to him that their love for him kind of permeated out,” Delicath said. “So other people began to understand the story, and see the love in our eyes. I think that is very telling of the kind of person Andrew was… It was very evident that the community bought into the type of values that he stood for.”
But the Illinois Wesleyan and Bloomington communities weren’t the only ones who found Andrew’s story inspirational.
After attending both St. Damien and Brother Rice, Andrew and the Weishar family have the support of South Siders. Both Dan and Andrew have maintained a South Side mindset, along with their youngest brother, Nic, who will play tight end at Notre Dame next year after a successful high school career at Marist.

True South Siders
According to Delicath, the Weishar family embodies everything a South Sider is.
“Andrew is a quiet, quiet guy with just a ferocious spirit and a lot of courage,” the Peoria native said. “What you will find out about a lot of people on the South Side is that they are a little bit more talkative than Andrew, but also that they are very tough, dedicated and driven people, and Andrew embodied all of that.”
Being from the South Side, Dan Weishar said it was only right to make sure the event is in the heart of Andrew’s largest support and close to home -- Crestwood’s Standard Bank Stadium, the home of the Windy City Thunderbolts.
“The fact is that this stadium is in the heart of our support. It is in the middle of where we grew up, and it is in the middle of all the high schools around us,” Dan said. “It is really the heart and soul of the Andrew Weishar Foundation in that we have everybody around us.”
The stadium also allows for Andrew’s spirit to continue spreading through the crowd. The stadium, which holds approximately 3,200 people, will allow for the crowd to get an atmosphere that is unlike any other concert.
“You get there and there is an intimate feeling in the setting,” Delicath said. “I think you could only get that to happen on the south side and that can only happen when you have a memory of someone who lived very much like that. Someone that was bigger than life, and then when you met them, they made you feel like you were the only person in the world.”

Fun at the fest
WeishFest is designed, according to Dan, to allow the crowd to come and go as they please after paying an initial rate, and to simply enjoy the day, all while honoring Andrew and raising money for families affected by cancer.
The funds from WeishFest are 100 percent given back to families in need. With the assistance of a social worker and a partnership with Hope Children’s Hospital, the AWF has already helped over 15 families that have been financially stricken with the burden of cancer. But according to Dan, the difference between the AWF and other organizations is that these families receive immediate financial assistance, all in the name of Andrew.
“There is nothing like telling people, we are giving you this money because of Andrew Weishar. It is the most gratifying thing in the world, and I am pretty excited about continuing to do that,” Dan said. “There is no question that Andrew Weishar is in the spirit of the foundation that Andrew Weishar is in the spirit of WeishFest.”
For Dan, this year’s WeishFest may be the beginning of WeishFest and the Andrew Weishar Foundation’s hopeful and expected growth.
“This year is pretty big in terms of how quickly we are expanding. The actual investment of WeishFest is massive, it is a huge, huge event, but we think that as long as we sell tickets and as long as we get people here that day, it is going to pay off,” he said. “I started the Andrew Weishar Foundation with really one intention and that intention was to honor Andrew, and his legacy, and that is what we did in starting it, and it really has taken off from there. Obviously as we grow we are going to hopefully be able to grow the amount of families we can help each year. There really is no limit.”