Category Archives: Elburn

Elburn collegian lauds servant leaders at AU graduation

AURORA—An Elburn resident was chosen to speak for classmates at 117th annual Aurora University commencement ceremonies May 9 on the campus quadrangle at 347 S. Gladstone Ave., Aurora.

Andrew J. Price offered reflections on the university at the 2:30 p.m. undergraduate ceremony.

Price was a senior organizational management major. He received the Spartan Award, AU’s top award to a student, at an annual spring honors convocation in Crimi Auditorium April 24.

Price was among 581 undergraduate students who received bachelor’s degrees.

The following is the text of Price’s speech:

“There are over 500 chairs here today, filled with educated minds eager to graduate and make the most of themselves in their own unique way. You have dealt with a mix of countless papers, tests, nervous presentations, long athletic practices, a full-time job, and even caring for your loved ones.

You have all earned this day to celebrate with those that make you laugh, make you live, and today maybe even make you cry. But before we get into all that mushy stuff, there is an idea I would like to share with you today.

An idea that took me an entire four years to realize. An idea that connects every chair (and those standing) to every achievement honored at graduation. This simple idea is practiced by all of us whether we know it or not. It is called servant leadership.

This often confusing term simply means that to lead, one must serve others. That is to say, as one’s responsibility grows, the responsibility to serve others increases, not the other way around. This type of leader can create numerous material results for just a glimpse of spiritual reward.

Parents, also known as the ultimate servant leader, you have served your son or daughter their entire life. You gave us repetitive lectures about going to college, asked us, … “Got a job yet?” and reminded us to stop asking for gas money every time we happened to run into you.

Remember the numerous memories during the holidays when we were little. You dedicated hours upon hours of time scurrying about for the right gifts, wrapping them, hiding them somewhere where we couldn’t find them, having to unwrap one and rushing all the way back to Walmart because you got the wrong size, hurry home, rewrap them, and place them under the tree.

However, in the morning when our faces light up … some big guy in the red suit takes all the credit. But you made all those sacrifices just to witness this day, even if it is a few brief seconds of hearing your child’s name as they receive their degree … and also to hear them say, mom, dad, I did it.

Professors, you have molded our minds with your knowledge and experience. We now have the skills to fulfill our objective in the career world. You inspired us to do something we see as a passion and not work. And you also understood why we hated night classes and how we sometimes got you to make that final into a take-home.

AU staff, you are the behind-the-scenes crew that we often take for granted. All of your dedication and hard work has set each student up for success. Students will probably not be lining up outside your office to praise your role on campus. But you do it anyways. You do all of these things just to see us have a great college experience.

Seniors, even we are servant leaders on campus. I have seen you help tutor, volunteer at numerous events, lead Spartan cheers at AU/BU games and contribute your own ideas to this university. There is not much credit given to these tasks, but it continues to happen every year.

All of these servant-leader roles together have helped us get to this point. For once, this day is to give credit where it is deserved.

So today, I want to say thank you, on behalf of the 500 chairs here today, to you for being servant leaders, for being an example to us.

And congratulations class of 2010 … you’ve earned it. Thank you.”

Lions announce May calendar raffle winners

Elburn—The Elburn Lions Club announced the winners of its calendar raffle for the month of May.

Winners include Jim Barsic, Elburn, $25; Melissa Nevenhoven, Elburn, $25; Marcy Klucznik, Aurora, $25; Tom Mahan, Elburn, $25; Peg and Bill Heiting, Oak Forest, Ill., $25; Don Heinz, Aurora, $25; Denise Lipsett, Roseville, Mich., $50; R. Randall Norris, Elkorn, Wis., $25; Karen Stojan, Maple Park, $150; “Nub and Tar,” Elburn, $25; Kelley Gebel, Davis Junction, Ill., $25; Living Well Health Center, $25; Jim Christie, Schaumburg, Ill., $25; J.C. Gillett, Elburn, $50; DeKalb Moose, DeKalb, $25; “Rob and Tom,” Elburn, $25; Mike Gentile, Lombard, Ill., $25; “Nub and Tar,” Elburn, $25; Connie Hodson, Bolingbrook, Ill., $25; Ron Bowgren, La Fox, $25; Adele Heissler, Hampshire, $50; Ron Bohnsak, St. Charles, $25; Genie Kutchins, Schaumburg, Ill., $25; Jerry Parisek, Elburn, $25; Bryce Breon, Batavia, $25; Terry Coffin, Cortland, $25; Bonnie Mahoney, Yorkville, $25; “Butch and Jan C,” $50; Pat Purcell, Elburn, $25; Rick Buechner, Cary, Ill., $25; Wendy Scidmore, Sycamore, $150.

Taverns cited for selling liquor to minors

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN, MP—A state-agency sting May 20 at 24 area businesses resulted in eight citations for selling alcohol to minors, including two taverns and one restaurant in Elburn and one bar in Maple Park.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission, assisted by the Illinois State Police, conducted the operation in which underage volunteers attempted to purchase liquor from the establishments.

Among the businesses cited were Schmidt’s Towne Tavern, 107 N. Main St., Elburn; Riley’s Classic Bar & Grill, 117 N. Main St., Elburn; Rosati’s, 860 N. Main St., Elburn; and Big Dawg’s, 107 Main St., Maple Park.

The other businesses cited for the offense were located in Waterman, Hinckley and Shabbona.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission will mail official citation notices to the owners of the businesses, said agency representative Sue Hofer.

Penalties may range from fines to liquor-license revocation, depending upon the cited businesses’ histories of state liquor code violations, Hofer said.

Local law enforcement agencies, including municipal police and Kane County Sheriff’s departments, were not involved in the investigation.

Elburn Chamber optimistic about fireworks’ return

by Paula Coughlan
ELBURN—Elburn Chamber of Commerce may be able to host its popular Day in the Park and fireworks again this summer, an event that was cancelled last year.

Leslie Flint, the chamber’s vice president of committees, said it looks like the chamber could meet its goal of raising the $10,000 needed to present the fireworks.

“So far we’ve raised $5,500,” she said. “If donations continue at the current rate, we should have enough to hold the event.”

Last year, due to a shortage of funds, the chamber cancelled the sidewalk-vibrating event known as one of the finest fireworks shows in the area. A recent pork-chop dinner that the chamber held helped to bring in some of the needed funds for the event this year and another pork chop fundraiser will take place on Wednesday, June 23.

