Football and Volleyball Players of the Year announced

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Brendan Skalitzky, Marist


Page 1 Brendan action

Photos by Jeff Vorva

Even in an era when video-game football scores and stats are being racked up in high school football, Marist senior quarterback Brendan Skalitzky stood out.

Skalitzky passed for 3,705 yards and ran for 1,088 and scored 47 touchdowns helping to lead the RedHawks to an improbable trip to the Illinois High School Association Class 8A state championship game, where they lost to Loyola, 41-0 this season.

Marist was 5-4 during the regular season and became just the fifth team in state history to make it to a title game with four losses.

One of the reasons the RedHawks made it to the state title game was because Skalitzky accounted for 633 yards and all eight touchdowns in a 59-56 quarterfinal stunner over Barrington in the highest scoring game in Class 8A history.

Skalitzky has been named the 2015 Reporter-Regional Football Player of the Year.

His coach watched the Evergreen Park resident carve up defenses all season.

“You talk about being one of the best quarterback around, all year he was great for us,” Marist coach Pat Dunne said. “He threw the ball. He ran the ball. He can hurt you in a lot of different ways. He’s been a leader. What he’s done all year – his stats have shown it.

“But more important, the biggest thing about him is that he is such a team player.’’

Whenever people ask him about his own accomplishments, Skalitzky is quick to praise others on the team.

“It’s all the offensive line and [running back Darshon McCullough]—you give that kid the ball in an open space and he is going to make some big plays,” he said. “My wide receivers got open and made big catches. It’s all a team effort.’’ 

The RedHawks opened the season with a 21-14 loss to Mount Carmel at Soldier Field but then went on a three-game streak in which they beat DuSable, 56-0, St. Viator 45-28 and knocked off Niles Notre Dame, 49-42.

After  a loss 29-25 loss to Benet Academy the offense was rolling again, in a 45-21 win over St. Patrick, and a 41-7 victory over Marian Catholic.

They closed the regular season with losses to eventual Class 5A champ Nazareth Academy (62-45) and Joliet Catholic (35-28). They drew the 23rd seed out of 32 teams knocked off Notre Dame again, 17-14 to open the playoffs and then the explosive 59-56 win over Barrington followed by a 31-16 semifinal win over Waubonsie Valley before the Loyola loss.

--Jeff Vorva


Kayla Caffey, Mother McAuley



Even as a sophomore. Mother McAuley’s Kayla Caffey was making an impact as a volleyball player -- especially when she turned out to be one of the most valuable players on the Mighty Macs’ Class 4A state championship win over Benet Academy in 2013 by pounding a team-high eight kills in just 10 swings of her right arm.

Two years later, she took her game to a different level when she assumed the role of a leader, where she impacted the play of entire roster of talented player while not missing a beat with her own ability to take over a match.

Those tangibles, along with a.461 hitting percentage, 286 kills, 123 service points, 98 blocks and 17 aces, led the Caffey being named the Reporter-Regional’s first Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.

“My senior season was like no other because I was an upperclassmen and a leader,’’ Caffey said. “There were a lot young players that I was able to take under my wing and teach them the ropes because they were coming up from JV. Varsity is a huge step between the levels both mentally and physically.

“I encouraged them that they could get this. I remember the way (former Macs player) Gabby Innis took me under her wing and how it meant so much to me. I remember playing much more intense at state.’’

And Caffey admitted it took extra effort involved in leading.

“You just can’t just pay attention to only what you’re doing,’’ she said. “You have to focus on everyone else and that they’re doing their job too.’’

Head coach Jen DeJarld said that Caffey was hesitant to step into a leadership, but she ultimately took her game to the next level when she did and had the ability to control a given match.

“Kayla definitely became a captain and team leader her senior year,’’ the coach said. “She did a really good job of leading despite kind of shying away from in the past. With so many great players who were older than her as a sophomore, she felt pretty comfortable with them taking the reins and following their lead.

“But she really embraced the leader role for her senior year, and it showed the court. She is one of the most talented players I’ve had the pleasure to coach in 21 years at Mother McAuley.’’

--Anthony Nasella


Local legislator approves of No Child Left Behind Revision

  • Written by Joe Boyle

No Child Left Behind will soon disappear much like classroom chalkboards as the Senate voted to dismantle the law that was originally signed by President George W. Bush in 2002 to provide a better education for all U.S. students.

