Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Orland Park quadriplegic ready to crank it up

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

The way Orland Park’s John Cancialosi sees it, he’s only had one bad day in his life.

It was July 4, 1982.

That’s when the 6-foot-7, 20-year-old Cancialosi was at a friend’s house.

The day started normal enough for him. By the time it ended, he was a high-level quadriplegic  after taking a dive that would change his life.

“Just a tall guy in a short pool,” was how he succinctly described it.

But he nearly died that day. The impact on his body was bad enough but he was drowning until friends pulled him out of the pool and “pumped the water out of me and got me going.’’

He’s been in a wheelchair for 32 years and in recent years decided to take up competing in marathons with his hand cycle, also known as a crank bike. Cancialosi signed up to compete in the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon, which will take place May 3 in Palos Heights and Palos Park and feature runners from all over the south suburbs and Chicago area.

It’s the eighth running of the event and the thousands of competitors who have raced on the 13.1-mile course have all used their legs. This is the first guy in the race who will use his arms.

Co-race director Mel Diab is thrilled to have Cancialosi in the race.

“I’m very excited – running is all-inclusive,’’ Diab said after a marathon committee meeting Friday. “You usually see athletes like these in the major marathons. And you never see them in the half marathons.’’

Diab added that he hopes to someday be able to have a wheelchair or bike division in his race. Cancialosi is thinking of asking another rider to join him in this race.

As of Friday, 1,161 athletes signed up for the two races offered that day – 982 for the half marathon and 179 for the second running of the 10K run.

Cancialosi has done a handful of full marathons in his career and remembers the first time he finished.

“My arms were numb,” he said. “I didn’t know I had them. You also use a lot of shoulder and back muscles. 

“It’s remarkable that I can do a marathon at all. I can do a 26.2 marathon in about 3 ½ hours or 3 hours and 15 minutes. But if it’s really hilly, it’s 5 hours and 45 minutes.’’

Since the diving accident, he said he has taken the “Get busy living or get busy dying”  quote from the film “The Shawshank Redemption” as an approach to his philosophy of life. Competing in marathons was a way to get busy living.

“I do it for health and freedom,” he said. “I’ve been in a wheelchair for 32 years. Any chance I can get out and experience life from a different vantage point is a great opportunity.  It took me quite a few years to find out what fun it could be and the health and physical aspects of it as well as the mental aspect of it.

“It’s you against yourself when you are out there.’’

Ten years ago, Cancialosi and his wife, Vicki, went into business for themselves and own the Tinley Park Kitchen & Bath Shoppe at 10750, Oak Park Ave. in Tinley Park.

When he gets home from the job, Cancialosi can be found working out on his bike in his neighborhood.

There is also a former baseball player who lives nearby named John Cangelosi, who played with the White Sox, Pirates, Rangers, Mets, Astros, Marlins and Rockies from 1985-1999. They have similar names, which occasionally causes confusion.

“Even when people meet me, they ask if I’m the baseball player,” Cancialosi said.

 Cancialosi maintains a positive outlook on life, saying that he never had a bad day in his life. Except for the day of the accident.

“It happened 32 years ago and I don’t even think about it. It’s just a blip,” Cancialosi said. “From day 1, I’ve been positive. Nothing gets me down. Nothing.’’


EP coach screws up but immediately takes ownership

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chris Janes screwed up last week.


The vice president of the Evergreen Park Baseball Association got drunk in the early morning hours March 3 and “had a tough time getting home,” he told me.


Janes mistook another house in the neighborhood for his own, banged on the door and threatened the owners, who called police. A woman who lives in the house told police that Janes was standing in the street when she arrived home shortly after 1 a.m. and chased her to the door.


After a struggle with police, Janes was charged with disorderly conduct and assault as well as resisting and obstructing a peace officer, public intoxication and using vulgar and threatening language toward police and paramedics.


This kind of incident normally would be a small item in the police blotter or a brief story that warranted two or three paragraphs.


Not in Janes’ case.


Janes is a public figure. He probably never expected to be in the public eye—to be talked about on talk radio or be the topic of endless television news stories. Just Google “Chris Janes” and you’ll get the idea.


Janes, as many of you know, is the guy who blew the whistle on Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball. He told Little League officials last summer that JRW recruited outside its neighborhood boundaries in order to create an all-star team.