“We’re also looking at what other towns are doing to raise money,” said Flint. “Proceeds from a town-wide garage sale in Batavia helps them pay for their fireworks each year as does an event called 5-5-5—take five minutes to donate $5 and tell five friends.”

With Elburn having a population of more than 4,700, a donation of $2 per resident would just about cover the cost of the event. Donations can be mailed or dropped off at the Elburn Chamber of Commerce, 525 N. Main St., (in the Elburn Community Center) or the Elburn Herald at 123 N. Main St., in downtown Elburn.

Sho-Deen, village renew commitment to development

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Now that Sho-Deen Inc. has sold most of its Mill Creek homesites in Geneva, it is ready to pursue the Elburn Station development. If fully built and occupied, the proposed development on Elburn’s east side could double the current village population.

“We’re running out of inventory (in Mill Creek),” Sho-Deen representative David Patzelt told the Elburn Committee of the Whole on Monday.

“We want to move forward in this corridor into Elburn as soon as possible. We are anxious and ready to move forward,” Patzelt said.

The Elburn Village Board approved Sho-Deen’s basic concept plan two years ago for a 681-acre residential and commercial development from just north of Route 38 at Anderson Road and south to Keslinger Road. Sho-Deen’s Mill Creek subdivision is directly east along Keslinger.

Since 2008, Sho-Deen had not pursued the Elburn Station development as actively as it did before the housing market slowed that year.

The village president and trustees, who comprise the Committee of the Whole, said Monday that they also want the project to move forward.

“From my seat, Elburn really needs this project,” trustee Jerry Schmidt said. “I am looking forward to working with you.”

Although Sho-Deen now wants to move quickly toward final village approval of the project, trustee Bill Grabarek cautioned village officials on Monday not to hurry the development approval process.

“It is the biggest thing that will have come to Elburn … and it will be here forever,” Grabarek said. “I don’t want to make any hasty decisions.”

Sho-Deen and the village agreed Monday to begin talking in more detail about the development, from the company’s financial contribution to the wastewater treatment plant expansion to bicycle paths and street lighting placement.

In addition to pursuing the development plan with the village, Sho-Deen is negotiating with the Kane County Department of Transportation on the amount of right-of-way the company will provide for the extension of Anderson Road south to Keslinger, and building an overpass at the Anderson rail crossing. Federal funds are available for those projects.

Sho-Deen first presented the Elburn Station proposal to the village in January 2007. Plans feature single-family homes on lots ranging in width from 30 to 80 feet; multi-family housing within a half-mile around the Metra station with density up to 12 units per acre; and commercial areas on the north and south sides of the development. The total number of planned residences is 3,009, including up to 1,000 multi-family units.

If the Village Board approves final plans for Elburn Station, building could take up to 20 years to complete.

Village will keep developer informed about consultant needs

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Sho-Deen Inc. representative David Patzelt told Elburn officials Monday that he would like the village to curtail its use of consultants in the development planning and approval process for the proposed Elburn Station development.

Patzelt said Geneva-based Sho-Deen already has paid more than $100,000 in fees to consultants engaged by the village in relation to Elburn Station project planning.

The village does not have the expertise to conduct some of the engineering planning required for the project and would still have to rely on some consultants, village officials said.

“None of us on this board are planners or engineers,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “We do need the expertise of those people (consultants) in order to do what is right for the village.”

Village administrator Erin Willrett said that in the future, the village will work with Sho-deen to determine how much time a consultant will work on the project.

Thus far, the village has used engineering and planning consultant services for wastewater planning, stormwater planning, design guidelines and other aspects of Elburn Station.

Insect-ravaged ash trees removed

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Any local ash tree that currently is healthy in the village probably will not remain so because of the increasing presence of the emerald ash borer, Elburn Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven said.

“It’s pushing its way (west) through Kane County,” he said.

Elburn Public Works Department employees so far this year have removed 35 ash trees from parkways in the village, because they were infested with the emerald ash borer.

This is the time of year when adult emerald ash borers start to fly to find egg-laying sites, according to the University of Illinois Extension office. The small metallic-green insect lays eggs in the bark of the tree. When the borer hatches, it tunnels under the bark and starts feeding on the sapwood of the tree, causing leaves to thin and yellow and limbs to eventually die.

Nevenhoven said during Monday’s Elburn Committee of the Whole meeting that he is preparing a report about replacement trees that will be planted in the village as the municipal budget permits.

Best face forward

Elburn trustee Jerry Schmidt spent the afternoon of May 19 planting geraniums and several other varieties of flowers in a concrete planter recently installed in front of Village Hall. Schmidt volunteered to buy and plant the flowers because he wanted to improve the appearance of Village Hall, 301 E. North St., often the first place a visitor goes in Elburn, he said. American Bank & Trust in downtown Elburn donated the planter, which it no longer used, and Blackberry Township employees helped transport it to Village Hall. Photo by Martha Quetsch

PeepGov.com offers close look at lawmakers

KHS grads’ website a forum for discussion
by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—A new website makes it easier for people to keep track of the business their local lawmaker is conducting in the U.S. Capitol.

Think of it as Facebook for politics.

“We want PeepGov to be in the forefront of the political discussion by merely presenting what people are saying so everyone can see it,” PeepGov President and Elburn resident Nick Secrest said. “We want to help facilitate the discussion.”

PeepGov is a political database that provides streaming Congress-related information in real time, essentially bundling up the data available on any Congressperson, and providing that information in an easy-to-understand format. The website is so user-friendly that people can access the PeepGov database without even knowing who represents them in Washington D.C.

“Just (enter) your zip code and you can be brought up to speed on what your voice in Washington is saying,” Secrest said. “Everyone has busy lives, and with the technology in this day and age, it shouldn’t be hard to keep track of what is going on, but it is. PeepGov makes it simple.”

Secrest, a 2004 Kaneland High School graduate, first became interested in building a political website during the 2008 presidential election. He then enlisted the help of his two long-time friends, Brian Signorella and Nic Borg, to start building the site in March 2009. Both Signorella and Borg, who also are 2004 Kaneland graduates, have computer science degrees from Northern Illinois University.

PeepGov’s creation required more than a few personal sacrifices, as the three creators spent an entire year balancing the design of the website with their day jobs, Secrest said.

“Juggling work and my schedule has been the hardest part for me,” he said.