The Senate voted 85-12 to revise No Child Left Behind on Dec. 9. President Obama signed the bill the following day. No Child Left Behind has been reincarnated as the Every Student Succeeds Act. When Bush first signed the No Child Left Behind Act 13 years ago, the measure received bipartisan support. The bill was designed to increase accountability of administrators and teachers to deliver a quality education to all students.

However, critics have pointed out that despite the good intentions of that bill, the No Child Left Behind Act never reached those goals. State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), who district includes portions of Oak Lawn and Chicago’s Southwest Side, said that changes were necessary to provide a solid education for students in poorer communities.

“From what I have learned and read, the new bill will give the power of education back to the states,” said Flowers. “There is no one school that fits all. There is not one student that fits all. They are all different.”

Flowers and other critics of the No Child Left Behind Act have said that instruction was too often based on following the strict federal guidelines of Common Core, which emphasizes the need to not only answer a math problem but to understand how someone reached a conclusive answer.

Common Core had been used in 40 states. While Common Core will continue under the new bill, the federal government can no longer insist on particular academic standards throughout the nation.

Flowers said that there was too much emphasis placed on specific testing that does not provide a grasp of a student’s potential. While tutoring was supposed to be made available for struggling students in poorer districts, that did not happen, she said.

“The haves got richer and the have-nots did not,” said Flowers. “A lot has changed since I was younger. Dads went off to war. Now dads and moms and even grandmas are going off to war. A lot of families are impacted that are not from affluent districts. That’s why I say the kids haven’t failed, it’s the adults who have failed them.”

The goal of No Child Left Behind was to provide a thorough learning environment to improve the math and science scores of American students who have been lacking behind other developed nations. Critics have pointed out that an over emphasis on testing continued to contribute to the problem. In some cases, teachers and students became obsessed with memorizing and preparing for tests that actually detracted from learning.

Nathan R. Monel, national PTA executive director, welcomed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The Every Student Succeeds Act is a marked improvement over current law,” said Monel. “The bill will ensure families are empowered to support their children's learning and that all students receive a high-quality, well-rounded education that prepares them for long-term success.”

States will still face some federal requirements for struggling schools, especially those in the lower five percent. Those schools will be required to close those gaps. The difference is that the federal government will no longer dictate how that will be done.

And that is fine with Flowers.

“One Chicago principal once told me that he would rather have an average student who asks questions about these tests than someone who just memorizes the answers. It shows that student is thinking,” said Flowers. “We have to consider the whole student, not just these tests.”

Heart and lung patients celebrate after getting second chance

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

“The happiest day of my life was the day I died,” said Gerald “Jack” Boekeloo, 72, who was very much alive and enjoying the festivities at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Annual VAD, Heart and Lung Transplant Holiday Party last Thursday at the Hilton Oak Lawn.

  The party, said to be the largest of its kind in the Chicago area with more than 200 in attendance, brought together Advocate Christ patients who have received heart transplants, lung transplants, or ventricular assist devices, along with their families, doctors, nurses and other staff.

Boekeloo was among those wearing battery packs attached to an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, which he received after suffering a major heart attack and lost conscience while driving on 95th Street near Cicero Avenue on Nov. 19, 2011. Sitting beside him was Dawn Bausone-Gazda, a nurse at Christ whom he credits with saving his life that day.

LVADs are mechanical heart pumps that are surgically implanted on the left ventricle, one of the heart’s four chambers, and take over when the ventricle cannot pump oxygenated blood to the aorta and throughout the body.

“I wasn’t feeling very well,” Boekeloo said, explaining why he was driving east on 95th Street, trying to get to the hospital at 4440 W. 95th St. He crossed Cicero Avenue, but only made it to the White Castle parking lot on the corner, when he lost consciousness.

Baisone-Gazda, a nurse at Christ for 28 years, had just left her mother’s bedside at the hospital when she saw the commotion in the parking lot and came over. After determining that Boekeloo was having a heart attack, she revived him using CPR, and left when the ambulance arrived.

Boekeloo remained hospitalized for months before receiving the LVAD the following April, and told everyone he met about the nurse who saved his life, hoping to meet and thank her.

