Jeff Vorva's imPRESSions: Former EP couple hits home run with Challengers Field


Jeffs Col ImpressionsIn the heart of a Tinley Park neighborhood stands a new baseball field in which there is a game or two going on just about every day involving special needs kids and adults.
And it warms the hearts of hundreds of volunteers who made it happen including Denis and Lois Murphy.
This couple is receiving a lot of credit from TP officials for the opening of Challengers Field, a $300,000 facility PAGE-3-2-col-helmets-with-JV-COLDenis and Lois Murphy, bottom photo, are formerly of Evergreen Park but are making an impact in Tinley Park as they had a big hand in creating Challengers Field to serve athletes with special needs. In the top photo are new helmets specially made for the facility. Photos by Jeff Vorva.Page-3-2-col-with-vorva-colwith artificial turf that has provided many hits, runs and smiles.
The Murphys lived in Evergreen Park 28 years ago. Denis went to St. Bernedette and Evergreen Park High School. Lois attended Northwest Elementary School and Evergreen Park High School. Her maiden name is also Murphy and they still have friends and family in the Evergreen Park community.
But they have really made a big mark in Tinley Park.
One of their four sons, Kyle, is a special needs athlete who has neurofibromatosis, which is a seven-syllable word meaning the growth of tumors anywhere from the spinal cord to the brain.
Kyle is 24, and his parents have been a part of the Challengers League since 1994.
The vision for the new field came about two years ago, Denis said.
“We played on a dirt field and we were kind of handicapped because we only had the field for one night and we split it with three teams,” he said. “We wanted to expand and make it a safe surface. That’s how we started this project.
“We can play seven days a week if we want.’’
The Challengers have 64 athletes in the organization and hope to expand it to more than 120 in the coming years. Athletes from Evergreen Park, Tinley Park, Orland Park, Frankfort, Mokena, Oak Forest and Steger play ball there.
The senior member of all the players is Orland Park’s Brian “Killer” Korwin, who has been with organization since it started 20 years ago. Korwin made a speech via his computer during the grand opening of the field on May 18 and said the major league scouts would flock to the field to scout future phenoms.
“Good luck and just try to keep track of all of this talent,” Korwin said. “These players can help you win a World Series. That is a Killer Korwin guarantee.’’
Another guarantee is that Challengers Field will make a lot of players, parents and friends happy for a long time.
Lois was amazed at the outpouring of love from the hundreds who showed up for the opening ceremonies, which included a parade, the Andrew High School band, White Sox mascot Southpaw, speeches and other activities.
“It’s beyond words – it’s awesome,” she said. “We were waiting for this day to come and it’s everything and more than we expected.’’

A new celebration
We’re going to change a little something that has made me scratch my head for a while.
When Regional Publishing puts out a special section on a given community, it has gone out of its way to make the cover of the section focus on a big event coming to town, such as we did for the Hickory Hills’ Street Fair in last week’s paper.
The trouble is, a vast majority of the section is about the town itself and the businesses that are in it and not the event. People who just look at the cover of these sections might think it is just about the event itself and may not even want to crack it open if they are not interested in it or can’t attend it.
In changing up the ‘we’ve-always-done-it-like-that’ mentality, the Reporter is tossing a curveball.
This week, the special section for Evergreen Park will be called “A Celebration of Evergreen Park and Day in the Park.” Evergreen Park gets the top billing and rightfully so, because this section will be full of great stories and photos that our people have put together over recent months along with some businesses bragging about what they bring to town.
Sure, there will be valuable information about the Day in the Park and six photos on the cover are from last year’s event.
But the true stars of the section are the peeps and businesses in your community, and we are going to try to reflect that from now on.


Screwy incident in OL doesn’t scare off some parents

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Yelena Fedorchenko sat at a picnic table park storyYelena Fedorchenko said she takes her daughter, Enila, (inset) to Memorial Park almost every day despite a recent incident in which someone inserted screws into the rocket slide to apparently injure children. Phot0s by Emily Smas.under a shelter at Oak Lawn’s Memorial Park Tuesday morning and watched her daughter, Enilia, walk to the rocket slide.

