Letter to the Editor from 9-11-14

Grateful for huge response to ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Dear Editor:
By now you have seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos of people getting doused with ice water and then nominating others to embrace this call to action. They encourage friends and relatives to accept the challenge, donate money to an ALS charity or do both.
In mid-August, Facebook reported that 2.4 million videos related to the Ice Bucket Challenge had been shared and more than 28 million people posted, commented or liked these posts.
As the executive director of the Skokie-based Les Turner ALS Foundation, I am invigorated by the response to this campaign. Some videos have been funny, others creative, and some very emotional. These videos provide hope to the ALS community – hope that the dialogue around ALS will continue and funding will continue to increase, long after the Ice Bucket Challenge has ended.
While we have not raised tens of millions of dollars like the national organization and we will not receive any of the funds they have collected, the Les Turner ALS Foundation has experienced a significant increase in fundraising. Since the Challenge took off, we have raised over $550,000, a nearly 600 percent increase over what we raised last year in the same time period.
When people donate to the Les Turner ALS Foundation, their contribution stays local. They are helping support three research laboratories at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a patient center at Northwestern Medicine and a range of patient services, such as home visits, support groups and grant programs.
Critics of the campaign have said it fails to move the needle in terms of awareness, so for those unsure of what ALS is, it’s a terminal neuromuscular disorder that attacks a person’s muscles, gradually robbing them of their ability to walk, speak, eat and breathe, yet usually keeping their mind intact. At any given time, approximately 35,000 people in the United States are living with ALS. Currently, there is no prevention or cure.
I am grateful for every donor and every dollar, as these funds guarantee the programs we offer will continue and new programs can be created, both in research and care; however, the public needs to know that the millions of dollars continually referenced in the media will not benefit the Les Turner ALS Foundation, only those funds donated directly to us will be allocated toward our local programs.

Wendy Abrams
Executive Director
Les Turner ALS Foundation

broaden your horizons

This week

The Center Cinema

  "Nebraska" will be shown this at 6 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 1, as part of the monthly Center Cinema series at The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway, Palos Park.
  "Nebraska" features Bruce Dern as an aging, difficult dad. A discussion follows the movie. Free popcorn is served. No fee is charged but pre-registration is necessary. Call The Center at 361-3650.

Nature collage
class for families

  An art class for families will be hosted at the Log Cabin Center for the Arts on Wednesday, Aug. 6, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. The Log Cabin Art Center is located at 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.
  Instructor Heather Young invites families with children of any age to combine magazine images to create interesting naturescape collages. The class fee is $ 8 per person and includes all supplies. Advance reservations are required. Call The Center at 361-3650.


  Meditation opportunities are offered every Tuesday evening, 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, 9 a.m., at The Center, 12700 Southwest Highway in Palos Park.
  Pastoral director Chris Hopkins and hospitality manager Winnie Brock organize these 20-minute periods of silent meditation, offer guidance to those new to the practice of meditation, and welcome anyone to join. Call 361-3650 for information.

The Bridge Teen
Center events

• Gardening — 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. today (Thursday), The Bridge Teen Center, 15555 S. 71st Court, Orland Park, host a program with Alsip Nursery to teach students the proper way to plant and maintain a garden.
• Flatbread Pizzas — 4 to 5:30 p.m. today, The Bridge Teen Center culinary with Granite City to teach students how to make delicious flatbread pizza with homemade sauces.
• Girls Night In — 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 1, annual Girls Night In event focuses on inner and outer beauty through a variety of stations. Students will experience a night that is uplifting, encouraging, and meaningful. All girls will take home a favor bag filled with high-quality lotions, perfume, hair accessories, and more. RSVP is required.
• Guys Night Out — 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Aug. 2, annual Guys Night Out event. Students will enjoy a fun-filled night with burgers, games, competitions and guy-to-guy talks. RSVP is required.
• Electric Guitar — 5 to 6 p.m. Aug. 5, 12 and 19, program with Tone Wolf Music, to teach students the basics of the electric guitar.
• Stress Busters — 2 to 3 p.m. Aug. 5, will teach students how to manage their stress in order to have a great school year.
• Inspirational Locker Art —4:30-5:30 p.m. Aug. 5, art program for students to create a piece of art to hang in their locker.
• Middle School Meet-N-Greet —2 to 3 p.m. Aug. 6, meet-n-greet for middle school students to make an ice cream sundae and play games with students from their school.
• Get Organized for School — 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6, program for students to create an organizational system that prevents them from misplacing assignments.
• High School Meet-N-Greet — 2 to 3 p.m. Aug. 7, meet-n-greet for high school students to make an ice cream sundae and play games with students from their school.
• Yoga in the Park — 4 to 5:45 p.m. Aug. 7, combines the benefits of yoga with the relaxation of being outdoors.
  These free events are for teens in 7th through 12th grade. For more information, call, 532-0500.

With election a year away, second candidate surfaces for OL board

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Municipal elections are 12 months away, but political newcomer Paul Vail has thrown his hat in the ring in Oak Lawn’s 5th District trustee race.


Incumbent Trustee Carol Quinlan, who was first elected in 2007, has refused to comment on her political future.


Vail is the second person to announce his candidacy. Patrick McGowan in September in announced his plans to oppose veteran Trustee Robert Streit in the 3rd District.


Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) also faces re-election because he won a two-year term in 2013.


Vail, 36, is a lifelong Oak Lawn resident and chairs the village’s corridor studies committee.


He said Planning and Development Commissioner Rich Piazza, a friend and mentor, encouraged him to consider running for public office.


“I’ve been wanting to get involved, so now I’m doing it,” said Vail, the divorced father of a 6-year-old boy.