So far, the hard work and sacrifices have been more than worth it, as PeepGov has accumulated thousands of hits during the last two months and continues to garner attention from bloggers looking to post their material on the site. Secrest even plans to soon have candidates be an actual part of the PeepGov community.

The new website has offered Secrest, himself, a chance to keep tabs on his Congressional leaders’ activities.

“I think the main thing (PeepGov) has done for me is allow me to just keep up with what (they) are doing and saying, as well as what people are saying about them,” Secrest said. “Now I get to see what they are doing from all angles, which, up until this point, has never really been done before.”

Secrest believes streaming information is the wave of the future and was inspired by the community interaction featured on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Most political websites present too much information, which makes the information hard to find within the site,” Secrest said. “Our site brings you information in a simple and real-time way. PeepGov also rates congressional leaders and shows you who the most talked about person is and why they are important.”

Through the filters, PeepGov.com visitors can even search by state, gender, party or most-active, and the site shows who is being talked about the most at that very moment.

Every Congressperson’s page on the PeepGov website also has a peepscore, which shows the amount of activity each page is receiving from website visitors.

“No (other) site does that,” Secrest said.

What’s next for the website looking to revolutionize the way people view and interact with their local government? Secrest believes the sky’s the limit.

“We want PeepGov to be a household name for real-time information about the people who represent you—from the federal level to the state and local level,” he said.

Aurora woman indicted in May 2009 fatal crash

Kane County—An Aurora woman has been indicted for her role in a May 2009 crash on Route 47 in which two people were killed and several others were injured.

Alia N. Bernard, 25, of the 1500 block of West Galena Boulevard, Aurora, was indicted Tuesday by a Kane County grand jury on two counts of reckless homicide, each a Class 3 felony, and one count of driving under the influence, a Class A misdemeanor.

Bernard surrendered Wednesday morning at the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, posted $5,000 bond and was released. Bernard was ordered to appear at 9 a.m. June 2, in Courtroom 217 in front of Associate Judge James C. Hallock.

According to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred at about 8:20 a.m. May 23, 2009, at the intersection of Route 47 and Smith Road in Blackberry Township south of Elburn.

A vehicle in the southbound lane on Route 47 had stopped to turn left onto Smith Road, waiting for several northbound motorcycles to pass. Two additional southbound vehicles had stopped behind it. A fourth southbound vehicle, a 1999 Toyota Solara driven by Bernard, approached and struck the third vehicle in the rear.

The collision created a chain reaction that ultimately pushed the first vehicle into the path of the oncoming motorcycles. A 2000 Harley-Davidson Softtail struck the first vehicle, and the motorcycle’s driver, Wade Thomas, 44, of St. Charles, and the passenger, his wife, Denise Thomas, 45, also of St. Charles, were killed.

According to the indictment, Bernard was acting recklessly, performing acts likely to cause the death or great bodily harm to some individual in that she operated a motor vehicle while failing to keep a proper look out, and thereby caused the deaths of Wade and Denise Thomas. The indictment further states that Bernard had marijuana in her system at the time of the crash.

Bernard was given a traffic citation at the time for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. However, that charge was dropped while authorities awaited the results of toxicology tests, which took several months to be returned, and while the Kane County Sheriff’s Office continued to investigate the case.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Bernard faces a sentence of probation or two to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The charges against Bernard are not proof of guilt. Bernard is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the state’s burden to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Skip Mennerick Memorial Concert set for May 27

Elburn—Friends of Skip Mennerick, an Elburn resident who died in October, are holding a memorial concert in his honor on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m., at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Proceeds from the concert will benefit his wife and young children.

The Skip Mennerick Memorial Concert will be headlined by August, a local band known for its horn-driven rock, soul and R&B music and which includes many personal friends of the Mennerick family. August will be joined by very special guest Greg Boerner, a guitarist/singer/songwriter who performs a Southern-style mix of blues, folk, country and roots rock and roll.

General admission tickets cost $25 and may be purchased in advance on the Arcada website, www.thearcada.com, or at Rejoice Lutheran Church, 0N377 N. Mill Creek Drive, Geneva, (630) 262-0596. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. concert.

Principal for the day

8-year-old takes on school official’s tasks
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Second-grader Ben Durbala, 8, was in charge at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn on Friday, serving as Principal for the Day. He was excited about the unique opportunity, which he won in a silent auction at a PTO fundraiser.

“I’ve never been a principal before, of course, because I’m just a kid, and I wanted to find out what it would be like,” Ben said.

The reason he was interested in being Principal for a Day is because he wants to follow in the footsteps of his dad, who is a school principal in Downers Grove.

“I want to be one when I grow up,” Ben said.

Ben took his role on Friday very seriously, and was enthusiastic about everything he did, said John Stewart principal Brian Graber.

Ben prepared for the day beforehand and was ready to go when he got to school that morning, Graber said. Ben’s first task was to read the morning announcements on the school intercom.

Graber always starts the announcements with, “Today is a splendid day to be at John Stewart” or “Today is a terrific day to be at John Stewart.” In preparing the day before, Ben came up with another descriptive word. He announced to his fellow students over the intercom, “This is principal Ben Durbala. Today is an exceptional day to be at John Stewart.”

Ben wore a lavalier tag during the day identifying him as the school principal. He did five classroom walk-throughs with Graber, part of the principal’s daily routine. Ben chose which teachers’ classes to visit, and then offered feedback to them on what he saw, mostly “Great job” and “excellent,” he said.

Ben also was able to send comments to the teachers about changes he would like to see at the school, using Principal Graber’s official e-mail address. After complimenting his teacher, Mrs. Hensley, and the other teachers for working hard to make school exciting and full of learning, he suggested that the school have physical education every day and eliminate the rule against having candy in class.

He closed the e-mail by saying he hoped they all had a nice Mother’s Day.

A lunch with Principal Graber had to be postponed because he had an unexpected school matter that needed his attention and had to leave the building for awhile. But the two will reschedule the lunch for a later date.

Graber said serving as principal on Friday offered Ben a window into what the job entails.

“Before, he saw pieces of it, but on Friday, he could get a better idea of what it is about, including having to roll with things and be flexible,” Graber said.

Ben said nothing about his day changed his mind about wanting to be a principal someday.

“I liked doing pretty much everything,” he said.

