Our Lady of the Ridge fundraiser is successful

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Perhaps it was the unusually warm weather, or maybe it was just the community responding to the future fate of Our Lady of the Ridge Elementary School in Chicago Ridge.

Whatever the reason, alumni, business and community leaders, and parents of students who currently attend the school came out in droves Sunday afternoon for a fundraiser at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park In an effort to keep Our Lady of the Ridge open.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar, a 1967 graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, has been working with a committee to keep Our Lady of the Ridge from closing. The Chicago Archdiocese informed the school administration on Jan. 11 that Our Lady of the Ridge was in danger of closing if not enough money could be raised and enrollment figures remained stagnant at the end of this month.

Tokar said a committee has been getting the word out and the fundraiser held Sunday was going to be important in reaching their goals. But even the mayor said the crowd that showed up exceeded expectations.

“This is just amazing,” Tokar said at the fundraiser. “”I know we would have a lot of support but this is incredible. There are just so many people here. I even saw my old fourth-grade teacher.”

Tokar said that school was required to raise over $250,000 at the end of February. He said he believes the goal has been reached.

Laurie Seweryn, who served as a volunteer at the fundraiser helping to organize the baskets of gifts being raffled off, also said the response from people was greater than expected. She said over 850 tickets were sold by late in the afternoon.

“This is so overwhelming, the community has really come together,” said Seweryn, whose husband, Steve, is on the school board.

Musical entertainment was provided by a band performing as the Blues Brothers, who also happen to be alums of Our Lady of the Ridge. The Lavin-Cassidy Irish Dancers, who are based out of Chicago Ridge, also entertained the crowd. The Chicago Police Department’s The Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society also performed at the benefit, along with the Rico Quinn Band.

Eleven restaurants and bakeries provided food for the large crowd. The basket raffle included 102 different prizes at the event.

Mary Grisolano, media relations volunteer and graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, said the large crowd that attended the fundraiser on Sunday is reason for optimism.

“The turnout on Sunday was tremendous,” said Grisolano. “This is really great, for sure.”

Grisolano added that the enrollment had to be at least 114 by the end of the month, according to the archdiocese. She said they currently have 117 students enrolled and expects those numbers to rise. 

Some volunteers said during the event that at least $300,000 has been raised this past month, which is more than the required $250,000. And Grisolano confirmed later in the week that at least $321,000 was raised, far surpassing the goal.

“Some people are waiting to see what will happen with the school,” Grisolano said. “What usually occurs is there is always a surge in enrollment during the spring. I expect more families will enroll their children at Our Lady of the Ridge.”

Tokar said the local business community has assisted in keeping Our Lady of the Ride open. A phone-a-thon has been held to inform residents of the importance of Our Lady of the Ridge. The mayor conveyed not only to alumni but also residents and community leaders who may not have attended the school of how important it is to Chicago Ridge.

Our Lady of the Ridge has served 12 school districts and draws pupils from Alsip and Worth. If the school were to close, it would have a negative effect on businesses in the area, the mayor said.

But Tokar was in great spirits at the fundraiser and is confident about Our Lady of the Ridge’s chances.

“I can’t believe how many people came out today,” Tokar said. “It just shows you how many people care for this school.”

Temperatures in the 60s may have encouraged more people to come out. But Grisolano said it was more than that.

“People love our little school,” she said.

Development plans for former Sabre Room property will be reviewed

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley told city council members at last Thursday’s board meeting that proposed development plans for the former Sabre Room property will be discussed later this month.

Howley informed the board the old Sabre Room property as 8900 W. 95th St. will be the topic of discussion at the Feb. 23 council meeting.

In early January, Howley had announced that the proposed development plan, known as Sabre Woods Plaza, had been deferred indefinitely because there were still a lot of unanswered questions.

At that time, the mayor explained that the plans which had been presented at the Nov. 10 council meeting by Jim Louthen, development project manager, and Charles Cornelius, Jr., of Chicagoland Realty Service, did not fit the expectation of the city’s zoning board.

Plans presented at that meeting in November for the 30-acre property called for six single-family homes on the west side of the property, a Senior Village, for ages 55 and over, an assisted living campus, including a memory unit, possibly two five-story apartment units and retail/commercial fronting on 95th Street along the eastern edge of the property. Also proposed was an open civic area, green space and retention ponds.

