Mary Cate story hits home

  • Written by Claudia Parker


Claudia Mug Shot-Color

Taekwondo is starting in ten minutes. We've got to leave right now!”

That was the scene in my house a few years ago and I was doing some of the commanding.

I was watching my then-preschooler struggle to get into her uniform. I wanted desperately to intervene, so I could hurry things along. However, she jerked away each time I reached for her saying, "Mommy...I can do it!"

            In her final attempt to pull her elbow through the sleeve, the fingernail on her thumb acted as a razor, slicing into her eye. She let out a whistling howl, sealed her eyes closed and hopped. Once subdued by my petition to help, she opened her eyes and I flinched. She had busted a blood vessel.

            "What!?" she said, looking back at me.

My grim expression was telling.

            I played it down. "Ugh, well, your eye looks a little red.” I said. That was an understatement. Try bloody Mary red!

“Does it hurt?" I asked.

            She said no and told me she was fine. Regrettably, when we arrived at Taekwondo, people weren’t exactly discrete about letting her know they noticed.

            "WHOA! What happened to your eye?" one kid said.

            Her eye may not have hurt but, her countenance showed her feelings were. She said everyone that pointed out her injury made her feel bad. Fortunately for her, the flaw was temporary and healed within a week.

If only things were that easy for my youngest daughter with special needs. She looks like a typical developing child but, she has an intellectual disability due to a FOXP1 gene mutation. It can be awfully uncomfortable observing her in social settings with those unfamiliar with her tendencies. Their squeamish body language and looks of confusion speak volumes. It’s as if they’re saying, “Hey kid? What’s wrong with you?” 

            I must admit, my infomercial explanation of her diagnosis is becoming more concise. Depending on the setting and applicable circumstances, it sounds like this…

            “Rhonda-Rene communicates using sign language, pictures, and gestures. Did I forget the frequent, excitably outbursts? Due to a speech impairment called Apraxia she can only verbalize a few words. Her lack of language doesn’t hinder her desire to engage people. She can be forward, unknowingly invading personal space. Being able to move is a necessity for her, it regulates a sensory disorder that requires she seek vestibular input through swinging, spinning, climbing, pushing etc. Because her developmental age is much younger than her chronological age, which is, it’s challenging for her to participate in certain social and academic activities without assistance. While she’s extremely affectionate, unless she initiates the contact, she may become tactile defensive.”

            I’ve made a vow that even if it’s done singularly, I’m determined to inform people of her condition so she’ll have a chance to be understood. Are we not all unique, fantastically flawed and desiring acceptance?

            I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to read the front page story I wrote about Kerry Ryan Lynch and her daughter Mary Cate, who has Apert Syndrome. If so, you might agree that their bulk-sized school assemblies are probably more efficient than my one-on-one’s in the park. They headline school events like rock stars, playing a ‘kindness’ message that’s applicable to everyone!

             Kerry and Mary Cate are blessed with an enormous responsibility. They’re on the ground, fighting a war against ignorance with the weapon of education. There are people who spend their entire lives searching for purpose. The Lynch family members not only know their purpose, they’re creating a map for people like me.

            It is my honor to identify with their journey. I’m grateful for having a platform that'll bring awareness to their story. I leave you with what I feel is the most powerful statement in Kerry’s Choose Kind presentation, “Everyone you know is facing a battle you know nothing about -- so be kind!” 


Game over and management drops the ball

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I got canned today.


Never saw it coming.


But beyond the shock of being without a job is the way that I found out I’d no longer be working for the Reporter.


I was working on a story when I received a text from a friend in the industry who told me that the bosses here decided to get rid of me. No one here took me aside to inform me, and I’m not sure if and when I would be told.


I’m making this up.


But a similar scenario turned out to be cold, hard reality for personalities at a Chicago sports radio station a few weeks ago.


For several months, I’ve been a loyal listener to the Game, an upstart sports station at 87.7 FM. The station came to the market in February facing some long odds. The signal was not especially strong, and there are two big-time sports radio stations on Chicago’s AM dial that have had years to establish their brand.