He added that the political infighting for which the village board has become known did not discourage him to run.


“You can’t complain about it if you don’t try to change it,” said Vail, who grew up in the 2nd District and attended McGugan Junior High before heading to Mt. Carmel High School. He is a graduate of DePaul University.


Vail, who works as a construction manager, said he is running as an independent and was not asked by Mayor Sandra Bury or other politically connected individuals to consider the race.


“I’m not with or against anybody,” he said, adding that he has “no grand political agenda.” Rather, he said, he believes it time for people of his generation to reinvest in Oak Lawn.


He said he announced his candidacy well ahead of next year’s election season to “get myself out there and give people time to get to know me.”


Vail was not critical of Quinlan’s work as trustee, but added, “I just think more can be done. He said he sent an email to Quinlan notifying her of his plans to run, but did not receive a response.

OL fireman who witnessed horrific suicide promoted

  • Written by bob

By Bob Rakow

Staff Reporter


February was a difficult month for Oak Lawn’s firefighters, having battled two house fires and witnessed six deaths.


Those firefighters were recognized for their efforts at Tuesday night’s village board meeting by receiving commendations from Fire Chief George Sheets. It was also announced that Michael Bowman was promoted to the assistant fire chief post. He was the firefighter who witnessed a horrific suicide before battling a Feb. 26 blaze.


John P. Conta allegedly killed his parents—John and Janice Conta—and nephew at the family home in the 9800 block of 51st Avenue. Conta then set the house on fire and killed himself with a gunshot while in the house’s garage, police said.


The body of Conta’s nephew, 5-year-old Matthew Meier, was discovered in the house later in the day, they said. Family members celebrated the boy’s fifth birthday at the house the previous night, police said.

Bowman was on his way to work and responded to the blaze. He entered the garage and saw John P. Conta kill himself after the gun was pointed at him, officials said.


“Assistant Chief Bowman jerked back thinking he might be shot,” Sheets said. “This happened in a matter of seconds.”


Bowman witnessed the shooting and then joined his colleagues fighting the fire—action that went above and beyond the call of duty, Sheets said


He said that Bowman’s ability to battle the fire after witnessing the suicide is unlike anything he’s witnessed in his 31-year career.


Bowman and firefighter Teddy Moran were awarded the department’s Medal of Honor for their efforts during the fire.


The first fire occurred in early February on the west side of the village.Kathryn Lomec, 73, was pronounced dead Feb. 8 shortly after a blaze at her house in the 10100 block of Lawrence Court, officials said. Her sister and caretaker, 74-year-old Mary Bruce, died three days later at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Although Bruce ultimately died, the efforts of firefighters and paramedics allowed her to live a few more days, time that she was able to spend time surrounded by family, Sheets said.





Sheets also lauded residents who live near the 51st Avenue fire for supporting his crews during the second fire.


“That’s what brings a community together,” Sheets said.


Palermo’s Pizza fed the firefighters, who were at the scene for 12 hours in freezing temperatures. Another resident showed up with White Castle food, while others opened their homes to let emergency personnel use the bathroom and warm up.


“They didn’t have to do that, but they did,” Sheets said. “We were hungry. We were cold.”


Tuesday’s ceremony began with a moment of silence for the six people who perished as a result of the two tragedies.


“Your fire chief is very proud of each and every one of you,” Sheets said at the end of presentation, which also recognized firefighters from Evergreen Park and Hometown.



Checkers, anyone?

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva

Reporter Editor

A fellow by the name of Joe Moore from Pennsylvania runs a checkers blog and he almost sounds like late comedian Rodney Dangerfield when he talks about the perception of the game he loves getting no respect.

“I believe that the single most reason checkers is underrated it because it gets compared to chess,” Moore wrote on his World of Checkers website. “Most people, especially chess players, cannot imagine checkers being taken seriously.

“Fact is, people are right in that checkers is very easy to play. What they don’t understand, however, is just how hard it is to play at a high level.’’

A fellow by the name of Mike Erickson from Evergreen Park is working at the local level to help give the game some respectability and popularity.

He is hosting the first Evergreen Park all-ages, village-wide checkers tournament from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 19 at the Hamilton B. Maher Community Center, 3450 W. 97th St. in Evergreen Park. There is a $5 entrance fee and the tournament is open to all ages. Proceeds will go to the Village Food Pantry.

“If you’re old enough, you’re never too old,’’ is the tournament’s motto.

Erickson is hoping for a big turnout. Ramon Dionisio, the Illinois State Checker Association president, will be making a guest appearance at the event.

“We want to have as many people as we can in the center,” Erickson said. “We’ll have brackets in age groups and at the end, all the champions of each age group will compete against each other for one grand champion.”

The grand champion will receive funding to play at a state competition.

Erickson is also involved in a new venture of creating and selling checkerboards with painted golf balls used as checkers. He went to a local play rehearsal and was surprised at the response.

“I took some sets with me to play practice and some of the kids are in high school I found out that some of them play checkers online with their phone,” he said. “I brought in three sets and everybody was playing during a break. The kids love it.’’

His company, Golf Ball Checkers, Etcetera, is getting off the ground and Erickson made an appearance at the Tinley Park Golf Expo in early February. He invited patrons to stop by and play and he watched as kids, adults and even some nuns had fun kinging and double jumping.

Living near golf courses helped give him an idea for the checker designs.  


“I live across from Beverly Country Club and I always found really good golf balls,” he said. “I would pocket those. I used to go up and down the tracks between the two courses which included the nine holes at Evergreen until they closed it. Village Hall asked me to be in an art presentation so I made a checkerboard and that was the first iteration.”



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Evergreen Park’s Michael Erickson is forming a checkers tournament in the village in April.