It's a wrap: 10th running og SW Half Marathon deemed 'great success'

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Organizers of the Annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K race are already looking forward to the 11th, following the virtually problem-free 10th, held on May 7.

“I think it was a great success. One of the better races that we have had,” said co-founder Jeff Prestinario, during a “wrap-up” meeting held May 19 for the organizers, all volunteers, could share their thoughts on how the event went.

The half-marathon and more recently added 10K race have now become an annual tradition, bringing thousands of people to Palos Heights and Palos Park on the first Sunday in May, and closing down Route 83 between Harlem Avenue and Archer Avenue for eight hours.

Everyone agreed that having blue skies and perfect spring weather helped draw the crowds, and keep the racers there to enjoy the live music and festival atmosphere long after their races were over.

“We sold all our beer. That is a good thing,” said Bridget Provost, of Lake Katherine.

“The weather was perfect and we didn’t have any major issues with runners (getting hurt),” said Prestinario, who was a Palos Heights alderman when he founded the race with Mel Diab, owner of Running for Kicks shoe store.

“I can’t believe that this has been 12 years in the making. Twelve years planning and 10 years running,” said Diab. “I always say it, but it is true. We could never put in on without all the help from volunteers, and the sponsors.”

For the past two years, Palos Health and CNB Bank & Trust have been the major sponsors. And everyone involved said they expect to continue the arrangement in 2018.

Prestinario said that on race days, he doesn’t even mind having to get up at 4 a.m. “When you are at the race, and you see everyone celebrating, it is an exhilarating experience. It is tough to get that adrenaline going as you get older, but this does it,” he said.

“I like to add something new each year, to keep it fresh,” said Prestinario. This year, the free Kids’ Dash for children from 2 to 11 was held. More than 100 children participated in several races, from the 50-yard dash to a half-mile, depending on their age group. And everyone got a medal.

It was designed to draw more families to the race, and it seemed to have worked. In fact, one of the few problems voiced at the meeting was about how families crowded onto the track to cheer on their children while the last of the half-marathon runners were still coming to the finish line.

Lori Mazeika-Myre, of Palos Health, as well as several others at the meeting, said the crowds on the track posed problems for volunteers wanting to present the runners with medals as they finished their race.

She suggested that only the runners be allowed on the track, with family members restricted to the grassy area beside it. Listening to another suggestion, Prestinario and Diab said they may also consider running the children’s races in the opposite direction on the track, so they would not interfere with runners in the major races.

In any case, the Kids’ Dash is here to stay.

Lori Chesna, executive director of Southwest Special Recreation Association, said the Walk, Run or Roll race for people with disabilities was successful again, too. She said six charity runners of the half-marathon or 10K raised more than $1,700 for SWSRA.

Bob Grossart, in charge of organizing the volunteers, said he had plenty to work with.

“More signed up last year, but we had less no-shows this year, so we actually had more people here,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to say how much exactly it helps the community (monetarily). But it does help the community in many, many ways,” said Prestinario.

He said that so many race participants went out to eat after their races that due to the crowds, his group couldn’t find seats in three local restaurants, Harvest Room, Royalberry and Lumes.

He said the owners of Harvest Room thanked him for bringing in all the racers who came for breakfast.

“It is always said that people often overlook this area, but it really is the gem of the southwest suburbs,” said Prestinario.

Chicago Ridge, Worth filling in the gaps

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar and Worth Mayor Mary Werner chat after they both gave "State of the Village" speeches at a luncheon sponsored by the Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at Jenny's Steakhouse, 11041 S. Menard Ave., Chicago Ridge.

          The need for small communities to wisely develop the limited space available to them was a focal point of the “State of the Village” speeches that Worth Mayor Mary Werner and Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar at a Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.

Werner referred to “urban infill,” which is defined as “filling in the gaps” by finding beneficial development of vacant property in otherwise developed communities. As an example, Werner said 11 new townhomes are being built on two lots in her village, These include six on Crandall Avenue, just south of 111th Street and east of the Village Hall, and five on a lot at 110th and Harlem. “We need to get families into the community, and increase foot traffic to our businesses,” she said.

Werner said increasing foot traffic to local businesses was one reason she supported bringing the Windy City medical marijuana dispensary to 11425 S. Harlem Ave. “There was a huge need there, and this was a very unique opportunity. People who had no reason to come to Worth before will seek it out, because there are only a limited number of these places. “Hopefully, once they are here, they will stop in for a meal at one of our restaurants, or go shopping here,” she said.

“We’re very excited about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District selling the Lucas-Berg Nature Preserve,” she said, referring to the 62-acre property at 7500 W. 111th Street. “It has been appraised so they are serious about selling it,” she said.

For many years, local residents had raised concerns that the land would be used a dumping ground for dredging materials taken from the Cal-Sag Channel, and Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) backed their efforts to prevent that happening. Since then, MWRD officials have said that the agency will not be using the property.

“This could be the largest commercial development in Worth since the 1960s,” said Werner, who suggested after the meeting that the site would be ideal for a nice restaurant. “It looks out on a pond, so it would provide great views for the diners,” she said.