The team won the U.S. championship in the Little League World Series but was stripped of its title recently when Little League International officials took a closer look at the allegations Janes made in the summer.


His reward was accusations of racism and intimidating calls to his home, including death threats. But Janes never complained, never regretted his decision to make public allegations about the JRW that had been whispered in youth baseball circles for years.


The story, it seemed, had just about run it course. But then Janes went out drinking. I have no details about that night—where he was, who he was with, how much he drank or if he was driving before he was spotted standing on Utica Avenue. His car was located down the street. He denies driving it.


I do know that Janes surprised me last Tuesday when he agreed to talk about his actions. Before I picked up the phone, my editor and I were pretty certain Janes wouldn’t answer or would decline comment. He’d be too embarrassed to talk, or maybe a lawyer told him to keep his mouth shut.


We were wrong.


Janes sounded a little confused as I summarized for him the details of the police report. He did his best to tell me what he remembered and put up with all my questions.


Janes was all over the television news that night repeating again and again that he made serious mistake, regretted his actions, took full responsibility and intended to apologize to everyone involved, including the folks he shook up in the middle of the night.


I admire Janes and the way he handled himself. He made a really bad decision, acted like a jerk, and embarrassed his family and the baseball association. Despite it all, he manned up and talked to reporters at a time when others would have disappeared.


When Janes and I talked about the JRW scandal several weeks ago, he told me that he hoped his actions as a whistle blower taught the kids in Evergreen Park Little League a few lessons about doing the right thing, playing fair and good sportsmanship.


A few weeks later, he goes out and sets the worst possible example for the neighborhood boys and girls, who look to coaches as teachers and role models.


Janes could face league sanctions. Maybe he deserves them. It might be hard argue that JRW deserved to lose their title for cheating and not penalize Janes for his irresponsible actions.


Regardless of what happens, Janes took the appropriate first step. He, as the crisis management folks would say, “got out in front of the problem.” That’s not to say I believe Janes had a plan in place when he met the media last week. No, he sounded too sincere to be in “damage-control” mode. At least I hope so.


Some people will look differently at Janes than they did before this regrettable incident. Cast judgments, point fingers. Don’t do that. It’s bad enough. He knows what he did and wishes he hadn’t.


In at a time when so many people deflect blame, refuse to accept responsibility or take ownership of their problems, Janes did. For that he deserves some credit.





EP teen doesn't hear back from AGT but will still perform on TV

  • Written by Claudia Parker


          An eighth grader’s wish to perform on television is being granted, but not in the way she expected.

            She will probably not be singing to the world on “America’s Got Talent” but she has plans to talk and sing on a cable channel that reaches out to a wide audience in Chicago and its suburbs.

            On Jan. 25, Evergreen Park’s Central Middle School student, Kennedy Bordeaux (14) auditioned to be a contestant on the 10th season of “America’s Got Talent.” On the day of auditions, Bordeaux said she was told by producers they’d contact her by the end of February if she was selected for their next round of auditions.

            February has come and gone and inquiring minds may want to know: Did AGT reach out?

            “I haven’t heard from them,” said Bordeaux on Sunday. “But, since my audition, the community has made a big deal out of my story.”

A source at AGT said Bordeaux’s chances of making it to the next round of auditions haven’t definitively ended. “They give deadlines as a benchmark but things change all the time.” the source said. 

            Bordeaux said she would be shocked and excited if AGT did call but she’ll be fine either way.  

“I don’t expect to become the next Beyoncé,’’ Bordeaux said. “I tried out for AGT to challenge myself. If they don’t call, my backup plan is to become a veterinarian.”  

She has plans on performing on TV, though.

Her parents received an e-mail requesting a television interview from Lee Denham, a producer for Comcast.

            Denham said the interview would focus on Bordeaux’s experiences with “America’s Got Talent” and her work on being a diabetes ambassador.

“I think her story will be really informative for our audience.” Denham said.

            Bordeaux said when her dad, Clete, read her the e-mail from Mr. Denham she was ecstatic.

 “I can’t believe I’m going to be on TV,” she said. “And, they’ve even asked me to sing. I can’t wait!”  