Still, Tribune Media owns the Game, so I thought they’d give it time to grow. Not in this “what have you done for me lately?” world. Sadly, the game clock runs out on the Game at the end of the year when the station goes off the air.


How did on-air personalities find out? They received texts while on the air that media writer Rob Feder had reported the station’s demise on his blog.




Afternoon hosts Ben Finfer and Alex Quigley were in the midst of talking Chicago sports when they got the news. There was no memo from management, no staff meeting.


Quigley, also a member of the station’s management team, was given the news the previous night but was told not to share it with colleagues. I’ve seen an online video of Finfer reacting to the news and Quigley’s body language says it all.


At one point, he apologizes for not sharing the news with his partner. What a horrible spot management put him in.


Finfer was damn mad and he didn’t hold back. I’m sure he was dumbfounded that he’ll be without a job come the New Year, but he had that rare opportunity to rip his bosses for all to hear. What was management going to do, fire him?


“I would think that somebody at least would have some respect for their employees and let them know, give them a heads up, that there’s something going on,” Finfer said.


He continued: “I don’t understand. Why is so hard to tell your employees they’re losing their jobs? Why did we have to find out that way? Isn’t there anybody here who has respect for employees?


“I had respect for our bosses until about five minutes ago. They haven’t even come in the room yet to say anything. I’ve never, ever had management treat me this way.”


The boss is Jimmy de Castro, the president and general manager of WGN, who’s had tremendous success in Chicago media, including running WLUP during the station’s heyday when Jonathan Brandmeier, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier were radio legends.


Apparently, despite all his success, de Castro never learned how to treat people.


Finfer continued his rant wondering how he and Quigley were supposed to complete the remainder of their show—talk Bulls, Bears and Hawks as if nothing happened.


He admitted that he had an idea things could end. After all, radio is an ever-changing, revenue-driven business. All he wanted was some respect and not to be embarrassed while on the air.


“Who does that? Are they even human,” Finfer asked during a nine-minute segment the day the word got out.


Finfer has worked in Chicago sports radio for many years as both a producer and fill-in/weekend on-air host. The move to a full-time afternoon shift at the Game was a big one for him, and I’ll bet he doesn’t regret it.


There are endless people in the media and entertainment business that took risks and gambles to advance their careers only to be disappointed by setbacks. Those same people tend to get up, dust off and chase the next opportunity. I’m willing to bet Finfer lands on his feet. Here’s hoping he does.


Ditto for the other personalities at the Game. Some are more well known that others, but I thought they did a fine job in a sports-crazed market without taking it too seriously or mistreating callers. Best of luck to all of them.


In an August interview with Feder, Jimmy de Castro sounded optimistic about the future of the Game. “I feel like Bugsy Siegel in early Vegas, living proof that time, money and a little water can build something special.”


Unfortunately, de Castro’s words rang hollow while Finfer and his colleagues are left holding the bag.



