Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Even this Olympic-sized grump will have an interest in games

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

jeff columnThe sports fan in me has no use for the Olympics.
  If I don’t care about sports such as figure skating, skiing and sports where they shoot guns while they are on skis for three years and 11 months, why should I get all excited about them during the Olympics?
  Call me a grump and a grouch but I really don’t feel better about myself as an American because our ice dancers outpointed the ice dancers from Japan. Someone’s triple axel will not solve the unemployment problem or pension crisis going in our country and state.
  Don’t even get me started on the politics and the cesspool of corruption over the years from Olympic officials, and word is that the coming Olympics in Sochi could be the most corrupt in history.
  The writer/editor in me thinks the Olympics are wonderful. I am a guy who prides himself on trying to tell great stories about people and the Olympics certainly provide more than enough great stories. Emotions run high. The triumphs are great. The disappointments are monumental.DR-Page-3-2-col-bonnie-now-for-JV-COLOlympics legend Bonnie Blair talks to Stagg students Friday afternoon. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
  Just to get to the Olympics, there are plenty of cheers and tears. An athlete has to work hard to reach that elite level. Even the people on snowshoes shooting guns have fascinating tales to tell.
  Another drama to getting to the big games is timing. You have to be at your top form at just the right time because this event takes place every four years. If an athlete peaks in 2013 or 2015? Oh well. You are out of luck, pal.
  Legendary Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair was in Palos Hills last Friday to give a motivational talk to students at Stagg High School and it was a very cool assignment. I was able to chat with her afterward and I didn’t feel like I was interviewing an ex-athlete. I felt like I was talking to a historic figure.
  The sports fan in me wouldn’t watch speed skating. The reporter in me was honored to be able to spend a few minutes talking to Bonnie Blair, who these days goes by Bonnie Cruikshank.
  One of the things she told the Stagg kids was about working as hard as you can and then work a little harder. She talked about the 5 a.m. wakeup calls for practice. She talked about the heartbreak of races she lost.
  All good stuff. Great stories abound from Blair and the Olympic athletes in the past and many more are waiting to be written.
  So as the 2014 Olympics approach in a couple of weeks, the sports fan in me is ready for another long yawn while the editor/reporter in me has a couple of reasons to pay close attention.
  First, there is former Sandburg student and Palos Heights resident Kendall Coyne. She is on the United States women’s hockey team. The fact that she is a local star is great. The fact that her brother, Kevin, is a freelance reporter for us here at Regional Publishing makes it that more special.
  We’re hoping that if Kevin gets to make the trip to Sochi, he will be able to write some columns and stories for us. Now, there is a chance that he will have an undying sense of duty to stay home and cover Chicago Ridge and Moraine Valley meetings instead of watching his sister try to win a gold medal…just kidding.
  Second, I was able to interview figure skater Jason Brown of Highland Park before he qualified for the Olympics and he couldn’t have been nicer to talk to. If this kid medals, he will be a huge international celebrity. It’s always fun for some writers to brag to anyone who will listen that “I knew so-and-so before he was a big star.’’ So I may, gulp, actually watch some figure skating with interest.
  I was hoping Palos Hills’ Katie Eberling would get a shot to be on the U.S. bobsled team. Some speculated that she would be a lock to make the team but this weekend she was passed over in favor of, among others, former track star Lolo Jones.
  So I won’t shout from the mountaintops “BRING ON THE GAMES!!!” but when they get here, I’ll give it a couple of looks.

Just another hockey mom?

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Look and listen closer — this one has a heavy medal background

 A hockey mom from Wisconsin named DR-page-3-2-col-bonnie-colOrland Park’s Christine Collins, from left, Bonnie Blair, Shannon Collins and Amanda Collins pose for a photo with one of Blair’s gold medals after Blair’s speech in Palos Hills. Blair is Christine’s aunt and Shannon and Amanda’s great aunt. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Bonnie Cruikshank was in the area for most of the weekend.
  She spent some time at the Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park with her husband, Dave, cheering on their son, Grant, in a hockey tournament.
  She wore bells.
  She had horns.
  “You have to come with your toys,” she said.
  For the most part, she was able to roam around without people knowing that she was more than just a hockey mom.
  Her maiden name is Blair. Bonnie Blair.
  Yes, that Bonnie Blair.
  Blair is a former Olympic speedskater who is one of the most decorated athletes in United States history with five gold medals and one bronze in her collection. She competed in four Olympics with her last one coming 20 years ago.
  For a span of a decade, fans of the Olympics seemingly watched her grow up before their eyes and then she was gone from the public eye for 20 years, save for winning awards, bring named to various Halls-of-Fame and giving motivational speeches.
  Blair took some time on Friday to stop by in Palos Hills and give a speech to Stagg High School students, hours after watching her son play. She is a couple of months shy of 50 and many people walk by her without knowing they were in the presence of a legend.
  But she said some do recognize her.
  “There are some people who do know who I am and people are very good to me,” she said. “They will come up and either congratulate me for representing the country or compliment me about my son.
  “I’m pretty approachable and I didn’t do anything bad. But there are a lot of people who walk by me and they don’t know. It has been awhile. But the funny thing is that my voice can sometimes be a dead giveaway. People will say ‘I know that voice from somewhere.’ ”
  Around the Orland and Palos area, she is known as Aunt Bonnie to some.
  Blair’s niece is Christine Collins of Orland Park. Her great nieces are Shannon Collins, a former Stagg student now attending St. Xavier University, and Amanda Collins, a junior at Stagg who helped bring her famous aunt to the school to speak to some of her classmates in the school’s auditorium.
  Although Shannon and Amanda never took to ice sports, they are both proud of their aunt’s accomplishments, even though all of her history was made before they were born.
  “It is very cool because you go to her house and she has this huge coffee table with all of her gold medals,” Amanda said.
  Blair also has a daughter named Blair.
  “Don’t worry — she is Blair Cruikshank not Blair Blair,” Blair said.
  Blair Cruikshank is a gymnast and Blair said “It’s different being involved in a sport where you are being judged,” she said.
  And being a hockey/gymnastics mom is a learning experience.
  “There are so many emotions you go through sitting there and you can’t control anything,” Blair said. “Now I know what my mother has gone through all of those years.”