  She kept a close eye on the 2-year-old girl, but didn’t stop her from playing on the playground equipment despite a June 5 report that someone found screws fastened onto the some of the slides.
  The screws were driven into the bottoms of two of the five slides that make up the rocket slide.
  “I wasn’t that surprised,” said Fedorchenko, an Oak Lawn resident. “There’s always crazy stuff happening in the world.”
  Fedorchenko and her daughter visit the park, 10200 S. Major Ave., almost every day. She said she would inspect the slides if other children weren’t already playing on the equipment—an indication it was safe.
  Several other moms looked on Tuesday morning as their young children climb the rocket slide—a playground apparatus that is the centerpiece of the recently remodeled Memorial Park—but no one inspected the equipment or prohibited their children from spending time on the slides.
  Fedorchenko said her mother warned her to keep a close eye on the playground equipment, but she’s not too concerned.
  “Things happen all the time,” she said. “My husband keeps saying, ‘Why would someone want to do this to kids?’”
  Wendy Moss spent the morning at Memorial Park with other moms from the Pullman Christian Reformed Church. The group visits a different park every Tuesday morning, but last week’s news of vandalism didn’t deter them from spending time at Memorial Park.
  “It definitely worries me,” said Wendy Moss, a South Holland resident, as she watched her three children play on the rocket slide.
  Vellma Kellup, an Oak Lawn resident and church group member, was convinced that whoever damaged the slide was mimicking reports of similar activity elsewhere in Illinois and other parts of the country.
  “To me, it was like a copycat incident,” Kellup said. “It doesn’t take much.”
  Church member Kim Dykstra said the incident is a sign of the times.
  “When I was growing up, I never had to deal with that,” Dykstra said.
  In April, razor blades were duct taped to playground equipment at a park outside Philadelphia, but no one was injured. In Illinois, a toddler’s hands were sliced by razor blades glued to playground equipment in East Moline.
  East Moline police said they found about a dozen razor blades glued to playground equipment at a local park.
  Photos of the razor blades of the 2-year-old’s bloody, cut hand went viral on Facebook and made national headlines.
  In Oak Lawn, police were called to Rocket Slide Park at about 11:30 p.m. after receiving a call about the screws, which were immediately removed by park district employees.
  Park district employees are inspecting playground equipment in Oak Lawn parks on a daily basis. The police department also is keeping an eye on the parks.

Seeking bigger digs

  • Written by Declan Harty

EP mayor looks to expand Giving Garden and

promote village’s history and farming

The corner of 93rd Street and Turner Page-1-color-3-colEvergreen Park’s Giving Garden (above and below photos) could be moved from its current location at 93rd Street and Turner Avenue to a portion of a 50-acre lot on Western Avenue. Photos by Jeff in Evergreen Park is not much different from other intersections in the village.

There are cars parked on the streets. A streetlight stands overhead. Houses lie upon each corner.
Breaking the monotonous tone of house after house after house which line Turner Avenue, is a garden that channels the village’s historical pastime -- farming.
But it’s a little bit more special than that.
The Giving Garden, now in its fourth year, has become a foundation of the intersection and the community. Consisting of 16 raised beds, which play home to various fruits and vegetables, the garden is run and operated primarily through Central Junior High School students and teachers. The school, located at 9400 S. Sawyer Ave. in Evergreen Park, is less than a half-mile from the garden.
The produce that is grown at the Garden is then provided to local food pantries in the area for the needy and to assist in providing a healthier meal option.
“It is twofold, seeing what you need to do and what you can do for yourself nutritionally and how important it is to be healthy, that is a whole big part,” said Kathleen Hatczel, assistant superintendent for Evergreen Park School District 124. “To be able to give back because you get so much, the sharing part, is why they named it the Giving Garden.”
But now the lot that the garden sits on may be a stepping-stone to a larger platform.
Mayor Jim Sexton said he hopes to revitalize and revisit the community’s farming roots and to move the Giving Garden to portion of a 50-acre lot that lies near the new Menards on Western Avenue. The lot would also house farm animals such as retired race horses, Sexton said.
“We have that 50 acres of a new park over there, and we have set aside a portion of that,” Sexton said. “We have the last piece of the park, but we want the kids to understand what the past was here in Evergreen Park, and again let them be able to produce produce and be able to help out the less fortunate.”
Sexton said the village would be borrowing the idea for a farm area from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences located at 3857 W. 111th St. He said that the property would not be as large as the high school’s campus, but that they “hope for something else like that.”
Hatczel said the expansion has been discussed before, but a larger plot would mandate more community assistance in addition with her hopes to keep the current lot.
“I would love to talk to the mayor about doing that in the near future, but we would have to have help,” she said. “Whether it is the scouts or church groups, I think we have enough interest. We have several master gardeners in Evergreen Park who would be interested, I think, in helping get started. It is just a matter of us sitting down and saying here is the land and what we need to do to plot it out and decide how we are going to get together. I would be very interested in helping get that off with the community.”
The Giving Garden was initially proposed by a variety of group leaders at a meeting at Little Company of Mary Hospital, according to Hatczel. The idea for a community garden was initially much larger including the possibility of churches, schools, shops or anyone participating.
But Hatczel said the difficulties of meeting with that many people took place and eventually she proposed that Central Junior High School, which will begin as a middle school in the fall of 2015, take control of the lot and care for the garden.
Hatczel said with teachers Pat Coci and Sarah Murphy leading the effort, the lot began to prosper along with the school’s club that tends to the garden.
“The Giving Garden is for students and the teachers, they plot, they figure out what it is they need to put in there, and the cool part is, like I said, they are involved,” she said. “Some of the kids have never done that before. So the planting and watching it grow, harvesting it at the end and donating everything back because it is so critical through the summer. It is nice to bring it to the families that can never bring to the food pantry.”
According to Sexton, the garden channels a reminiscing of Evergreen Park’s farming days and when that was the main business in the area.
“It is kind of a throwback to the early 1900s, but besides that I think it is wonderful,” Sexton said. “We have a lot of good kids here in town who want to help the less fortunate, and this is their way to grow something and help the less fortunate that participate at our food pantries and get fresh vegetables and stay healthier. I think it is a great way to get the kids involved, they believe they make a difference and they do.”