Photo: Ben Drabala, a second-grader at John Stewart Elementary School, occupied the principal’s chair on Friday, when he was Principal for the Day. While on duty, he sent e-mail comments from the principal’s office to the school’s teachers, visited several classrooms and read the morning announcements over the intercom. Photo by Martha Quetsch

Piglets on parade

Bank, other businesses support community with fundraising pigs
by Paula Coughlan
ELBURN—The National Bank and Trust Co. in Elburn has adopted out piglets to area businesses for decoration and community fundraising.

CeCe Rocha, bank manager, said the 17-by-21-inch, hollow, ceramic piglets were adopted by 36 area businesses on March 18 at an adoption party at National Bank and Trust. Each business has decorated its piglet with a different theme and will have it “on parade” at their business through the end of August.

The adoption fee for each piglet was $125, and the bank will give the proceeds to Kaneland High School for use in its arts program.

In 2009, the bank sponsored Baseballs on Parade, which were decorated by area businesses and displayed for several months, then auctioned off during Elburn Days.

“This year the bank chose piglets because of their agricultural aspect in our farm community,” Rocha said. “The piglets, which are real piggy banks, will be kept by their adoptive parents, who can use them to collect funds for a charity of their choice.”

If you visit the bank at the corner of Route 38 and Main Street, you can see what a piglet looked like before adoption and view two that have been decorated. Or, drop by Paisano’s Pizza & Grill in downtown Elburn and meet piglet Chef Suey, with his red bandana and red apron. The money dropped in Suey will go to the Kane County 4-H Foundation and Kaneland High School Art Scholarships.

If you like jazz, visit Dizzy the Piglet in the window of the Elburn Market downtown. He is decorated in purple with paintings of jazz musicians, sporting a reed in his mouth, a black beret and sunglasses. Dizzy was painted by artist Megan Cline.

For more information on Piglets on Parade, contact Rocha at (630) 365-3336.

Photo: Jazzy
Dizzy the Piglet is on display at Ream’s Elburn Market as part of National Bank and Trust’s fundraiser for the Kaneland High School Arts Program and Kane County 4-H. Photo by Ben Draper

Alarm companies need notice of dispatch switch

ELBURN—The Elburn Police Department will switch its emergency dispatch services on Tuesday, June 1, but residents still should call 9-1-1 in cases of emergency.

Currently, police dispatch services are provided by the Kane County Sheriff’s Department Emergency Communications Center (KaneComm). The switch will move these services to Tri-Com Central Dispatch (Tri-Com) in St. Charles. All 9-1-1 calls automatically will go to KaneComm.

Residents and businesses should notify their alarm companies when the switch-over takes place. The alarm providers will need to contact Tri-Com instead of KaneComm when an alarm is activated. Contact the village of Elburn at (630) 365-5060 to obtain the telephone number that the alarm companies will need to call.

The Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District has received its dispatch services from Tri-Com since 2000. Moving the police dispatch services to Tri-Com will consolidate all emergency dispatch services for the village of Elburn in one place, thereby improving the coordination of emergency response between the police and fire departments, village officials said.

Credit-card option will boost Metra parking fee

ELBURN—The Elburn Finance Committee recommended on Monday that the village implement a credit-card payment option for Metra station parking.

Electronic payment machines for commuters to pay for parking with credit cards were installed at the Metra station in January. However, commuters still have had to pay the $1.25-per-day for parking in cash, since the system has not yet been activated. When it is, the parking fee will go up by 25 cents.

“There are several steps that need to happen before it can be implemented,” Finance Committee Chairman Jeff Walter. “Since we will have an increased cost in credit-card transaction fees and the monthly per-machine fee to accept credit cards, the parking rate will have to increase to $1.50. This is consistent with other lots in the area (LaFox and others) that offer a credit card option.”

The village needs approval from Metra to raise the train station parking fee in Elburn, and then a public hearing must take place regarding the use of credit cards.

When the electronic payment system is activated, residents also may use the machines at the train station to pay village water bills, fines, and license renewal fees.

Two payment booths at the Metra station each have four electronic payment terminals.

Walter, who commutes daily by train to work, is looking forward to being able to pay for parking with a credit card.

“I believe that the increased convenience and speed of the transaction (will be a) plus,” Walter said. “Punching in your spot and swiping a card seems like it would be much faster, especially on a nice minus 20-degree February morning. Plus, you (won’t) have to worry about having the cash every day.”

Walter said village officials expect that 33 percent of Metra riders will use the credit card option.

DUI offender tries to flee police

ELBURN—Local police pursued a driver through residential streets off Route 47 in Elburn Saturday for several minutes before arresting him for driving under the influence of alcohol, attempting to elude police, and several other offenses.

The chase started after Elburn police checked on a 2000 GMC van at 1:30 a.m. that was stopped on Route 47 north of Hughes Road. At that time, police approached the driver, Daniel E. Minor, 44, of the 1200 block of Twelfth Street in Bloomington, Ill. When Minor opened the driver’s door, a beer bottle fell out of the vehicle. Minor then drove away from the officer, fleeing north on Route 47 toward downtown Elburn. Elburn officers were assisted by Kane County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Police pursued Minor through streets both east and west of Route 47, south of the railroad tracks. The pursuit then continued south on Route 47 and ended when Minor stopped south of Main Street Road and surrendered to police.

Minor was transported to Elburn Police Department, where he refused to submit to an alcohol breath test. Minor was charged with DUI, driving while his license was revoked, illegal transportation of alcohol, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, improper lane usage, disobeying a stop sign, aggravated fleeing to elude police (a felony), aggravated DUI (a felony), unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Elburn Chamber features new website

Elburn—The Elburn Chamber of Commerce has a new website, developed by VisionFriendly.com in Yorkville.

With an attractive new background and layout, the new website allows for straightforward navigation and comprehensive data pertaining to the Elburn area.

The community can now utilize its entire calendar of events, which is available in a scrolling pane to allow for a sneak peek of upcoming festivities.

Access to the full directory of chamber members and their businesses are just one click away at www.elburn.com.

The Elburn Chamber of Commerce is a volunteer driven organization committed to serving local businesses and helping to foster a spirit of community in the Elburn area.

For more information on the website or the Elburn Chamber of Commerce, call (630) 365-2295 or e-mail info@elburn.com.

Trustee believes village staff is top-heavy

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The village of Elburn had three top staffers—an administrator, a police chief and a public works superintendent until 2008, when it created another position—community development director, a job that later was renamed assistant village administrator.

Two years ago, village trustee Gordon Dierschow was hesitant to create the position, but he decided the village should give it a try. He voted with other trustees in favor of it because of the many development proposals the village had at that time.

