Bingo! OL officials want to switch senior services to park district

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Developing programs for Oak Lawn seniors is the park district’s bailiwick, not the village’s expertise.

  That’s the opinion of Oak Lawn Mayor Sandy Bury, who would like the park district to assume control of senior services after many years in the village’s hands.
  “We’re not really good at programs for seniors, we’re just not,” Bury said. “It really does not fall into the domain of the village. What we do best is not organize bingo.”
  Village and park district officials are in preliminary discussions about a plan that would transfer control of senior services to the park district as well as transforming a park district building into a senior center.
  Cost savings is the not the primary driver behind the plan, Village Manager Larry Deetjen said.
  “We think we can elevate the service,” Deetjen said.
  Park district director Maddie Kelly fully supports the idea.
  “We are very senior friendly,” Kelly said. “All of our facilities are senior centers at some point in the day.”
  Seniors make up more than 25 percent of the patrons at Stony Creek Golf Course, the Community Pavilion and the Racquet and Fitness Center, Kelly said. They also participate in a numerous programs throughout the year.
  Kelly agreed that park district is well-equipped to take on senior services.
  “I do think we would be better at programming for them,” she said. “There are seniors all over our parks.”
  The park district would offer more than additional programming for seniors if the plan is approved, Kelly said.
  Preliminary plans call for a senior center to be built at the old bath house at Memorial Park, 102nd Street and Major Avenue.
  The pool was a closed a few years ago. The park is being renovated to include a splash pad, new paths and landscaping around the pond.
  “We would be happy to offer that up,” Kelly said. “It would be a perfect location. We think it would be a perfect spot.”
  The village is reviewing the costs associated with renovating the bath house, Deetjen said.
  “I’m sure we will end up with a better senior center,” he said.
  Memorial Park renovations, which also include the installation of a new rocket slide, are scheduled for completion in the spring.
  The park district also would hire additional staff to run a senior center and programming, Kelly said.
  Kelly said the proposal is in the village’s hands and the park board has not yet acted on the plan.

Scuba diving a reality for disabled thanks to Imagine Diving

  • Written by Claudia Parker

reporter-4-col-scubaSeveral members of Imagine Diving pose during a bowling fundraiser for the program. Photo by Claudia Parker  Families of children and adults with special needs participated in a candlelight bowling fundraiser in Tinley Park Saturday, hoping to pick up more than a spare.

  Attendees dove into their pockets to keep scuba students diving in more than just their dreams. Imagine Diving is making scuba a reality for the disabled with the help of Evergreen Park High School donating the use of its pool.
  Bob Hemedinger, president of Imagine Diving started this non-profit organization.
  “When my niece, disabled at the age of nine and unable to walk since, expressed an interest in scuba after hearing about my dives, it was easy enough to say ‘why not?’” he said.
  The program was launched after Hemedinger gained seven-years experience volunteering for another organization. The impact on the families they serve was expressed with gratitude.
  Hickory Hills’ Diana Damme’s seventeen-year-old son, Johnny, started diving at the age of 14. Johnny has Down Syndrome but his activities are not limited. Johnny’s been in the Special Olympics program through the Oak Lawn Park District for several years. He enticed his 20-year-old sister, Danielle, to learn scuba. Before the two of them became diving partners, Johnny was the only one in his family that could do it. The half-moon sized smile on his face spoke volumes as he listened to his mother, Diana, speaking about his diving abilities.
  Palos Hills’ Geana Barnard came to learn about the program during hydrotherapy for her 32-year-old son, Ryan Johnson. He suffered a traumatic brain injury September of 2010 during a car accident. The severity of his injuries left his right side paralyzed. Bernard had 16 years experience diving but left that and her career behind to devote fulltime care to Johnson.
  “Imagine Diving has helped our family on multiple levels,” she said. “Ryan can’t move his right side but when he’s diving, both sides function. It’s miraculous!”
  Johnson’s eyes had a sparkle as he talked about the best part about diving for him.
  “It’s the best way to relax,” he said. “I want others to discover scuba and know there isn’t anything you can’t do.”
  Evergreen Park’s Tom Luebke was at the event with his 12-year-old son, Sam, who’s cognitively and physically disabled. Sam has been diving since January.
  “Sam’s physical disabilities cause his him to lose stability but being in the water causes him to forget,” Tom said.
  Tom described a recent dive he and Sam took at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee. Excitedly, Tom said: “At one point, I looked over at Sam and he was surrounded by nearly a hundred fish.”
  He then used his hands to measure a foot saying, “This big!”
  Imagine Diving also offers support to veterans.
  Chicago Ridge’s Emily Griffith’s son, Chris LeClair is a sergeant in the Marine Corps.
  After a tour in Afghanistan he experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  “The saddest part as a mom was knowing my son needed help and not knowing how to reach him emotionally,” Emily said. “The water brought Chris healing, it was his therapy.”
  The program’s emphasis is on bringing families together.
  “Families of the disabled go through enough of being told what they can’t do,” Hemedinger said. “It’s inspirational to see the effort and determination when we show them what they can do.”
  To learn more about the program, visit