            Bordeaux’s Comcast interview is scheduled to tape April 2. To watch, visit or press On Demand, scroll to “GET LOCAL” and then“CN100” choose “COMMUNITY CONNECTION” select the episode by the date of taping.

            Getting teenagers to openly express themselves can be challenging. Yet, here’s Bordeaux, capitalizing off sharing her experience of auditioning for AGT to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes, an illness she’s courageously fought since the age of seven. 

            “I like helping people. I always have.” Bordeaux said. 

            Bordeaux said a front page story of Reporter in February caused a flurry of support so the disappointment of not hearing from the show has been tempered as she became a local celebrity.

“My principal told me she saw [the story and] was so proud of me, found the link online and sent it to every teacher in our building.” said Bordeaux. “She also announced it during an assembly. All the students in the school were cheering for me. I couldn’t believe it.” 

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Boxing interest has waned but OLOR show lives on

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions


Gather around my rocking chair, boys and girls, and Uncle Jeff will tell you a story about an era a long, long time ago when the sport of boxing was huge.

Casual fans knew the names of the top boxers at the time. Ali. Frazier. Foreman. Leonard. Duran. Hearnes. Norton. Hagler. Tyson. Spinks. Another Spinks.

Even the next level – the Quarrys and the Wepners of the world had some name recognition.

People thirsted to find out who was going to win matches. And, boys and girls, before the invention of Pay Per View, people would go to movie theaters to watch closed-circuit broadcasts of big fights.  I once saw a closed-circuit Tyson fight at what used to be known as the Rosemont Horizon and it drew a huge crowd.

Now? Well, I can name Floyd Mayweather and and Manny Pacquiao. They are fighting in a huge bout coming up May 2 in a match that can do more than $300 million in Pay Per View sales for a match that is about three or four years too late. So boxing is not completely dead.

I think Roy Jones, Jr. is still fighting even though he is closer to becoming a senior.

The heavyweight division has some big Russian guys, I think. But I would have to Google that and get back to you on that.

After that? I can’t help ya. I just don’t know many of the elite current fighters any more.

Ultimate fighting and even professional wrestling has helped the short attention span generation turn away from the sweet science.

But there is a pocket in our area where every year you can find boxing a boxing card taking place.

The Our Lady of the Ridge boxing show is in its 53rd year gets rolling at 7 p.m. at 10820 S. Oxford in Chicago Ridge. The doors open at 6 p.m.

Kids from kindergarten through sixth grade from the area will put on the gloves and head gear and box.

For those who feel a little weird about seeing little kids fight, ring announcer Don Pratl said that it’s not a violent event.

“Yes, we’ve had some kids get sick in the ring and we may have had a few bloody noses, but that’s it,” he said. “There is a difference between boxing and fighting and for the last couple of months, we’ve been teaching these kids how to box. We work on sticking and moving and we match the kids up as evenly as we can.

“There have been times when we’ve had to tell some kids they can’t participate because they are too big or too small.’’

Pratl said he was a Golden Gloves boxer growing up and has been a ring announcer for this event for decades.  

He said that no matter how much other sports have gained in popularity and how much boxing has declined, boxing purists like himself will continue to embrace it.

“Boxing can never be replaced,” he said. “The MMA or Ultimate fighting – that’s what happens in the streets, not the ring. Those are entertainment events. Boxing is a sport.’’

Pratl remembers the days when the OLOR event would have beer and smoking in the gym. Those days are gone, but there is still an old-fashioned atmosphere surrounding the event.

“Fathers, sons, cousins and neighbors all come back to talk about the good old days,” Pratl said.

This also serves as a fundraiser for the school and its athletic department.

(SUBHEAD --) Remembering the ‘big guy’

The death of Minnie Minoso this weekend (see editorial page) overshadowed the death of another local legend, coach Gordie Gillespie. Gillespie had success just about everywhere he went including Joliet Catholic, Lewis University and the University of St. Francis. He coached football, basketball and baseball and is in a whole bunch of Halls of Fame.

Eerily, I saw a big painting in homage to Gillespie on late Saturday afternoon at Lewis and I wondered where the coach was and how he was doing. That night, he died.

Gillespie knew so many people and didn’t always remember names so I (and probably a million other dudes) became known as the “big guy’’ whenever he would see me. He once spoke at a coaching class I took and his booming voice needed no microphone. He was funny, entertaining and wise.