On Wednesday, he said that if the economic downturn and slowed housing market that happened since then continues, the village should consider reductions in higher-paid administrative staff, whether in hours, wages or positions.

“We’re a little heavy on the administration side,” he said. “I think we are overstaffed at this time.”

The Village Board on Monday renewed the annual appointments of Village Administrator Erin Willrett, Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven and Police Chief Steve Smith. Village President Dave Anderson made the appointments with the consent of the Village Board.

Assistant Village Administrator Dave Morrison’s position does not require an annual appointment. After taking office in May 2009, Anderson named Morrison community development director, and two weeks later changed his title to assistant village administrator. Anderson said the title more accurately reflected the position, which included administrative and committee duties as well as economic development.

Also in May 2009, Anderson named Willrett village administrator. She had been community development director for 16 months before landing the village’s top job, which Morrison had held for more than a decade.

When Anderson reversed the roles of Willrett and Morrison in 2009, he raised Willrett’s salary by nearly $20,000 and lowered Morrison’s salary by about the same amount. However, as assistant administrator, Morrison’s new salary was $93,343 compared to Willrett’s former salary of $79,000.

“We felt that because of the experience he had, he merited a higher salary,” Anderson said Wednesday. “We would not offer a starting (administrative position) salary that high.”

2010-11 top staff salaries
Village Administrator $97,788.58
Asst. Village Administrator $93,343.64
Public Works Superintendent $78,500
Police Chief $80,817

Annual plant sale at library May 7

ELBURN—The 7th Annual Geranium, Gerbera Daisies and Tuberous Begonias Plant fundraiser will be held on Friday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, May 8, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Town & Country Public Library, 320 East North Street, Elburn.

A colorful variety of hardy beautiful locally grown 4-1/2-inch plants will be available for a donation of $3.75 each or three for $11. Four-inch ivy plants and four-inch coleus are new to the sale this year.

The event’s sponsor, Friends of the Town & Country Public Library also will have a Bloomin’ Bench raffle of assorted gardening items including a gardener’s bench. Items were donated by Vicki McGuire and Dorothy Hanson of Elburn. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5. The drawing will be held at noon on the day after the sale, at the library. Winners do need not to be present for the drawing.

All proceeds will be used to purchase new materials and support programs for adult and youth services at the library. For more information, call (630) 365-2244.

Elburn mission statement emphasizes ‘small-town values’

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Although a proposed mission statement for the village of Elburn emphasizes small-town values, it does not mean that the village’s philosophy is anti-growth, Village President Dave Anderson said.

Trustee Jerry Schmidt said during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting that he was concerned that “small-town” indicates that Elburn does not want to grow. But Anderson said it means that as growth occurs, the village will retain its small-town values.

“When we get to 15,000 people, hopefully we will have those same values,” Anderson said.

Anderson said small-town values “encompasses a lot of things … it’s like ‘Cheers’—everybody knows your name. To me that’s a small-town value, when you recognize people and say hello on the street.”

Trustee Jeff Walter said “everything in the mission statement should be definable.” He wants the board to talk further about what is meant by “small-town values” in the mission statement.

Walter said Wednesday that he interprets small-town values to mean “conservative, family-oriented, Christian, open and friendly.”

“That really is what we are,” said Walter.

However, he added that other people might not define small-town values in the same way.

The mission statement will be the philosophy behind every decision that village officials make in the future, said Anderson, who composed the statement with feedback from the Planning Commission.

The mission statement will be on the Village Board agenda on Monday, May 3, for further discussion and possible board approval.

Proposed mission statement for Elburn:
“We are and shall be an innovative community that maintains
small-town values while working to enhance the quality of life of our
residents; promote and support our businesses; and welcome
new opportunities which enable the Village of Elburn to be the ideal place
to live, work, worship and play.”

Accurate census makes sense for villages

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN, MP—Elburn and Maple Park officials want residents to stand up and be counted, by completing their 2010 U.S. Census forms.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson said that the census is important locally for several reasons. One is that the village head count could require changes in village operations. Under state law, if Elburn has more than 5,000 residents, it will have to have an elected village clerk and establish a police commission.

In the past, the village president has appointed the village clerk annually, with the advice and consent of the board. For the past several years, Diane McQuilkin has held the position.

The three-member police commission would be appointed by the village president, with the advice and consent of the Village Board. The police commission would be responsible for hiring, promoting, disciplining and dismissing police officers. Currently, the Village Board makes those decisions.

The number of residents also determines state and federal government representation, Anderson said.

“Legislative districts (both federal and state) are set up, basically, by population,” he said.

An accurate count of village residents also is important to the village financially. Income- and sales-tax revenue that the village receives from the state is determined through an equation that factors in population established by the U.S. Census, Anderson said.

Accurate data reflecting changes in municipalities’ populations are crucial in deciding how more than $400 billion per year is allocated by the federal government for community projects such as roads and schools, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The last time a head count took place in Elburn was in 2006, when a U.S. special census determined the village’s population was 4,696. Anderson believes the census may show that the village has grown to nearly 5,000.

“I think we will be very close,” Anderson said.

Maple Park had a special census done in 2007, showing that the village’s population was approximately 1,100, Village President Kathy Curtis said.

Curtis said each person counted represents approximately $100 in revenue per year for the village. She said it is crucial for Maple Park that its residents complete their census forms, because of the financial impact of a head count that is too low.

She said, for example, if Maple Park’s “population comes in at 1,000 with the 2010 census that is about $10,000 of lost revenue for the village.”

“We already know our population is marginally lower due to foreclosures in town,” Curtis said. “We can’t afford to forfeit revenue by not responding.”

On May 1, U.S. Census takers will begin going door-to-door to households that did not mail back their 2010 Census forms. They also will verify that housing units indicated as unoccupied by the postal service or other sources are indeed unoccupied and vacant.
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census every 10 years.
Source: www.2010census.gov

Tree City USA status renewed

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—The village of Elburn recently qualified again as a Tree City USA. To be eligible for this national honor, which Elburn has received for the past 11 years, the village hosts an annual Arbor Day Celebration, but that is not the only reason for this community event.

“We have a responsibility as stewards of God’s creation to recognize the importance of trees and to share that importance with our children,” Trustee Ken Anderson said.

Anderson said the celebration brings recognition to the value of trees and the role they play in our lives.