Louthen had stated that the best use for a large portion of the property on the northwest corner could be a park-like location with walking trails, benches, etc., because it is in a wetlands, floodplain area.

Many questions were raised by council members at that meeting regarding retention ponds, apartments units and who would be responsible for the suggested park-like area.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Howley said new information had been presented by the developer so the council will review it on Feb. 23. There is also a committee of the whole meeting at 6:30 p.m., just prior to the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m.

The council also approved a request from the Hickory Hills Park District to conduct a carnival at the Kasey Meadow Park, located at 8047 W. 91st Place, beginning May 11 and continuing through May 14.

Presenting the request was Dan Maier, recreation director, who said this will be the first carnival for the park district.

“We are planning to hold it at the bottom of the hill in the park. We thought that would be a good place for it. It will be very family-oriented, with rides and games for the kids. It is a medium-size carnival. We wanted to start small and see how things go,” he said.

Maier listed the hours as 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 11; 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, May 12; noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, May 13; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 14.

He added that on May 12, the carnival will also be open from 3 to 5 p.m., for people with special needs and their families. “It will be free to them for those two hours,” Maier said.

Howley told Maier that he did not have any concerns regarding the carnival.

“I have seen how you and your crew have run many successful events. You are professionals. I have no worries about how this event will go,” he said.

Also approved was a $200 donation made annually to the Hills Baseball/Softball Association.

NJCAA strips Moraine Valley women's team of 15 wins

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




Photo by Jeff Vorva

Moraine Valley women’s basketball coach Delwyn Jones said the NJCAA is taking 15 victories away from the Cyclones for “very minor infractions.’’


Moraine Valley Community College officials plan to appeal last week’s National Junior College Athletic Association’s decision to strip the nationally ranked women’s basketball team of 15 victories for using ineligible players.

Coach Delwyn Jones said he found out about the penalties on Feb. 15. At the time, his team was 25-2 and ranked 13th in the nation among NJCAA Division II schools in a coaches’ poll.

“These are very minor infractions,” Jones said Thursday night, after his team’s 84-61 victory over Waubonsee in Palos Heights, which would have given the Cyclones a 10-0 mark in the Skyway Conference and 26-2 mark overall if not for the forced forfeits. “With one player, they wanted two different forms and we sent them one of the forms. But both of the forms say the exact same thing. All the information is the same. We gave them a release but not a transfer waiver. But since she never enrolled in the previous school, we will argue that you don’t need a waiver if she didn’t enroll.

“The other player is a good academic student. This is her sixth semester and she needed 60 credit hours and she had 54. She is eight credits from graduating with a 2.75 GPA and she’s ineligible. It doesn’t make any sense when you have kids playing 12 credits and a 1.75 GPA.  We’re hit by red tape. There are some things we probably should have seen that we didn’t. For the sophomores who worked so hard to get this record…it’s tough.’’

If the NJCAA sticks to its guns, the Cyclones enter this week 11-17 as the players involved did not play in all of the games this season.

The Cyclones have hopes of making the NJCAA national tournament and they were not penalized for the postseason. But seeding the Region IV tournament will be unpredictable. Jones said the coaches will gather Feb. 26 for the postseason seeding meeting.

“That’s going to be a question mark,” Jones said. “It’s gone both ways in the past. The team at the top is not going to want to play a team that is literally 26-2 on the court. They don’t want to play a team like that early.’’



Peace out: Queen of Peace plays its final basketball game ever

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Page 1 Queen of Peace dejection 2 23

 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Assistant coach Alex Shimko hugs his sister, Kara, as Erin Foley and Kelly Mason sadly look on after Queen of Peace lost the final game in school history Monday night. The school is set to close after this school year.


In light of the school closing after this semester, the happy ending would have been for Queen of Peace’s basketball team to go out and win the Illinois High School Association Class 3A girls basketball state championship.

But that didn’t happen. Simeon, the third-seeded team in the De La Salle Sectional, knocked off second-seeded Queen of Peace, 50-39, Monday night in De La Salle’s field house in the sectional semifinals. It was still one of the best seasons in Queen of Peace’s history.

Now what?

Another happy ending would be if the eight varsity players left on this 28-4 team would all find a home together next season. With St. Laurence going coed next school year, outside speculation is that they will all head next door with Pride coach George Shimko leading the way.