My friend, also known as “big guy’’ to Gillespie, attended St. Francis many moons ago and would remember seeing Gillespie standing on top of a desk and enthusiastically bellow to students in whatever class it was he was teaching.

People have millions of funny Gillespie stories and quotes but my favorite quote was one he said on a practice field when he was dressing down a player. He hollered: “If you don’t get this play right, I’m going to trade you for a dog and then shoot the dog!”

Maybe PETA members won’t appreciate that line, but it still makes me laugh.

Rest in peace, big guy.

This apology is no way to (cruci)fix the situation

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Fourteen years ago, Terrell Owens, a star wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, caught a touchdown pass in a game against the Dallas Cowboys and celebrated by running from the end zone to the 50-yard line where he posed on the giant Cowboy star.

Seconds later, Cowboys player George Teague leveled Owens, knocking him off the team logo.

Owens later explained that he planned the touchdown celebration days before the game. He was running out of the unique celebrations but “I wasn’t doing it to taunt anyone by it, I was just coming here to pay my respect,” Owens said.

I don’t believe Terrell, but I’ll always remember the game.

Just like I remember the outcry on social media when Justin Beber inadvertently stood on the Blackhawks Indian head logo while posing with the Stanley Cup in the Hawks locker room.

The Blackhawks, like most NHL teams, have an unwritten rule that no one is permitted to step on the logo in the dressing room. Players have been known to scold people for accidentally or purposely stepping or standing on it.

Heck, I recently saw a Montreal Canadians player chastise his mother for standing on the team logo during an NHL Network special about the Canadians’ mom’s weekend.

These traditions may seem silly. After all, it’s only the Cowboys blue star painted at the center of the football field or the Blackhawks’ Indian head logo emblazoned on the locker room carpet.

Then again, there’s a lot of tradition behind those logos. They recall team history, great players and special moments. They embody an organization—players, fans, memories, traditions.

These symbols and the respect they deserve aren’t limited to sports. Apparently, no one taught that lesson to the members of the Woodstock girls’ basketball team.

Recently, the team won the regional title after defeating rival Woodstock North at Landers Pavilion at Marian Central Catholic High School.


Following the win, the girls affixed a Barbie doll—the team’s symbol for girl power—to a crucifix in the gym. The photo, which made the rounds on social media, shows the team smiling and pointing at the crucifix.


It was a poor decision, not well thought out by any means. And the idea of a Barbie doll as symbol for girl power also seems odd, but that’s a topic for another column.


The point is, the team hung a doll on one of the most important symbols of the Catholic faith and proceeded to celebrate their win. You would think at least one of the 13 girls in the photo would have the good sense to think the move was disrespectful.


You would think a coach, parent, moderator; anyone connected to the team would stop the girls. You would be wrong.


Woodstock High School Activities and Athletic Director Glen Wilson issued an apology after the image surfaced on social media, saying the team is “sincerely regretful.”


“Our intent was certainly not to insult, nor denigrate, Marian Central and its family.”


The apology should have stopped right there.


But no...


The school added another sentence that changed the whole dynamic.


“We apologize the act could solicit a perception of disrespect to faith, one’s school or the community they represent.”


It’s always interesting to read carefully worded apologies issued by individuals or organizations after they make a serious misstep.


For example, Woodstock apologies for an act that “could solicit a perception of disrespect to faith…”


Those are weasel words. They are disingenuous and unnecessary. Worse yet, the wording places the onus on the persons who were offended. It’s like saying, “I’m sorry if you were offended.”


Please understand, there was no perception of disrespect to the faith. The team disrespected the Catholic faith inside a Catholic school. Plain and simple.


The apology also said, “The team’s symbol of ‘girl power’ was used in an inappropriate manner.”


Forget the team’s symbol for a moment. It’s only a doll. Lots of teams use some sort of object around which to rally. Several years ago, Notre Dame football players used a big piece of chain to symbolize team unity. Whatever works.


The focus needs to be on the girls. This is a varsity team comprised of juniors and seniors, girls who are old enough to know better.


Marian Central and Woodstock high schools have decided to let the athletic departments handle the issue. How they do that, I do not know. But this is a teaching moment that extends well beyond the religion. Here’s hoping both schools take advantage of it.