Winning Lotto ticket sold in EP

  A winning lottery ticket was sold last week at an Evergreen Park gas station.
  The winning Lucky Day Lotto ticket for the Aug. 15 drawing was purchased at Supersonic II, 9802 S. Kedzie Ave., according to an Illinois Lottery press release.
  The person who purchased the ticket will soon be $250,000 richer. The store will receive a bonus of $2,500, 1 percent of the jackpot amount.
  The winning numbers were 5, 19, 23, 31 and 38.
  The winner had not come forward as of Tuesday night.

Three businesses approved in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Jesse Malloy

The Chicago Ridge board approved three business licenses at its meeting Thursday night.
  Clopay Building Products Co., a garage door company, will open at 10047 Virginia Avenue, Food Safety and Quality Systems will be moving into space at 10103 Kitty Avenue, and Gillons, Inc., an Alsip based cosmetics company will be opening a location at 10150 Virginia Avenue.
  The board also approved the placement of a one-way street sign at Oxford and 109th Streets. Between the hours of 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on school days when children are present Oxford will function as a one-way, southbound street, as a safety precaution for students.
  Also in the interest of safety, the board approved a proclamation declaring September 19 “Drive 4 Pledges Day” an event intended to encourage drivers, especially teens, to pledge not to text while driving.

  Another issue of new business that was introduced was the installation of ATM at the village hall/police department. The board voted to table the issue until a the company, All in One ATM, Inc. could come in to make its case for the machine, though it was suggested that the idea is to make it easier for individuals going to bail people out at the police station to get money out.
  Civil engineer Andy Purfundt said the three road work projects currently underway in the village are all moving on schedule. The Lyman Water main project, the 2013 Motor Fund Tax street resurfacing project on Lyman and 109th Streets between Major and Central, and the Cook County community development block grant water main project on Nottingham and 100th Streets should all be complete by the end of August.

  Chicago Ridge senior trustee Dan Badon presided over the meeting in place of Mayor Chuck Tokar, who was ill and unable to attend.

EP seeking a decision from Carson’s

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Village wants to plan ahead for Plaza demolition

  The future of Carson’s, the longtime anchor of the recently shuttered Plaza, is all that stands between the mall and the wrecking ball.

  Evergreen Park trustees at Monday’s village board meeting authorized village attorney Vince Cainkar to negotiate with the retailer so that demolition of the mall, 95th Street and Western Avenue, can proceed.
  “They are the only ones there,” Mayor James Sexton said. “The rest of the tenants are gone with the exception of Carson’s.”
  The mall closed on May 31. Applebee’s, which is located on an out lot, and Planet Fitness, remain open.
  DeBartolo Development wants to demolish the mall and replace it with a “lifestyle center,” Chicago Real Estate reported. The development firm is owned by former San Francisco 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo.
  Carson’s could either decide to lease at the new mall or let DeBartolo purchase their property, located at the south end of the mall, Sexton said.
  “One way or the other, the mall is going down,” Sexton said.
  The 61-year-old shopping mall, formerly the Evergreen Plaza, has been in foreclosure since 2011. The property is currently in receivership.
  The village board authorized Cainkar to enter negotiations with Carson’s to expedite the process, Sexton said.
  “We hope to be wrapping it up by the end of the year,” Sexton said. “We are going to do what we can.”
  He said DeBartolo is serious about redeveloping the mall and is the only developer interested in the property.
  Sexton said Carson’s likely wants to be part of the new mall.
  “I think they want to stay. We would love them to stay, but the economics has to be right,” the mayor said.
  The mall was conceived by developer Arthur Rubloff in the 1936 and opened in August 1952 as an open-air shopping center. Carson’s anchored the mall along with the Fair Store, Lytton’s and Walgreens. The mall also featured a Jewel supermarket. The entire mall was enclosed in 1966.