Machak to stay at Dist. 124

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Officials in Evergreen Park School District 124 will not be seeking a new superintendent.
  Supt. Robert Machak has withdrawn his name from the superintendent search in Park Ridge School District 64 where he was one of two finalists for the position.
  “I shared my decision with our board of education and teaching staff last week. I am grateful for the wonderful students, staff, parents and my administrative colleagues here in District 124,” Machak said in an email.
  He added that he is looking forward to seeing projects initiated since he became superintendent 18 months ago come to fruition.
  “I am looking forward to seeing these projects, such as our one-to-one technology initiative and the Central Junior High School transformation into a true middle school, through to their completion,” he said. “I feel blessed to be a member of this school community, and I hope to remain here a long time.”
  Machak met on Jan. 9 with principals, assistant principals and administrators as well as PTO and union representatives, District 64 board president Anthony Borrelli said. The meetings were followed by a three-hour interview with the school board.
  The board was expected to meet Jan. 15 to discuss the candidate visits. Board members will then visit the preferred candidate’s school district. It hopes to announce the new superintendent at its Jan. 28 meeting, Borrelli said.
  Machak is in his second year as District 124 superintendent. Previously, he was superintendent for four years of Emmons Elementary School District 33 in Antioch.
  He also has served as a principal in West Northfield School District 31 in Northbrook for a decade and as an assistant principal in Hawthorn School District 73 in Vernon Hills for a year. He began his career in education teaching English for eight years.
  A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Machak received his master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and his doctorate from National-Louis University.

WHATIZIT? 1-23-14

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Any chances of shutting out the gallery two weeks in a row DR-COLOR-WHAZ-1-16were turned to powder right away when Willow Springs’ Harrison Debre came right out of the box with the correct answer.
  Some other folks got it right — it was chalk that is used by gymnasts. Some got it wrong. But spirits were a little brighter this week after the WHATIZIT? wunderkinds was shut out two weeks ago.
  Scoring perfect 10s were Chicago Ridge’s Kathy Higgins, Dana Oswald and Patty Vandenberg, Hickory Hills’ Jack and Griffin Burke Faddis, Worth’s German Cordova and Robert Solner, Oak Lawn’s Jane Foley, Evergreen Park’s Tom Fitzpatrick and Palos Hills’ Lois Faragher,
  Those who fell off the balance beam were those who guessed flour, baking powder, a tub of ice cream from the Plush Horse and a pan full of powdered sugar “just like the ingredient my wife and I put on our homemade Christmas Kolaches.’’
  This week’s clue: Icon.
  Send those guesses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Put WHATIZIT in the subject line by Monday night and don’t forget to provide your name and hometown.

Palos Hill changes fence ordinance

  • Written by Kelly White

  Corner-lot homeowners in Palos Hills now need to seek permission from the city council before making changes to their fences.

  Amendments to the city’s fence ordinance went into effect after a vote during Thursday’s city council meeting, altering the ordinance wording slightly, yet significantly.
  The changed portion of the ordinance pertains only to front and side yards of homes and says the constructed fence must still remain six inches inside of the homeowners’ property line.
  Alderman Joan Knox (2nd Ward) said the phrasing being changed in the ordinance pertains solely to corner-lot exceptions. “The property owner must now appeal directly to the city council before any construction of an otherwise permitted fence takes place,” she said.
  Prior to the change, a homeowner was allowed to make the change with permission from his or her neighbor, by having them sign the permit request indicating they had no objections to the changes as long as the homeowner already previously obtained a permit for the fence.
  “The major change to the fence ordinance is now a homeowner needs to come before the city council before making any changes to an already permitted fence,” Mayor Jerry Bennett said. “Before they were able to do so with just the permission of their neighbor; however, now any changes must first come directly before the city council.”
  Knox added that nowhere in the ordinance is there a legal written description on what constitutes the front of a house. Ald. A.J. Pasek felt not determining what constitutes the front of a house may cause future problems for the city.
  “We need to eventually determine what the front of the house is and include it in the ordinance,” he said.