Oak Lawn woman contracts West Nile virus

  • Written by Tim Hadac

The first human case of the potentially deadly West Nile Virus in suburban Cook County had been found in Oak Lawn.
  Cook County Department of Public Health officials confirmed last week the first human case of the virus was identified in a woman in her 40s from Oak Lawn who became ill earlier this month.
  Because of privacy laws her name is not being released but county health officials said she was not hospitalized and is recovering at home. The virus continues to circulate throughout all of suburban Cook County. Recently there were positive mosquito pools in 61 communities and three dead birds having tested positive for the virus.
  “I can’t stress enough the importance of prevention during West Nile virus season,” Cook County Department of Public Health COO Dr. Terry Mason said in a news release. “Every year, the virus circulates throughout suburban Cook County and while we can’t eliminate those mosquitoes, we all have the ability to take basic prevention measures to protect against human transmission.”
  This information was released shortly after Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge were added to the list of suburban communities where mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been detected this year.
  A Cook County Department of Public Health surveillance report showed that the number of communities jumped from 18 to 33 in just one week. Other communities newly added to the list include Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park and Lemont.
  Evergreen Park made West Nile-related headlines in recent years. Mayor James Sexton’s 2012 infection and recovery from a near-fatal case of West Nile disease was known to many and chronicled in a 2013 profile in The Reporter.
  Health officials say the most effective way to prevent against becoming infected with WNV is to follow the three R’s:
  • Remove standing water around your home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Repel mosquitoes when outdoors between dusk and dawn by applying insect repellent with DEET and wear light, lose fitting clothing.
  • Repair or replace torn screens on doors and windows
  Health officials say that people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness and never become ill. But illness can occur three-to-15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches.
  The disease can affect all ages, but people over the age of 50 and those with a chronic disease, such as heart disease or cancer may be at-risk for serious complications from encephalitis or meningitis. For that reason, people who experience high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or a stiff neck should see a doctor immediately.
  The Northern House mosquito, Culex pipiens, is the primary carrier of West Nile virus. This mosquito species thrives in water with high organic content, such as that found in catch basins (storm sewers). Consequently, a hot, dry summer increases the risk of West Nile virus infection, exactly the opposite of what many people believe.
  In contrast, the swarms of "floodwater" mosquitoes that appear after heavy rains may be a nuisance, but they rarely are infected with West Nile virus.
  Northern House mosquitoes are not aggressive, and people rarely notice when being bitten.
  In 2013, some 2,469 human cases (119 of them fatal) of West Nile-related illness were reported nationally. In Illinois, there were 117 reported cases and 11 deaths. Statewide, cases ranged in age from 14 to 92 years, with a median age of 59. In suburban Cook County, there were 16 known cases and at least one death.

Canada or Switzerland?

  • Written by Claudia Parker

page-1-4-col-hockey They are wearing red, white and blue as Chicago Ridge’s Eileen Meslar (left) Worth’s Lorissa Sernus (center) and Alsip’s Denielle Strohmier (right) will represent the United State in international ball hockey tournaments in 2015.. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Area star ball hockey players to soon find out their fate for USA team play in 2015
 Three women from the South Suburbs will be anxiously waiting to find out if they will be heading to Canada or Switzerland next year.