But that might not be the case.

“We don’t know what the situation is with everybody,” Shimko said. “We’re going to just let the players breathe now. We don’t know the St. Laurence side of things. It would be great if we all stuck together and went there – or anywhere – as a team.

“Being fair to St. Laurence, they have a tough situation, too. It’s brand new and they have to figure out how everything is going to work. They need time to breathe, too.’’

Shimko said if a job opens at St. Laurence, he would be interested.

Meanwhile, the players are not sure where everyone would end up.

“I would love to play with all of them again, but I don’t think we will end up at the same place,” said junior Ashley Murphy, who led the Pride with 13 points against Simeon. “I really wish we would but people have to do what’s best for them. Queen of Peace was the best fit for all of us but there is not a second school that is good for all of us.’’

Senior Kara Shimko, who added 12 points, said that the mid-January news that the school was going to close because of finances “was like getting hit by a bus.’’

The players are still in shock.

“I think it will always be there,” Murphy said. “At the end of the year when we realize we will not be coming back, it will be just as sad as they day we found out.’’

 Simeon grabbed an 18-2 lead and while the Pride was able to cut the deficit to 25-21 at halftime, it was never able to take a second-half lead.



Oak Lawn mayor shows some love for her community

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


bury and riordan photo 2-16

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury talks to Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Superintendent Michael Riordan following her “State of the Village” address to the Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon Tuesday at the Hilton Oak Lawn, 9333 S. Cicero Ave.


Since it was Valentine’s Day, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury chose “Love Oak Lawn” as the theme of the State of the Village speech she gave Tuesday at a luncheon that the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce hosted at the Hilton Oak Lawn.

“Oak Lawn is our home, our heart. What’s not to love about it?” said the mayor, as she launched into her speech about all the good things that are happening in the village.

She said that the $57 million annual budget is funded by $13.9 million in property taxes, with the rest covered by other revenue, primarily sales tax.

“Just 11 percent of your property tax goes to the village,” she noted. “That is an average of $50 a month. Who spends that and more on coffee? It is a great value for all the services provided. We work very hard to keep these costs down.”

“We’ve lowered the tax levy by 6 percent over the last four years. And we’ve lowered the debt as well,” said the mayor. “What Oak Lawn is doing is exceptional. It is unheard of,” said the mayor.

“How were we able to do it? It came from growing the sales tax, and that is a credit to you,” she told the many business owners in the audience. “Residents are getting our Shop Oak Lawn message.”

“Business licenses are growing by leaps and bounds,” continued the mayor. She pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce is “385 members strong,” with 59 new members joining in 2016.

“We had 16 ribbon-cuttings in 2016, and one just this morning for Raising Cane’s restaurant (in the Stony Creek Promenade, at 11006 S. Cicero Ave.),” she said, adding that the new businesses created 1,500 new jobs last year.

The mayor also said that 2,787 building permits were issued in 2016, more than in any of the past 16 years. She said that single-family home permits were also up last year.

She said Oak Lawn property values have been steadily increasing in recent years, and showed graphs illustrating how they have overtaken those in Evergreen Park and Alsip. “With Oak Lawn’s success, we’ve narrowed the gap with Tinley Park, and we parallel Orland Park. We would like to see the gap narrowed further there, and we think we can do it.”

Bury also highlighted the successes of the fire and police departments, citing statistics and cited data available on that showing that most crime categories are on a downward trend from 2001 to 2015, the latest year available.

“Oak Lawn is rated among the best the surrounding communities,” she added, pointing out that only Hometown, which is 1/10 the size of Oak Lawn, has a better “crime average” compared to the surrounding communities.

“This is a team effort,” said Bury, thanking members of the village board and the department heads “for making it all possible”.

Among those on the dais with her that she singled out for praise included Village Manager Larry Deetjen, finance director Brian Hanigan, Police Chief Michael Murray, Fire Chief George Sheets, and Diana Tousignant, communications director of the village’s 911 emergency dispatch center. She said the 911 center handled 182,128 calls last year.

No one asked questions following her speech, but Frank Saez, who owns Papa Frank’s Gyro’s, rose to thank Bury and Deetjen for helping him through some difficulties when he first bought the business formerly known as Big Pappa’s Gyros at 10806 S. Cicero Ave. last year.