Lower levels

  • Written by Declan Harty

D218 bosses worried about fourth-grade

reading levels of more than 130 students

  Despite another successful year in the eyes of the school board, issues of reading levels still remain in District 218 high schools.
  More than 100 students in the district who participated in the Reading Plus programs at Richards, Shepard and Eisenhower High Schools were reading at a level of fourth grade or below, according to a Reading Plus report that was revealed at Monday night’s district board meeting at the Administration Center in Oak Lawn.
  The program, which has been used by the district in recent years, allows students to gain exposure to non-fiction novels and other pieces of literature at their appropriate grade level.
  According to the report, the data shows that while some students have progressed, there has been a dull in progress toward the appropriate grade reading level the students should be at.
  At Eisenhower high school, there were 59 students in the program at the beginning of the year with a reading level of fourth grade and below, however, in May there were 54 students.
  At Richards High School, the amount of students in the program with a reading level of fourth grade or below decreased by seven from 42 to 35. At Shepard High School, the number decreased by eight over the school year from 57 to 49 students.
  While the program yielded some results, some board members expressed hesitations and fears about the results that are displayed and what is impacted the students in the classroom.
  “There is a boredom factor,” said board member Johnny Holmes. “You have to engage in the program…These kids have missed the foundation that others have gotten and that foundation is a family-like atmosphere.”
  In addition to the reading levels, the board discussed various factors such as semester course failures, which decreased at all three schools.
  The meeting, which drew approximately 30 spectators, was used as a review of the just-completed school year, while keeping an eye looking toward the future.
  In other news from the district:
  • The board mulled the concept of a neuropsychology clinic opening at the beginning of the fall term in the administration center.
  The project, which reached some hesitation from some board members would create a clinic for students of district 218 to get what is being called the latest and greatest in neuropsychology. Along with other school districts, the clinic would hire several interns who are licensed school psychologists seeking licensure for neuropsychology who are willing to front the cost of their interns. The amount of interns would vary from year to year based on the amount of people seeking the licensure.
  Board President Marco Corsi expressed hesitation and fear of the unknowing information that had not been hammered out such as the costs of utilities, whether the other school districts are invested for the long haul and the financial burden.
  “You don’t know what these expenditures are,” he said.
  • Board members kicked around a revision to the weighted grade policy, which had four parts to it. The board approved the first part, which included the weight of honors and advanced placement courses. The board approved the motion to have AP and honors courses carry an additional 1.0 weight to the grade point average.
  The remaining three parts of the motion were tabled for a later date. Those proposed parts were an elimination of class ranks, dual credit being awarded for AP and honors level courses, and making core and foundation classes available toany student in need of modified curricula.

  • The board discussed various building and maintenance projects for the summer including lawn care at Eisenhower, mechanical repairs at the Delta Summit Learning Center, a new childcare classroom at Shepard and new lighting and roadwork at Richards.

Releaf medical marijuana shop seeks Palos Hills’ blessing

  • Written by Kelly White


Palos Hills may be considering a future medical marijuana dispensary. The city council was approached by Releaf LLC, a medical marijuana dispensary, during last Thursday’s meeting. The company is hoping to open up shop in Palos Hills.
Releaf LLC is a medical marijuana dispensary looking for the opportunity to open up locations in Illinois suburbs. During the course of phone conversations with municipalities, Releaf owner and Orland Park native Michael Perkowski reports positive feedback from Mokena and Palos Hills, with the possibility of adding Tinley Park to the mix. His own home town, Orland Park, shunned the idea of medical marijuana dispensaries, despite Illinois state regulations.
The city has never been approached by anyone looking to open up a medical marijuana dispensary before according to Mayor Jerry Bennett. “The council will take the request under consideration,” he said. The council has not yet discussed zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.
By law, Illinois is not allowed to have any more than 60 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. Once the dispensaries are open, patients can buy up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks, with dispensaries taxed at 7 percent. Illinois was the 20th state to pass a medical marijuana law. The bill went into effect January 1, but is still taking several months for officials to give dispensaries the go-ahead.
“We would like to have our application in to open up our store tentatively by this August,” Perkowski said, “I know this is something the city will take very cautiously, not very lightly, when considering.”
Perkowski told the council of the positives his facilities can provide.
“I am a business owner, but I am also from this area, and I would like to have medical marijuana be available for those who need it,” Perkowski said. He explained how his mother died of stage four cancer, and medical marijuana helps aid patients in need with pain relief, appetite and the effects of underlying diseases.
“I got into this business to help the community and community members,” he said, “This dispensary will not be used for any recreational drug purposes.”
Releaf LLC also plans to use a 24-hour security system, which will include a door for employees to be buzzed in and out of while entering and exiting the building, video surveillance and live security guards on duty.
Beautification contest underway