“I even told her once, when she came in to draw my blood. But she didn’t say anything until another nurse confided that she might be the one I was looking for.”

The two have since become close friends, and were joking between themselves during the dinner.

“This was not the only time she saved a life,” said Boekeloo.

“It’s just part of the job. When these things happen, it does make you became a nurse,” said Baisone-Gazda, a Burbank resident who has worked at the hospital for 28 years.

“It was amazing. Think of the best day of your life and multiply it by a million,” said Boekeloo, trying to describe the day he got a new lease on life.

At a nearby table, Ronald Walton, 63, a lifelong Oak Lawn resident, was celebrating with his mother, Dorothy, 88, who serves as his caregiver.

“We help each other,” she said.

Walton proudly showed of his own battery pack slung around his shoulder, which keeps his heart pumping when he is out and about. When he goes to bed at night, he explained that he plugs himself into an electrical outlet.

“It’s excellent. I have no complaints at all,” said Walton, explaining that the left side of his heart stopped working when he was 61.

“At least it happened after I retired as a switchman for Santa Fe Railroad,” he said. “I couldn’t work with this.

“After being on life-support, I was out of the hospital 12 days after it was inserted,” he said.

   Walton said the VAD won’t prevent him from getting a heart transplant in the future, but he is happy with the pump.

“It’s a part of me now. I can do just about everything I did before. I don’t go up on the roof anymore, but that is a good thing,” he said with a smile.

Someone else smiling at the party was Antone Tatooles MD. The director of the ventricular assist program at Christ Hospital toured the room chatting with his patients, as well as others who received heart and lung transplants, after keynote speaker Dan Lietz, Chicago Metro coordinator of the Secretary of State’s Organ/Tissue Donor Program stressed the importance of organ donation in saving lives.

“We do about 100 VAD surgeries a year,” said Tatooles. “Our department is one of the busiest in the U.S., and one of the leaders in new technology,” he said.

“It’s overwhelming to see all these people doing so well,” Tatooles said, when asked what it was like to look around and see so many people he operated on returning to health. “It really is the best gift you could get (as a doctor). “At nearly every table there is someone with a VAD. It would be more amazing if you could have seen them before. Some couldn’t breathe on their own.”

“You’re all miracles,” Ken Lukhard, president of Advocate Christ Medical Center, told the group.

“Life is a precious gift…as a person of faith, I often just glance up to the ninth floor roof where there is a big cross, and I just thank God that he is there and using amazingly gifted people to save lives here every day,” Luckhard added.

Worth approves license for medical marijuana dispensary

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

It is official. A business license for a medical marijuana dispensary, Windy City Cannabis, located at 11425 S. Harlem Ave., was approved unanimously at the Tuesday Village Board Meeting in Worth. The facility is expected to be open by late January.

The Village’s Economic Development Commission recommended the license approval contingent upon all inspections being completed and in compliance with all village codes and ordinances.

The Worth location is the fourth facility to be opened by Windy City Cannabis. The other locations are in Homewood, Posen and Justice.

A company representative at the meeting issued an invitation to the board or any interested residents to attend an open house at the Homewood Facility on Saturday, Dec. 19. “It will be the last time any non-medical person can enter the facilities,” he said.

Trustee Peter Kats asked if any Worth residents would be hired at the new facility. “This was promised to us when your company made a presentation to our board,” he said.

The representative replied that two Worth residents had been interviewed and both were offered a position. “So far, we have only had one acceptance of the offer,” he said.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Jack McGrath asked what the village hoped to gain from the approval of this new business.

Mayor Mary Werner replied that the facility would possibly be drawing people who have never been to Worth. “It is our hope that this will be a boon for our businesses. Hopefully, people coming to the dispensary will eat in our restaurants, shop, buy gas, etc. We believe this business will be a true blessing to the people who really need it as well as a boost to our business climate.”

Also approved was an ordinance amendment calling for a three percent increase in the village’s water rate. The rate increase, per 1,000 gallons of water used by consumers, is: for all business or commercial uses, $7.93 in 2016 (an increase from $7.70 in 2015); for all uses not otherwise provided including residential uses, $7.87 (an increase from $7.64 in 2015) and for churches, schools and nonprofit institutions, $7.34 (an increase from $7.13 in 2015).