“They purify our air by removing CO2 and creating oxygen. They supply shade and reduce energy needs. They give us aesthetically pleasing views in our yards and parks,” said Anderson, who is a special projects manager with the Kane County Department of Environmental Management.

Anderson said trees also protect the soil and put nutrients back into it, and they enhance property values via the landscape.

After the Arbor Day Celebration Saturday morning at Liberty Park, Anderson will give a presentation on prairie and wetland plants at Prairie Park for village officials and the public. Prairie Park is located on East North Street in Elburn.

Anderson said his presentation will focus on the importance of prairie and wetland plants and how best to manage and maintain these natural systems.

Friday Knightlife ‘too cool’

Community Center will bring youth program back in fall
Story and photo gallery by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Friday Knightlife, a youth recreation program that started last fall at the Elburn & Countryside Community Center, was so popular that its organizers plan to offer it again.

The twice-monthly program for fourth- and fifth-graders started in early November and concluded April 23.

About 50 children signed up initially, and gradually, the program has gained many additional participants.

“As the word got out, more kids would sign up. Kids found out they had a good time, so more kids would come the next time,” said coordinator Bill Brauer. “There have been a lot more new faces in the last few months.”

“It’s kind of a fun night and we’d like to make it bigger,” Brauer said. “We’ll bring it back in October.

Last fall, he distributed flyers through the two Elburn elementary schools, John Stewart and Blackberry Creek, announcing the program that would meet every other Friday for six months, from 6 to 8:50 p.m., in the community center gymnasium.

“This is three hours of fun, do what you want,” he said. “It is an opportunity for them to get out and just be kids.”

Brauer is on the Community Center’s board of directors. He started the Friday Knightlife program because it would be good for the kids and would benefit the community center.

“When we were looking at things to do to keep the community center going, I noticed Friday night was a night when the gym sat vacant,” Brauer said.

He noted that other communities offer similar programs, such as North Aurora, where he lives.

“So I kicked it around at one of our board meetings, and said what if we do kind of a (pre)teen night, and everybody loved the idea,” he said.

Brauer said the program gives children something to do during the months when often the weather outside isn’t good, and it’s dark in early evening.

From the beginning, he and other program organizers made sure to offer recreation that participants were interested in.

“We kind of tailored it to what they want,” he said. “In the beginning they wanted to play a lot of Nerf touch football in the gym, so we let them do that.”

He said that early on, he held a couple of “pow-wows” with participants and asked them, ‘What do you guys like doing? What do you not want to do, because I’m not going to tell you what to do-you’re the ones that will be playing for three hours.’”

He did steer clear of offering many video games, because children can play those at home.

“We wanted to offer them something different,” Brauer said.

The fee was $45, or about $3 per program, which helped pay for games and other recreation-related expenses. Program activities have included floor hockey, basketball, Frisbee tosses, obstacle courses, air hockey, and the Guitar Hero game.

Refreshments also are part of every evening, such as Paisano’s pizza for a dollar a slice, plus soda or water.

James Leyden, 10, was at the Community Center every night the program was offered. He likes the chance to eat pizza and to play air hockey, pool and Guitar Hero, but most of all, to socialize.

“My favorite part is hanging with my friends,” said James, who attends John Stewart Elementary.

On Friday night, Alina O’Connor was sitting at a table making bracelets with her friends, one of the crafts she has enjoyed on program nights. She does not have any siblings at home, so the program is a chance for her to be with other kids after school.

Alina, a John Stewart student, has had so much fun that she hopes to join the program again this fall.

“It’s just too cool,” Alina said.

Parents helped make it successful

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Four to eight parents typically volunteered to help during each of the twice-monthly Friday Knightlife programs held at Elburn & Countryside Community Center since last fall.

“One of the requirements when we set up the program was that if you signed up your child you had to donate one week to volunteer,” program coordinator and Community Center Board member Bill Brauer said.

“Some parents have done three or four weeks, which has been very helpful,” he added.

On the last night of the program, parent Chris O’Connor was a volunteer. Her daughter Alina, a John Stewart student, participates in the Friday Knightlife regularly.

O’Connor’s role that evening was to check in the children and make sure the Community Center had an emergency contact number for them, then “send mom and dad off and let the kids have fun,” while she and other parents made sure everybody stayed safe.

She said the program has been a great opportunity for Alina.

“She’s really enjoyed it, so I hope it takes off,” O’Connor said.

Who has the Best Mom in Town?

KHS, KMS students invited to nominate their moms
Kaneland—Students at Kaneland High School and Kaneland Middle School are invited to nominate their moms for the Best Mom in Town Contest.

The students can nominate their moms by filling out a form available at the Elburn Town and Country and Sugar Grove public libraries, and completing a 150-word essay on why they have the best mom in town.

The completed nominations need to be returned to either of the libraries by Monday, May 3. The Sugar Grove Library Friends will review the nominations and choose the top three winners, who will be notified on Friday, May 7.

All three winners will receive a gift basket consisting of donated items from various area businesses.

For information, call Audrey Ritchey at (630) 363-2113.

Retiring assistant chief helped fire department grow

Wayne Stevens spent 32 years directing emergency services
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Retiring from Elburn & Countryside Fire Department was not something that Assistant Chief Wayne Stevens planned, but he realized in the past year that he was ready after 32 years leading the village’s emergency medical services.

He said a good friend at the department, Lt. Sherry Nielsen, told him she never thought he would leave, and he didn’t either.

“I never saw myself as retiring,” he said. “But there comes a time when you know it is time.”

In the last year, Stevens has undergone two major surgeries, having had both of his knees replaced.

“When I had the surgery, I thought, why the heck did I wait so long to do this, and I guess it is the same for retiring,” he said.

During his last week at the station, he is cleaning out his office, which he said is not a simple task after more than three decades of accumulating things. Next, he plans to clean out his basement, attic and garage at home. Other than that, he has no specific plans for the future, other than to ride his Honda cruiser motorcycle more, go on more camping trips with his wife, Mary Beth, and see more of his three grandchildren’s sporting events.

He also will continue teaching EMT classes occasionally, as he has done for years at Delnor Hospital.

Stevens became an EMT in the early 1970s, after spending four years in the U.S. Marines. He served in Vietnam for a year, in 1969, where he was responsible for setting up landing areas in combat zones for medic helicopters to pick up the wounded, whom he cared for until they arrived.