  Eileen Meslar of Chicago Ridge, Lorissa Sernus of Worth and Danielle Strohmier of Alsip have been selected to represent the United States Women’s Team at The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s (ISBF) 2015 World Championship. They’ll go through a final round of drills in Dracut, Mass., Saturday to determine which team they will end up on.
  Team A will compete in Zug, Switzerland in June and Team B, in Barrie Ontario, Canada in September.
  Not a bad deal for a trio playing in a sport that not many people are familiar with.
  “Ball hockey is my favorite sport,” Meslar said. “I hadn’t played since I was 15. I was happy I found a women’s tournament where I could play again. I didn’t think it would lead to this!”
  This trio of childhood athletes-turned-adult competitors said they welcome the placement on either team but hope to remain together.
  They were elementary school students when they were introduced to the sport at the Southwest Ball Hockey facility located at 5801 W. 115th Street in Alsip.
  Meslar started playing at age eight while self-proclaimed best friends, Sernus and Strohmier, met when they became teammates at age five.
  “Southwest Ball Hockey is one of very few places to learn the sport,” Meslar said. “We each played there until we aged out at 15.”
  Some may ask, what exactly is ball hockey anyway?
  The American Street Hockey Institute (ASHI) describes Dek/ball hockey as being similar to ice hockey, played on smaller rinks, without ice. A small, rubber ball is used in lieu of a hockey puck.
  “You don’t get to glide like you do on skates, it’s all sprinting down the court,” Meslar said.
  The rink is equipped with boards, glass/fencing/netting, and an asphalt or sport court surface made of a modified polypropylene substance impervious to weather. The ISBF is the governing body of the sport that Meslar, Sernus and Strohmier said they felt was a distant memory until a carpool conversation changed their future.
  Sernus said: “Danielle and I joined a women’s ice hockey team in Kankakee that Eileen was already a part of called, The Kankakee Novas. Since Kankakee is such a long commute, our coach encouraged us to carpool. During our rides, we bonded over different things; one being our mutual love for ball hockey.”
  The sequence of events that followed plays like a movie.
  It was a Google search of ‘’ball hockey” that lured them to a solicitation for an adult women’s Ball Hockey tournament in Leominster, Mass.
  “We were so excited for an opportunity to play again — I recruited a team of 15 women and headed to the East Coast.” Meslar said.
  During that tournament, like a moth to a flame Sernus said she, Meslar, and Strohmier were drawn to recruiters rallying players to try out for the USA Women’s National Team.
  Of their group of 15, only these three were enticed enough to try out. Eight months later they found themselves in Dracut, Massachusetts for the first round of tryouts.
  “There were about 200 other women. Most were from the East Coast, where ball hockey is huge,” Meslar said.
  Unlike the previous ball hockey tournament, where the ladies competed as a team, the USA Women’s National Team tryouts were individually based.

  “Those tryouts were the longest days of my life,” Sernus said. “It was four to five hours of grueling endurance and fun at the same time.”
  Strohmier said, “Getting the call that all three of us made it through was amazing.”
  Several weeks later, they each got through a second round of tryouts making them officially a part of the USA Women’s National Team.
  “It all happened so fast.” Sernus said.
  Apparently dreams coming true don’t knock upon arrival — they barge in the door.
  “Recently I found a little note my mom kept from my second grade memorabilia where I said I wanted to represent the USA playing Hockey in the Olympics.
  “This is pretty close.”

  “During tryouts, we saw some fierce athletes,” Strohmier said. “There were Division I college players and Olympic ice hockey player, Hilary Knight was on my line!”
  While Ball Hockey isn’t considered an Olympic sport today, in January, the ISBHF made a presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In addition, they also met with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to register the sport to be in compliance with its regulations and requirements.
  Sernus said, “Playing on the USA Women’s Team is going to help us spread the word about ball hockey. We really want a larger presence in the Midwest.”
  The travel to the East Coast has been costly.
  In addition, each of them are having to balance the lives they were living prior to this exciting voyage. Sernus is a student at Moraine Valley College. Once her prerequisites are met, she plans to transfer to UIC and major in sports nutrition.

  Strohmier just completed an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at Moraine Valley. She’s now pursuing a degree from Trinity Christian College in Business Communication and Graphic Design.
  Meslar is a graduate of Western Michigan University. She doesn’t have to juggle homework in the airport and on the plane like Sernus and Strohmier during all those trips out east. Though, she does manage working fulltime at BARBRI as a proofreader. The women said they’re grateful the training is on the weekends.
  In spite of the rigor involved to keep them at play, they all said it’s worth it.

  “Being able to represent our country playing a sport we learned as children is an amazing opportunity for us all,” Meslar said.

Super Senior Day in Palo Hills give seniors a chance to review the Rules of the Road

  • Written by Kelly White

Senior citizens will be given a unique day in Palos Hills when they will have the opportunity to brush up on their driving skills.
Super Senior Day, sponsored by the Palos Hills Parks and Recreation Department, will take place on from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Palos Hills Community Center, 8455 W. 103rd Street.
“This is a nice event dedicated to senior citizens,” Alderman Pauline Stratton (2nd Ward) said at last Thursday’s city council meeting.
The program will be administered through the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office by a group called Super Seniors. The group brings the State of Illinois’ driving resources and services into local communities and offers convenient a variety of ways for local senior citizens to renew their driver’s licenses.
Qualifying senior citizens, aged 65 and older, are invited to participate in the Rules of the Road review course, beginning at 9:30 a.m., and receive a complimentary vision screening exam, courtesy of the Secretary of State’s Mobile Driver Services Unit. They can obtain a free, non-expiring Illinois State photo ID card. However, physical road tests will not be offered during this event. Advanced registration is required for the Rules of the Road review course.
This is a free event for all local senior citizens. For more information and to register for the Rules of the Road review course, contact the Palos Hills Community Center.
The Palos Hills City Council will be combing committee and city council meetings as of the first week in September.
The city council voted 6-2 in favor of the combined meetings at Thursday’s city council meeting with Alderman William Hanson (3rd Ward) absent and unavailable to vote. Alderman Stratton (2nd Ward) and Alderman Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward) were the only two opposed of combing the meetings.
“I feel we should wait until all of the aldermen are present before deciding on this issue,” Kleefisch said.
However, the majority of city council members disagreed.
“I did a survey of the 21 municipalities in our region and there are only two other towns that meet four times a month, like Palos Hills,” Mayor Jerry Bennett said, “Those two towns are Palos Heights and Alsip. In fact, Alsip is on the same summer schedule we are, taking the last committee off every month until September. There is only one other town out of 21 that continues to meet four times a month.”
Combing the committee and city council meetings will allow for city council members to have two Thursdays off per month. The combined meetings will take place on the first and third Thursday of every month. Committee meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and city council meetings will take place immediately afterward at 7 p.m.
The city council cannot take action on any resident’s request during committee meetings. With the meetings combined, issues can be adhered to during the point of discussion.
Bennett reminded residents if they need to speak to him or any city council members, they are also available during daytime hours.
“Their issues will be addressed immediately with the interaction by the department heads,” Bennett said.

Debris and headaches are piling up

  • Written by Bob Rakow

OL’s plans to resolve flood issues are coming but not real soon

PAGe-1-2-col-debrisDebris from Oak Lawn residents’ basements and houses were picked up earlier this week. Village officials estimate 25 tons of debris was hauled away this week. Photo courtesy of Village of Oak Lawn.

There are no near-term solutions coming down the pipe to resolve flooding problems in Oak Lawn, but the village is working on long-term answers to the dilemma, which has plagued several areas of the village this year, officials say.