“It could also hopefully spur more development along 111th Street,” said the mayor.

She said that in an effort to bring more diverse economic development to Worth, the village applied and completed the lengthy process of being designated an enterprise zone. Worth also formally joined the Cal-Sag Enterprise Zone, which includes 16 area communities. Werner said the enterprise zone, created to stimulate new development and expansion of existing businesses within it, is marketed statewide and even nationally and internationally.

Tokar said Chicago Ridge is dealing with many of the same issues as Worth, with limited space available for development. He said the vacant Yellow Freight property, a former trucking terminal at 103rd and Harlem Avenue, is the biggest site available for redevelopment in Chicago Ridge. At 75 acres, taking up much of the 105-acre TIF zone it is located within, it is even bigger than the Lucas-Berg property.

With an aim toward marketing it for entertainment, business and other types of development, the Chicago Ridge Village Board rezoned the formerly 75-acre property as regional mixed use about six months ago. However, the change was made around the same time as the property was sold to another trucking conglomerate, which Tokar said is posing problems for the village.

He said later that the new owner recently filed a lawsuit against Chicago Ridge, seeking to disconnect the property from the village and perhaps have it annex to neighboring Worth or Palos Hills.

“We’re probably going to have to work something out with them. I don’t see them being able to disconnect from the village. That usually is done with undeveloped land, but this is fully developed. And we provide them with sewer and water.”

Both mayors noted various new businesses that have come to their communities over the past year. Werner mentioned Salt Cave on 111th Street and a new Circle K opening tomorrow (Friday) at 10631 Southwest Highway. Tokar said 34 new business licenses were awarded in Chicago Ridge in the past year, including Miller’s Ale House, which has become very successful. But they both said competing against online shopping is making it difficult for brick-and-mortar retail businesses to compete. He said while the Sears in Chicago Ridge Mall is not closing, one in Oak Brook has turned its first floor over to Land’s End, and another is being used to race drones.

“Go to the small stores and restaurants in your areas. Frequent these places or they will be all gone in 20 years,” said Tokar.

‘Wax Museum’ comes to life

  • Written by Kelly White

wax museum photo 6-1

Photo by Kelly White

A Living Wax Museum was held May 19 at Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park. Fifth-grade student dressed as historic figures and when called on, provided information on their lives.


Grace Curley has always loved sports and has been playing basketball for over 10 years. But the fifth grade student at Most Holy Redeemer School in Evergreen Park also believes girls can do anything they want to.        

“Basketball might have only been a boys sport before, but when I think of it now, I think of it as both a boys and girls sport,” said Curley, 11, of Evergreen Park. “Girls can do anything that boys can do. I’m going to be a professional basketball player.”

But on May 19, Curley and other fifth grade students at Most Holy Redeemer provided their classmates and visitors with a sense of history. In this instance students gave a visual display of historic figures during the “Living Wax Museum.”

While Curley dreams of one day playing in the WNBA, she looks up to women who have excelled in the field of science. In this case, she said her drive comes from Sally Ride, an American physicist and astronaut. Curley portrayed Ride in the Wax Museum event, donning white clothing and holding a helmet at her side. Behind her was a poster marking many of Ride’s accomplishments.

When students, teachers or parents would come by her station in the school gym, she began reciting facts about the female astronaut. Ride joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983.

“She (Ride) is a great role model for all girls and women,” Curley said. “She did something only men were doing at the time, and she wasn’t afraid to do it. She proved that girls can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do.”

She joined 41 other fifth-graders who dressed in costume and provided information about historic figures.

The theme of the project was “American Heroes,” dubbed by teachers Nancy Cagney and Bronwyn Azzaello. Students picked a hero from any time period they were interested in, researched their lives and personified them as a character in a living wax museum.

“They were able to pick a person that they were interested in and for their own reasons,” Azzaello said. “They really get into the characters, bringing them to life.”

Each wax figure had a box next to their poster board display. Any time a coin was dropped into the box, the students gave a two-minute speech, which they created and memorized, to each listener. They did this while dressed in full character.

The event was open to all other Most Holy Redeemer students, faculty, parents and siblings. Last year’s project gained $1,000 that was donated to the American Cancer Society. This year will be no different, according to Cagney.

“You see students come and drop in handfuls of pennies, knowing it is going to a good cause,” she said. “It’s very sweet.”

Students prepared for the project for six weeks, practicing their speeches at home and in their classrooms.

“I chose Abraham Lincoln because he is inspirational,” said MaryKate Daly, 10, of Evergreen Park. “Not only did he end slavery, he was also president. But more importantly, I chose him because even though he had a poor childhood he fought through it and still had a good life.”

“This project is a lot of fun because the student not only learns a lot, but they learn from studying a person they picked out. But they also learn a lot from each other, and even the teachers learn things, too,” Cagney said. “I think the children really enjoy it because it’s such an interactive project.”