Good to finally grace these pages

  • Written by Ray Hanania


Hanania-GrapevineIt took 30 years, but I finally made it back to the newspapers on 123rd Street and Harlem Avenue, the home of the Reporter and Regional News.
I’ve covered Chicagoland since 1975, but it was in 1985 when I ended my eight years at the Daily Southtown and almost started work at the Regional News.
I left the Southtown to become lead columnist for the Joliet Herald-News. I also spoke with Charles Richards about writing a column for the Regional News, with Herald approval.
The Richards’ were excited and laid out a front page announcing I had been hired. I worked closely with Virginia Richards to bring my column, “The Grapevine,” to a larger Chicagoland audience. But the best laid plans, as they say, went awry.
The City Council gave me an enthusiastic farewell, introduced by Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th Ward). A brilliant orator, Burke poked fun at me for getting under the skin of every mayor including Mike Bilandic, Jane Byrne and Harold Washington. Washington chided me, too
The meeting was the first for new Ald. Dorothy Tillman, a public housing activist. Tillman refused to remove her traditional large brimmed hat during the meeting causing a fight which made news. During the battle, Tillman gave me a rose from a dozen she received from supporters, and my friend and mentor at the Chicago Sun-Times, Harry Golden Jr., mentioned it in his story. That prompted Sun-Times editor Ken Towers to urge me to head up the newspaper’s new Page Ten column as the political writer. How could I refuse a salary that was double what the Herald and Regional News offered together?
The Richards were understanding. Being a political writer for the Chicago Sun-Times was, back then, a big deal.
The Reporter and Regional News are two of the best community newspapers serving the Southwest Surburbs. I am proud to bring my writing talent (four Lisagor Awards, one Sigma Delta Chi award, and other national awards), as well as my controversy (as Reporter editor Jeff Vorva so graciously noted last week).
 Journalism ink is in my blood. After leaving the Sun-Times, I launched the Villager Newspapers in 1993. In 2004, I started writing for the Southwest News-Herald and recently for the Des Plaines Valley News.
  Now I’m back.
Here’s a salute to the Richards dynasty, and to all the community publishers I knew, including Bruce Sagan at the Southtown, Walter Lysen at the Messenger Press, Ed Vondrak at the Southwest News-Herald, too, and now, Steve Landek and Mark Hornung.
I promise to continue fighting to give Chicagoland’s Southwest region the recognition it deserves.

Off the Grapevine
The fact that Congressman Bobby Rush doesn’t care about the west end of his district is a disgrace, which explains why he lost the suburban vote to his challenger, Jimmy Lee Tillman, who deserved to win … Bruce Rauner’s victory over Gov. Pat Quinn, thanks to the swing votes of Reagan Democrats in the suburbs, sets up a certain battle in 2018 that will probably see Lisa Madigan finally step up to the plate … The big push in the spring will be to oust Mayor Rahm Emanuel and replace him with someone who appreciates, not offends, Chicago’s diversity. Rumors abound that Liz Gorman will be given a Cabinet post in the Rauner Government for her support … So fun to watch the mainstream news medias which shamefully slammed Rauner before the election now climbing over itself to curry his favor … Pause to thank our veterans this week for their service to America.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Reach him at


Ray Hanania's Grapevine: Watching Wallenda's 'death watch' in the city was not worth it

  • Written by Ray Hanania





More than 50,000 people crowded Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago to watch Nik Wallenda walk a tightrope across the Chicago River, and then one between the Marina Towers blindfolded.

 It was irresponsible, of course. There was no catch line or net to save him if he fell in the cold winds  that swept across the river walk where gawkers stood and Chicago Fire Department rescue units and scuba divers waited, “just in case.”

And it was the “just in case” that drew everyone --  the death watch -- just in case he fell. A terrible thought but without it, what made the daredevil stunt worth it?

Wallenda was more than 90 minutes late, so by the time he walked the first wire from Marina Tower to the Leo Burnett building, half the people were already leaving to go home before he began his second walk, blindfolded, across a shorter wire between the West and East Marina Towers buildings.

As I waited in the chill with my son, I could only wonder why I had to drive downtown and risk Chicago’s rising murder rate, the unbelievable high cost of parking and food at overrated restaurants. Chicago reeks with excessive taxes. So why are we downtown and not someplace in Chicago’s suburbs?

Where is the suburban version of Nik Wallenda entertaining crowds?

Political Grapevine

Who can predict the outcome of a tough Ad War between Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner? Regardless of who wins, the two real election winners are House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who breathed life into Quinn’s candidacy, and Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, who gave Rauner the chance he needed to make this an election to remember. Four years ago, voters dragged themselves to the polls and Quinn defeated Bill Brady, with no one paying attention to the Southwest suburbs of Cook County. This time, Gorman made the suburban county the focus of the battle.

Are you tired of the bias on TV News? I watched Laura Washington and Roosevelt professor Paul Green lamely pretend to be objective analysts on WLS TV. Are there not any objective commentators who can offer the public insight rather than self-serving political insight?