After completing his service, he and his new bride settled in Batavia, and he began taking business classes at Waubonsee Community College and working at a hardware store. Between school and work, he would stop at Community Hospital in Geneva after classes to have lunch with his wife, who worked there.

One day in the hospital cafeteria, a nurse approached him and asked, “You worked in Vietnam didn’t you, with helicopters taking care of wounded, right?” Then she told him that the hospital was starting a new EMT program and asked whether he would be interested. He was, and took the first EMT course ever held at Copley Hospital in downtown Aurora. Afterward, he was thrilled when Community Hospital hired him as one of its first EMTs for Tri-City Ambulance Service, which had taken over for the local funeral homes that previously provided patient transport.
“I wanted the job so bad, that when they asked me what shift I wanted, I said, ‘I’ll work anything,’” he said.

On the night shift for five years, he gained a lot of experience, he said.

“When we weren’t running calls, we would work on the hospital floor, taking care of male patients, and doing odd jobs like setting up traction or doing other forms of patient care,” he said.

In the mid-’70s, Stevens decided to apply for the ambulance service directorship in Elburn, formerly headed by his friend, Chuck Conley. Then, the ambulance service was a division of the Fire Department and was housed on the opposite corner of North and First streets.

The village hired Dick Renk for the position, but when Renk returned to a teaching career a year later, Stevens applied again and landed the job in 1978.

Although he was the director of the ambulance services, he still went out on ambulance calls as an EMT. Looking back on all of the ambulance calls he did, Stevens said he does not like to dwell on the worst cases he saw, which people often ask him to describe.

“I look at it more like, what were the best cases I ever had, like rescuing people in a car crash or delivering a baby,” which he once helped a woman do at her home in Elburn.

Another one of those “best” cases was after the daughter of an Elburn woman, who was having chest pains, called the village ambulance service.

“By the time we got there, she was in cardiac arrest. We shocked her and brought her back. Every Elburn Days I would bump into her daughter and she would say, ‘Thank you so much, that I have had my mom so many years.”

He also has rescued people from car accidents, extricating them from their vehicles.

“I’ve liked to think of those more than the worst cases, because if you think about the worst cases, it will drive you out of the business,” Stevens said. “You’ve got to put that behind you and move on, and think about success rather than times where you were put to the test and you weren’t able to do anything, either because of the severity of the injury or the amount of the disease. I like to think about the ones where we fought and we won.”

When Stevens started working in Elburn in 1978, the Fire Department had four full-time employees-two EMTs in its ambulance division, Stevens and Alan Isberg, and two firefighters, former Fire Chief Marv Ackerman and Assistant Chief Marty Strausberger (who later became fire chief). The department had 30 volunteer firefighters and 15 volunteer EMTs.

Stevens provided EMT training within the Fire Department for many years, as well as being an administrator in charge of a growing staff. As the department’s paid staff expanded, volunteers were more difficult to find, so Stevens suggested opening up the department to people from other communities and letting them sleep in the station after a call.

“It worked pretty well (to bring in more volunteers)” he said. “From there, we went to building Station 2 and went from being mostly volunteer to having more full- and part-time staff.”

Since Stevens started with the department, he has seen its employee roster grow to 21 full-time firefighters who are also EMTs, and 50 part-timers with various degrees of fire and EMT certification.

When the Fire Department built a second station on Hughes Road about seven years ago, it merged its ambulance division with the fire division. After the merger, Stevens became the assistant chief in charge of emergency medical services, a position he held since then.

Stevens takes pride in having been able to mentor so many department employees over the years.

“I’d like to think that there are very good paramedics that worked for me that are that way because I helped teach them,” he said.

Elburn Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan, who became chief after Marty Strausberger, has worked with Stevens since the 1980s. Callaghan said Stevens not only is the father of three grown children, including Elburn firefighter/EMT Rob Stevens, he also has been a father figure for countless people in the fire department over the years.

“If someone needed advice on anything, he always had something to say,” Callaghan said.

Stevens said he never set out to be in a leadership role.

“I remember when I started out as a paramedic,” Stevens said. “I was visiting an uncle and he asked me, ‘So are you going to become a lieutenant, or a captain or an assistant chief, what are you going to do?’ I said, well, I don’t want to do any of that, I just want to take care of people.”

Final village budget pared down, still has shortfall

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn officials approved a new village budget on Monday that has $900,000 less in expenses than last year’s budget. The achievement was possible through months of paring down costs wherever possible, they said.

The budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts May 1, includes expenses of $5.3 million, compared to budgeted expenses last year totaling $6.2 million.

Expected revenue is about $4.59 million this year, compared to budgeted revenue last year of $4.63 million.

The budget shortfall has occurred in recent years primarily because of a continuing decline in building permit fees (see chart below) due to the depressed housing market.

Among budget cuts that the Village Board made recently include eliminating a secretarial position that paid $42,000 annually. In addition, the village several months ago eliminated a part-time Police Department secretary position and reduced an administrative assistant’s hours.

Village President Dave Anderson said cost cutting will continue, even though the budget has been finalized.

“We’re looking at goals and objectives for all our departments this year to see how we can become even more efficient,” Anderson said.

The village will cover its budget shortfall with its reserve fund, which currently totals about $5 million.

Revenue from building permit fees has declined
2007-08 $147,721
2008-09 $59,445
2009-10 $30,000
2010-11 $21,000

Stevens valued close-knit group

by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Although Elburn & Countryside Fire Department Assistant Chief Wayne Stevens is ready to retire, he is sad about leaving his co-workers.

“I am going to miss the people. Because the Fire Department is not trucks and buildings and hoses and ambulances, it’s the people that work here, it’s the heart and soul and dedication that they have,” he said.

Stevens added that he has valued the tight-knit community of EMS and the fire service, which stems from its members working and living closely together, accomplishing a lot together, and building a bond of trust.

“For example, you have an extrication that you have to accomplish, where you have to cut somebody out of a car. If I am taking care of the patient,” he said. “I’m inside the car, underneath the blanket, and I need to count on my partner to keep us both safe but yet get us out of the vehicle. And I do, because there is that trust.”

Sometimes, after ambulance calls that are particularly challenging, it is difficult for the EMTs and firefighters who responded to go home afterward. That is when the co-worker support was particularly valuable to Stevens.