Local legislators ready to fight cuts to Meals on Wheels

  • Written by Joe Boyle

While the state budget stalemate continues into June, state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) recently voiced her displeasure over cuts proposed by the Trump administration that she said would result in in the reduction of the senior Meals on Wheels program.

“Donald Trump and his extreme allies' proposal to slash funding for Meals on Wheels would jeopardize the health and wellbeing of countless Illinois seniors,” Burke said. “I stand in opposition to any proposal that would take away life-sustaining services from our seniors, while cutting taxes for the extremely wealthy.”

Burke is one of 37 legislators who are cosponsoring House Resolution 274, which states the Illinois House of Representatives' opposition to efforts to oppose any cuts to the Meals on Wheels, the congregate meals program, and community block grants that provide funding for senior meal programs.

Joining Burke in opposing cuts to the Meals on Wheels program is state Rep. Frances Hurley (D-35th). The resolution passed the Illinois House on May 24.

Burke has linked the Trump administration proposed cuts to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who she said has not “introduced a responsible budget for our state's most critical services.”

She is defending the Meals on Wheels program by voting to pass a lifeline budget to sustain it and prevent local seniors from being denied critical care.

Representatives of the Trump administration said that these critics do not have their facts straight. President Trump's 2018 budget suggests cutting funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by about $6.2 billion, which is a 13.2 percent decrease from the 2017 funding level. Half of those savings would come by eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding for a variety of community development and anti-poverty programs, including Meals on Wheels.

A spokesperson for Rauner said the governor is aware of the delays in funding for programs like Meals on Wheels and said they are working to change the structure of payments.

Nancy LeaMond, the executive vice president of the AARP, said that it is imperative that our nation continue to fund Meals on Wheels because the need is great.

“Meals on Wheels and many other senior programs have literally been starved to the bone while the demand for these services is greater than ever before due to aging demographics,” LeaMond said. “Without continued investments in these cost-effective programs, taxpayers will end up paying far more to hospitalize or otherwise care for the frail elderly, many of whom are homebound.”

According to officials at the Meals on Wheels program, they serve more than 2.4 million seniors from ages 60 and up. Due to physical limitations or financial reasons, many of these seniors have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals for themselves, according to Meals on Wheels.

Researchers at Brown University in 2013 said that in most states, increasing Meals on Wheels enrollment would result in a net savings from decreased Medicaid costs for nursing home care.

Besides providing food, Meals on Wheels officials said they offer much-needed human contact for homebound seniors. One of the benefits of in-person delivery is that it has decreased the rate of falls in the home, saving the nation about $34 billion a year, according to Meals on Wheels.

Many seniors who live in the southwest suburbs have benefited from the Meals on Wheels program, according to Burke.

Burke said she will continue to stand “with seniors and senior advocates like the AARP to oppose politicians' dangerous cuts to senior Meals on Wheels, which would affect the more than 115,000 elderly residents who depend on the program.”

Oak Lawn man charged after dogs are thrown off roof

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Animal cruelty charges have been filed against a man who allegedly threw two toy poodles off the top floor of the five-story parking tower C, beside Advocate Christ Medical Center, in the 9300 block of South Kostner Avenue, in Oak Lawn.


Oak Lawn resident Edward Hanania, 22, has been charged with two counts of felony animal cruelty for allegedly killing one dog and badly injuring another by throwing them off a five-story parking garage at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn on Saturday.

Hanania was being held in Cook County Jail and was awaiting a bond hearing.

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Oak Lawn Chief of Investigations Randy Palmer said Monday that police responded to a report of two injured dogs found between hospital parking towers B and C in the 9300 block of South Kostner Avenue, at 12:07 p.m. Saturday. The dogs, both male white toy poodles, were transported to the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge. But the 6-year-old, later found to be named Guerrero, died of injuries suffered in the fall. He was the father of the younger dog, 1-year-old Angel, who survived and is being treated for a badly broken leg and swollen ribs. Staff at the Animal Welfare League said the dog’s recovery could take three months.

His survival is attributed to him falling on grass, while the older dog fell onto concrete.


“I don’t know a motive. We’re looking at this individual’s full background, trying to piece together what transpired and why,” said Palmer during a press conference on Monday. “It is not something that a normal person would do. We are all baffled by this. We have trained investigators that worked homicides and everything else, and this one just baffles my mind,” said Palmer.

He said investigators learned that the dogs had somehow gotten out of their yard in Chicago on Saturday. Someone found them at 55th and Troy Street in the city, and according to reports, posted photos of them on a Facebook page dedicated to reuniting lost dogs and cats with their owners.

Hanania is alleged to have claimed to own the animals and they were turned over to him. They were gone by the time the true owner came to pick them up, with photos and medical records proving they were his.

Palmer described the owner as “devastated,” after learning the fate of his pets. He has taken Angel home, along with the remains of the other dog.

“Considering the heinousness of this crime, we would like to see him charged to the full extent of the law,” said Palmer of Hanania, who, he said, has a criminal record.

“Trying to figure out a motive is mind-boggling to me. Why someone would do this to a harmless animal that is not hurting anyone (is baffling),” he concluded.