Residents in pockets throughout Oak Lawn neighborhoods were hit hard early Friday morning, as nearly five inches of rain struck the area. Neighboring Burbank was hit the worst, with several streets severely flooded and residents navigating some streets in rowboats.
It wasn’t as bad in Oak Lawn, but don’t tell that to residents who spent the weekend dragging water logged carpet and furniture to the curb for a special pickup on Sunday.
In fact, Republic Services, the village’s waste hauler, along with public works crews, hauled away up 25 tons of debris, said Village Manager Larry Deetjen.
8-22-14-Flood-030Flood waters may not have been as bad in Oak Lawn as they were in nearby Burbank, but things still got pretty wet on Friday morning. Photo courtesy of Village of Oak Lawn.Olejniczak said that in his district heavy rain impacted the same parts of his district that typically are hit hard when it rains hard.
“Alexander [Place] got waylaid. It was just bad,” Olejniczak said.
In fact, many homes in an area bounded by Central Avenue, 52nd Avenue, 87th Place and 88th Place were hit by flooding, Olejniczak said.
Village officials admit there’s no quick fix to the problem, but say they’re working with officials from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on a series of solutions that will better prepare the village for heavy storms in the years to come.
MWRD officials spent time on Friday at the village’s emergency command center and got first-hand look at flooding at the underpass at 95th Street and Harlem Avenue as well as 87th Street near the retention reservoir in Burbank.
“They identified the problems,” Olejniczak said. “They’ve seen what happens.”
“There’s no quick fix,” Trustee Tim Desmond added.
Indeed not. Olejniczak points to the addition of turn lanes at Southwest Highway and Central Avenue as an example of a project that took required several years to accomplish as the village worked with Cook County to bring the work to fruition. Work is expected to begin in September, he said.
Deetjen said three major projects would, over time, lead to significant flood relief in Oak Lawn.
First, he said, the construction a reservoir at the northwest corner of St. Casimir Catholic Cemetery property “is a hugely important project.” A retention reservoir, would give the village somewhere to temporarily hold water during significant storms, he said.
Second, he said, the village plans to install detention boxes underneath 103rd Street from Central to Cicero avenues when that stretch of road is under construction. The detention boxes also would help alleviate flooding.
Finally, improvements to the Melvina Ditch, which connects with Stony Creek, are part of the village’s master plan.
“The creek has only so much holding capacity,” Deetjen said.
The long-term plan won’t resolve any problems overnight, Deetjen said.
“(It’s) not going to satisfy anyone who took on water,” he said.
Mayor Sandra Bury said the village was proactive in its handling of the storm and its aftermath, despite criticism from political opponents that she, along with Deetjen and Olejniczak, remained silent and the village issued no official response.
“It was all hands on deck,” Bury said. “We had radio and TV interviews, social media, website  and two EOC briefings. I was very proud of the village response to the flooding caused by the worst downpour in recorded history.  Our first responders are awesome.”


Cold water, warm hearts

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Ice-Bucket-2-picsShepard players go bananas as they douse assistant football coaches Ryan McGuire (left photo) and Brendan Meany (right photo) as a part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Both assistant coaches had friends and family members die of the ALS and were touched by the players’ gesture. Photos by Bob McParland/District 218.Shepard football coaches touched by players’ Ice Bucket gesture

The 2015 football season opens on Friday night and Shepard’s squad will have the challenge of trying to erase an 0-9 season in 2013 from Astros’ fans’ minds when it heads to Niles North in Skokie for a non-conference game.
Before that challenge, the Astros faced another challenge.
For the past couple of weeks, the phenomenon of having people take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has blazed across the world thanks to social media. Everyone from Michael Jordan to former President George W. Bush to heavy hitters in Hickory Hills (see page 5) have had buckets of ice water dumped on their heads to support finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- commonly known as ALS and more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
That brings us to a football practice last weekFootball-graphic on the Shepard campus in Palos Heights.
Student athlete Mark Albrecht dared his teammates and coaches to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
The dousing produced hoots, hollers and hilarity among a bunch of emotional teenage boys.
But more important, the cold drenchings warmed the hearts of two Shepard assistant coaches.
Ryan McGuire and Brendan Meany lost family and friends to ALS and the players’ gestures meant a lot to the two of them.
“I know someone who personally lost a battle to this disease. It is great to see the response that our students, athletes and our community have shown. It’s just another great example of excellence at Shepard,” McGuire said in a news release.
Meany agreed.
“As someone who lost a family friend to ALS this year, it was an honor to be part of the ice bucket challenge,’’ he said in a news release. “And it was awesome to see our kids so excited about such a noble cause.”
Head coach Dominic Passolano’s splashdown caused the most noise among the players.
“It was awesome to see our kids take the initiative in helping others and have a clear understanding about the cause,” the coach said in a statement. “It was a great way to help bring awareness to ALS, a nice way to kick the school year off and bring our school community together.”
ALS, which is fatal and has no cure, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Now for the challenges ahead…
Passolano, a former Providence Catholic player, came to the school in 2009 and the Astros made the playoffs just once in the previous 14 years. He took the team to the postseason four times in his first four years before last year’s 0-9 finish.
The team hosts Marian Sept. 5 before heading to the South Suburban Red Conference.