“It’s hard because your spouse didn’t go through that, so to go home and flip that switch from what you just saw, to helping cook dinner, is a very hard switch to flip,” Stevens said. “And that’s where that group is so important, because you stay with that group until you diffuse those feelings that you have, or until you understand those feelings that you have, so that you can go home and function as you’re supposed to at home.”

Celebrate Earth Day at Johnson’s Mound

ELBURN—The public is invited to an Earth Day hike through Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve, 41W600 Hughes Road, Elburn from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Naturalists from Kane County Forest Preserve will guide the group as they explore the woods and fields and learn about connections with the natural world.

The family-oriented hike is appropriate for people of all ages.

If possible, RSVP if you plan to attend this free event, at (847) 741-8350.

State revenue cut would hit villages hard, officials say

Proposal would reduce municipalities’ income tax share
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN, MP—A proposed reduction in state income taxes disbursed to municipalities would cause more financial challenges for the revenue-strapped villages of Elburn and Maple Park.

The 2010-11 state budget draft proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn in March calls for cutting municipalities’ share of their residents’ state income tax from 10 to 7 percent.

Under Quinn’s proposal, Maple Park’s revenue would drop by about $30,000 and Elburn’s would decrease by an estimated $100,000, village officials said.

“This deep of a cut would put us into a situation potentially using reserve funds,” Village President Kathy Curtis said.

To deal with its budget crunch, Maple Park already has frozen employee raises for the past two years and drastically cut its engineering and legal costs, Curtis said.

Elburn also has slashed its budget to cope with revenue constraints. The village did not give employee raises this year and reduced its staff. If the state income-tax disbursement drops, the village will have to look at other ways to reduce expenses, and also would likely have to dip into its reserve funds, Elburn Village President Dave Anderson said.

“We’re at the bare-bones end of things now,” he said.

The villages set money aside in reserve funds to use for emergency infrastructure projects and other unexpected expenses. Those funds currently total about $5 million in Elburn and $740,000 in Maple Park. Village officials are concerned that those monies could quickly be depleted if they have to use them for operating expenses. State income tax money benefits the villages’ general operating fund.

“God forbid that we have a catastrophe—where is the money going to come from?” Anderson said.

State lawmakers are expected to vote next month on a final budget following a legislative review including House and Senate appropriation committee meetings.

Hearings are in full swing in Springfield this week, said Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-Dist. 50-Yorkville), who strongly opposes Quinn’s proposed cut in income tax disbursements to municipalities.

“It (the proposal) is really even more onerous than it seems at first sight,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said that because of the economy, local funding already is down 40 percent.

“That is more than any municipality can handle,” Hatcher said.

For 2008-09, the village of Elburn received $437,931 in income taxes from the state; that represents 10 percent of income taxes collected by the state from Elburn residents. The 10-percent disbursement dropped to about $375,000 for 2009-10.

“And if they (state lawmakers) decide to diminish the 10 percent to 7 percent, that’s another whack,” Anderson said.

Hatcher does not believe the Senate and House will approve a budget that includes Quinn’s proposed cut in income taxes for municipalities.

“There are going to be a lot of negotiations going on,” Hatcher said. “The state can’t cut that (income tax to municipalities) without General Assembly approval, and I don’t see that happening,” Hatcher said.

Gov. Quinn’s
proposal

Under Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed state budget for 2010-11, the amount of state income tax that goes to local governments will decrease by 3 percentage points.

Currently, the state disburses to each municipality 10 percent of income taxes from its residents. Quinn proposed decreasing the disbursement to 7 percent. That represents a 30-percent reduction in local tax revenue.

Maple Park is receiving up to $101,000 in income taxes from the state for this fiscal year 2009-10, which ends April 30, said the village’s accounting clerk, Cheryl Aldridge. Under the proposed state cut, the village’s share next year would be about $70,000.

Elburn is receiving about $375,000 in state income taxes this fiscal year, and under the proposed cut would receive approximately $275,000 in 2010-11.

The martial way

by Martha Quetsch
Karate a winning activity for Elburn youth, family
ELBURN—Lorie and Matt Gale of Elburn have unwaveringly supported their son Alex’s passion for karate during the past six years, leading to his success in the martial arts and a lot of fun for the family.

Both were highlights of the Gales’ recent trip to Las Vegas, where Alex won a bronze medal at the USA Open Karate Championships.

Alex is 11 years old and has studied karate since he was 5. He is a 1st Kyu Brown Belt in Shotokan Karate, a Japanese form of karate. He is a member of the Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs (ISKC).

The Gales flew to Nevada to see Alex compete in both the 2010 Junior Olympics and the USA Open Karate Championships, held April 2-4. The tournaments were huge international events with more than 1,400 competitors and took place at Caesar’s Palace.

Alex’s family, including his sister, Sandra, 10, cheered on the ISKC athletes and the USA karate teams, met competitors from around the world and watched “some amazing world-class karate,” Lorie said.

For the Gales, the excitement surrounding the event was topped off by watching Alex reap the benefits of all his years of dedication to karate.

“He had strong performances throughout both tournaments, and seeing him win the Bronze Medal in Advanced Kata at the USA Open was a thrill,” Lorie said.

Alex trains year round and practices an average of eight hours a week. His parents take him to ISKC karate classes three times a week, in Woodridge, Geneva and Batavia. Periodically, Alex has special training at the main dojo (training facility) in Palatine, Ill.

He likes karate so much that he has continued doing it despite a full schedule of other activities, including the cross country team, chess club, student council and the jazz band at Kaneland Harter Middle School.

“I just have a great time doing it,” Alex said.

He remembers becoming interested in karate when he was about 3 years old, watching people practicing at a local park district. What Alex enjoys most about karate is that it always challenges him to do his best, he said.

His next goal is to place in the ISKC state tournament in Palatine on Sunday. If he does, he will be eligible to compete at the USA National Karate Federation tournament this summer in Greenville, S.C.

Alex’s parents have seen their son take part in 28 tournaments over the years, Lorie said. Among those have been the four annual tournaments hosted by the ISKC, including the Illinois State Championships. He participated in the USA National Karate Championships in Houston in 2008 and in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. in 2009, and in the 2010 Junior Olympics and the USA Open Karate Championships in Las Vegas.

The Gales said they support Alex’s interest in karate because he enjoys it and because it provides excellent conditioning for both the mind and body.

“It improves fitness, builds confidence, strengthens self-discipline and is fun,” Lorie said.

Photo: Alex Gale (right) challenges his opponent during a USA Open Karate Championship in Las Vegas. Courtey Photo