November is Arab-American Heritage month in Illinois. The most disturbing aspect is the revelations recently that several leaders of Chicago’s leading Jewish Community organizations lobbied newly elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 to close the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs. Emanuel then pulled the rug out from under the popular four-year-old Arabesque Festival, which was also unfairly attacked by the same groups. Mayor Daley stood up to the critics but Emanuel has a personal agenda to see the racism through. Shame on Emanuel’s phony pretense of racial diversity and cultural pride.

Here is some controversy as solid as Oak (Lawn): With the state elections over, the focus shifts to suburban and Chicago elections. The 10th Ward will have a showdown between neighborhood activist Samantha Webb and Ald. John Pope, a protégé of former 10th Ward heavy and convicted political boss Al Sanchez … Many people in Oak Lawn are hoping former two-term Mayor Dave Heilmann gets back involved and runs again in 2017. Oak Lawn is turning into an economic disaster. Everyone’s watching the vicious war of words between longtime Trustee Bob Streit and Mayor Sandra Bury in dueling online blog posts.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )



The Grapevine-We’re just better off singing the wrong lyrics

  • Written by Ray Hanania

GRAPEVINE-PHOTO-FOR-PAGE-6-rayhananiaheadshot300dpiThe one thing about technology today is you don’t have to lean into the transistor radio to understand lyrics of your favorite songs.
  Nowadays, the lyrics of nearly every major song from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are online, and decades later, I’m shocked by what the real words are.
It can’t be as bad as a lot of today’s new music, offering lurid details about sex and murder. For many of today’s songs, it’s better to get the lyrics wrong.
  It’s been a rude awakening for me as social media technology displays the real lyrics. The words just don’t match what I thought they were as I’m singing in my car driving down Harlem Avenue. (Yes, you may have seen me and thousands of other baby boomers driving with songs blaring loudly, our heads bopping like we’ve gone off the deep end).
  Was I that whacked out when I heard them the first time? Or do rock singers from my generation mumble a lot?
  Here are some of my favorite lyric screw-ups:
In the first verse of the Grass Roots song “Midnight Confessions,” I was always singing “your soft tail macutcheon; babe; brings out a need in me nobody hears, except …”
  What’s a “soft tail macutcheon”? I don’t even know how to spell it. But that’s what I’ve been singing for 44 years. The real lyrics are: “Your soft gentle motion babe; brings out a need in me that nobody hears, except…”
  Of course, if my mom could understand those words, she might not have let me buy that transistor radio with the little plastic earphones, for $5.
Even when the lyrics are the names of the songs, I couldn’t get them right. Like the 1969 song by the Sir Douglas Quintet which starts out: “Well, she was walking down the street, looking as fine as she could be.”
And then the chorus comes in “Shinabouwamover. Shinabouwamover.”
The real lyrics are “She’s About a Mover,” which makes even less sense.
  Even the Christmas songs are like that. I wished I had a relative named “Majoula” who was very generous in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Maybe she’d give me a turtle that could fly? Of course, it was “My true love gave to me,” not “Majoula gave to me, two turtle doves …”
  One of the most famous is Manfred Mann’s 1977 song singing “Blinded By the Light,” a Bruce Springsteen re-do, with the garbled lyrics, “wrapped up like a duzin in the rubber of the night.”
  What the heck does that mean? It makes more sense than the actual lyrics, “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.”
  No wonder our parents thought we were all on drugs.
Email me your favorite lyric screw-ups, and if they are PG, I’ll run a few.

Off the Grapevine
Fire House Subs in Orland Park hosts a fundraiser for fallen firefighter Wes Peak on Thursday, Nov. 6… November is Arab Heritage Month in Illinois…The attacks and mudslinging is just going to get worse as we round the corner to the Nov. 4 elections. It’s nauseating… Why do I get the feeling that all that construction on LaGrange Road and Harlem Avenue are deja vu?…My son has a new iPhone App that helps him solve his math equations, “PhotoMath.” Is that a good thing?

 Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and now President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .