Living for a dream

By Laura Bollin

An Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School student who has yet to set foot in his classroom this year was named the school's student of the month for January.

Henry Keller, 12, of Oak Lawn, won the award for acing a test on the Constitution. The seventh-grader has been out of school the entire 2012-13 year while undergoing treatment for bone cancer.

In his honor, Oak Lawn-Hometown is raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This is hardly new territory for the school, which has been the top Make-A-Wish fundraiser in Illinois for the past eight years with $310,000 in the coffers. The school raised $3,672 at a recent staff/student volleyball tournament, and a portion of the money will go toward sending Henry to Australia at the conclusion of his treatment.

"I can't even express my gratitude toward them. They are making sure that Henry is part of the community still," said Henry's mother, Chris Keller. "Even though he can't come to school, he is a part of the school. I think it has helped his outlook to know that his friends are still there for him. They are thinking about him and they can't wait for him to come back."

Henry was diagnosed with bone cancer last August and has been homeschooled since. His mother said the family was surprised to learn of the diagnosis. Henry had been complaining of pain in his left leg for a few weeks over the summer, and a biopsy on his left tibia confirmed cancer was the cause.

"I thought it was growing pains," Keller said. "One night, he called me four or five times, and texted me, and told me his leg really hurt. We went to the doctor and got an X-ray done on Friday. On Saturday, we were on our way to Lake Geneva for a family weekend, and the doctor called us and told us we had to get him on crutches right away, because his leg couldn't bear weight."

The following Monday, Henry had an appointment at the Kaiser Center, the pediatric cancer institute at Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. He later underwent surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to remove a four-inch tumor in his left tibia, and began chemotherapy at Hope.

"We were really in shock," his mother said. "He had no symptoms, and all of a sudden, he's got cancer. We didn't have time to really think about stuff."

Henry, who is constantly on the go, said the diagnosis kept him from school.

"I was pretty irritated, I was pretty mad," Henry said. "

Henry is in the midst of a 29-week chemotherapy treatment, and has 10 weeks left to go. Each four-hour treatment requires him to take a drug that helps his kidneys process the toxic chemicals being used to kill the cancer, and he is in the hospital for four days at a time.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is there," Keller said. "He should be done, we're praying, by April."

While undergoing treatment, Henry watches military documentaries on television or plays on his iPad - the latter a gift from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, which bought the iPad with money raised at a dress-down day in November. He enjoys visits from his friends, who come to his house once a week to hang out, and uses online video chat service Skype to participate in classes. His active lifestyle that includes playing baseball and floor hockey has been sidetracked, and he plans to get back into sports as soon as possible.

"My plans for after treatment is over in April is to play a bunch of sports and have fun," Henry said. "I play second base and left field for Oak Lawn baseball. What's getting me through is knowing that I'll be able to go to Australia. That's my wish. I want to go scuba diving, and fishing in the Great Barrier Reef."

In addition to his trip to Australia, another event is keeping Henry in high spirits - his "crutch-burying party."

"We have to find out when he doesn't need them anymore, right now he cannot walk and is still using them," Chris said. "Anyone will be able to come and toss a shovelful of dirt over the crutches. The Oak Lawn Fire Department has offered to come and help. They're going to crush it with the Jaws of Life, or run over the crutch with their fire truck. One of his grandparents' friends gave him a shovel with a ribbon on it to celebrate."

Joy Gallivan, a social worker at Oak Lawn-Hometown, has known Henry since he was a kindergartner at Sward School.

"He's my buddy," Gallivan said. "I have lunch with him once a week, at home or at the hospital. He's so excited. All he wants to do is come back to school."

District 123 helped fund the wish of another child - Abby Wujcik, an Oak Lawn resident and second-grader at Kolmar School. Abby and her family went to Hawaii, said Oak Lawn-Hometown eighth-grade studies teacher Sofia Georgelos.

"Things like this help kids build character," Georgelos said of raising money to help a fellow student. "It shows what good people they are."

Fellow teacher Teresa Loch said the Make-A-Wish fundraising lets kids "help other kids." The school has a trophy case in the hallway dedicated to Henry, with a t-shirt for the May 10 Walk-A-Thon that reads "Walk 4 Henry."

Six months after treatment is over - so possibly in October - Henry, his mother, his father, Tom, and his brother, Adam, 11, will board a plane for an Australian vacation. Henry is making do with his second wish - his first wish was a little bit bigger, said his mother.

"Make-A-Wish told him to dream big, so his first wish was to go to the moon," Chris said. "There are no flights there yet, so we couldn't do that."

What do you say?

What area restaurant has the best bang for your buck?

(Asked at the Chef's Auction in Orland Park)

Dan Martin,
Orland Park

"I agree with Lori - Fox's Pub because price-wise, the pizza is great."

Debbie Boniface,
Homer Glen

"RoccoVino's has excellent food, great service and is a good value."

Jim Pleskunas,
Orland Park

"Aurelio's - the wine and beer and appetizers are all reasonable.

Laura Pleskunas,
Orland Park

"Buca di Beppo - they give you a lot of food for your money and anything they make with red sauce is great.''

Lori Martin,
Orland Park

"Fox's Pub because their pizza is inexpensive."

Palos preserves among several where camping will be allowed

Camp Kiwanis to have sites for horse-riders

By Laura Bollin

Camping in the Cook County forest preserves has in recent years been offered only to groups of scouts and students, but the county plans to open camping in some preserves to the general public beginning next year.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has begun a $22 million project to create and renovate camp grounds in Tinley Park and Willow Springs as well as Northbrook, Palatine, South Holland, River Forest, Glencoe and Winnetka. Two existing campgrounds will be renovated and seven will be developed, said Forest Preserve District director of planning and development Chris Slattery.

"We want to bring families in," Slattery said. "Since the 1920s, in the early days of the forest preserves, there was a big legacy of people camping in the preserves."

The district will fund the project with a portion of $110 million in general obligation bonds issued last year. The renovation project is the second-biggest capital improvement project after land acquisition, which will cost $25 million, Slattery said.

Forest preserve campgrounds have fallen into disrepair in the past 90 years, Slattery said. Only one camp - Camp Sullivan at 147th Street and Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park - features buildings that are open.

Camp Sullivan is one of two existing campgrounds to be renovated. The 80-acre site features a barn at least 80 years old that will be repaired, and a new entrance will be built off Oak Park Avenue to help Camp Sullivan feel more isolated, Slattery said. Three bunkhouses constructed in 1975 will be renovated and 12 canvas cabins will be erected. The non-permanent cabins with cement floors will feature cots. The district will allow campers to bring their own tents.

"The bunkhouses currently have bunk beds that sleep 40 people, and only one bathroom," Slattery said. "We're going to build a modern toilet and shower building, like you'd find at a state park, with several bathroom stalls and showers."

Three new campgrounds will also be created, including a primitive one at Camp Bullfrog Lake at the Pulaski Woods in Willow Springs. The Bullfrog Lake site, west of Wolf Road and south of 95th Street near both Maple Lake and Red Gate Woods, was chosen because it is the center of the district, according to Slattery. Camp Bullfrog Lake will not have electricity or water.

"That's the heart of Palos Preserve, our flagship preserve," he said. "We wanted to take advantage of the natural topography and beauty: the rolling hills, and water, the proximity to the [Little Red Schoolhouse] Nature Center and the trails. The Palos Preserve is our largest single preserve. People can drive a half hour from downtown, and still be able to have a full, natural, outdoor experience."

The Palos Preserve features 50 miles of trails, 14 of which are paved and 36 of which are multi-use, Slattery said.

A second existing campground, Camp Reinberg in the Deer Grove Forest Preserve in Palatine, will feature eight tent cabins, 20 tent sites and a restroom with showers. The camp is currently closed because structures on the site violate building codes.

Two other campgrounds will be developed. Camp Pine Woods in Northbrook will provide an alternative to Camp Dan Beard, which will be closed. A bunkhouse, eight tent cabins, 20 tent sites, and toilet and shower facilities will be built. A canoe launch site and activities such as rope courses may be built in the future.

Shabbona Woods in South Holland will have eight tent cabins, 12 tent sites and a toilet building. Shabbona Woods, a former picnic grove, is close to the Sand Ridge Nature Center, 15890 S. Paxton Ave. in South Holland.

The district hopes to in the future add family cabins and additional dining and recreation opportunities at the five "top tier" campsites, but whether that can be accomplished depends on funding being available.

The district also plans to developing four primitive "second-tier" campgrounds including Camp Kiwanis, across the street from the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, 9800 Willow Springs Road in Willow Springs. Camp Kiwanis will feature campsites for trailers and horses, Slattery said.

"We won't have tents for horses, but we will have more hitching posts," Slattery said. "The site currently connects to the equestrian trail system, and we haven't allowed people to camp there. It was brought up in focus groups that equestrians would really like that opportunity."

Other second-tier sites include possible camp locations at Skokie Lagoons, along the North Branch of the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River; and at Columbia Woods in Willow Springs or Thatcher Woods in River Forest.

"There will just be some limestone slabs for people to set up tents," Slattery said. "Right now, we are allowing people to camp at Columbia Woods, but it isn't obvious so we want to make it more clear to people where the campsites are. The idea is to create a few opportunities along the river. That way, paddlers and hikers can do a weekend, stay a couple of nights and stop at a few different points."

Columbia Woods would feature a small cluster of tent sites along the river. The islands at the Skokie Lagoons would allow space for one to three tents.

The district plans to allow campers to register for sites on its website and pay via credit or debit card. Rates will vary, but the cost is $25 per night for half of a large cabin at Camp Sullivan, Slattery said. Campers who do not want to use the online system can reserve sites at the district's office in River Forest. The district has a pool of funds available to groups that need subsidies, Slattery said.

The next step is more detailed architectural and engineering plans for the top-tier sites, which should be completed by the end of the year, Slattery said. Camp Sullivan and Camp Reinberg are expected to be open by spring 2014. The sites at Camp Bullfrog Lake and Camp Pine Woods are expected to be completed by mid-2015.

WWII at McCord

The World War II display coming to Palos Park's McCord Gallery and Cultural Center March 6-10 is already garnering national attention.

Ralph Krill who is in a nursing home in Ohio saw the notice of the exhibit in the happenings section of American Profile Magazine. He contacted McCord and wanted to have the plane that he made as "Trench art" displayed. His daughter sent it, along with articles about her dad. He intends to donate the item to a Word War II memorial recently constructed in Williams County at Montpelier, Ohio.


Last week's "Whatizit?" was, indeed, Tow Mater from Disney's "Cars" and "Cars 2." Not sure if he'll be making an appearance in the upcoming "Planes," but keep your eyes peeled. Those readers who got it right were Belle Fruendt and Beverly Yazumbek, both of Hickory Hills; Laura and Dan Heneghan, and Rick and Lara Groll, all of Oak Lawn; Theresa and George Rebersky, Celeste Cameron and Robert Solner, all of Worth; Rick Rahn of Evergreen Park; and Dana Oswald of Chicago Ridge. Great job, all of you!

This week's clue is: God save the queen, and her teeth. Send responses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. under the subject Whatizit, and include your first and last names and where you live. You can also call us at 448-6161 or mail your answers to 12247 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights, IL 60463. Smell ya later!