The ordinance states that the rate increase supports the village’s efforts to provide necessary services to its residents and businesses and to promote public health, safety and welfare.

Other board action included an approval of an ordinance levying taxes for all corporate purposes for the village for the fiscal year commencing on May 1, 2016 and ending on April 30, 2017; and approval of a seven-year cable franchise agreement with ComCast.

A business license was approved for Mobile 1, a cellphone retail and repair shop at 10730 S. Harlem.

The mayor also announced that the village had entered a two-year agreement with Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising for free advertising on its digital display on the west side of the I-294 Tri-State Tollway, 150 feet south of 107th Street.

Village Clerk Bonnie Price announced that 30 recruits from the Great Lakes Naval Base will be arriving at the Marrs-Meyer American Legion Hall for dinner on Christmas Day. She invited residents to line the street leading to the Hall (Depot Avenue) to welcome them to Worth. For further information, contact the Village Hall at (708) 448-1181.

Part-time Evergreen Park firefighter dies fighting Chicago blaze

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Fire departments and communities from Evergreen Park to Palos Park are mourning the loss of Chicago firefighter/paramedic Daniel Capuano, 42, whose wake is being held today at St. Rita High School in Chicago, followed by his funeral tomorrow.

In addition to being a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, where he was assigned to Tower Ladder 34 in the South Chicago neighborhood, Capuano also was a part-time Evergreen Park firefighter for the past 16 years.

The former resident of Palos Park, who began his career with the Palos Fire Protection District based there, was killed while battling a blaze in a vacant Chicago warehouse early Monday morning.

          Chicago Fire Department officials said Capuano was searching through thick smoke on the second floor of the building when he suffered fatal injuries, falling through an unmarked elevator shaft in the warehouse. According to city officials, illegal work, including removal of the elevator, was being done in the building without permits.

          He was taken by ambulance to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead.

“It’s a very sad day here,” said Evergreen Park Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhaus on Monday. “This is the first time something like this has happened to us.”

Kleinhaus and other members of the department had just returned from a visit to Capuano’s wife, Julie, a Chicago Public Schools teacher, and their three children in their nearby Mount Greenwood home. Their daughter, Amanda, 16, attends Mother McAuley High School, while Nick, 12, and Andrew, 13, are students at Queen of Martyrs School in Evergreen Park, a few blocks from their house.

“It has been very, very rough here,” said Queen of Martyrs Principal Kathleen Tomaszewski. “We’ve had two parents pass away in the past week.”

In addition to knowing the Capuanos through the school, Tomaszewski grew up with Julie Capuano in Chicago’s Wrightwood neighborhood.

“It is very sad. They are a very faithful, very wonderful family,” she said.

“Dan got his start with us,” said Palos Fire Chief James Graben . ”He went through our fire academy and EMT training here,” he said, and stayed with the department for about eight years.

“It’s devastating news for all of us,” said Graben, a 35-year veteran of the department who remembers working with Capuano himself. He noted that his parents, Michael and Jacqueline Capuano, still live in Palos Park.

“We’re all affected by this tragic loss. A lot of our guys go on to other departments. Many who are here now also worked with him in Evergreen Park, too,” he explained. He noted that prior to going to Evergreen Park, Capuano also worked for the Lemont Fire Department.

While there, Capuano was one of four paramedics credited with saving the life of a caddy on the 15th fairway Cog Hill Golf Course, using a portable defibrillator to restart the man's heart.

          In addition to his wife, children and parents, Capuano is also survived by two brothers, one of whom lives in Palos Heights.

          His wake is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. today, Thursday, at St. Rita High School Chapel, 7740 S. Western Ave., Chicago. The funeral will be there at 10 a.m. tomorrow, followed by interment at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 and the Ende, Menzer, Walsh & Quinn Retirees' Widows' and Children’s Assistance Fund have established a memorial fund to benefit the family at BMO Harris Bank. The bank's locations are accepting cash or check donations from customers and the general public.

Donations can also be mailed to: EMWQ Fund, Attn: Daniel V. Capuano Memorial Fund, 20 S. Clark St., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60603. Checks should be made payable to: Daniel V. Capuano Memorial Fund. Donations are also accepted online.