Category Archives: Regional


Major renovation planned for Anderson Animal Shelter

Photo: The current kennels for dogs are small, isolating and confining; new housing will include pens for small dogs and individual rooms for large dogs.
Photo submited by Holly Alcala to

Looking for 100 foster families to care for animals during construction
SOUTH ELGIN, ILL.—The 40-year-old building that houses the Anderson Animal Shelter in South Elgin, Ill., is about to undergo a major renovation, but Executive Director Beth Drake isn’t waiting until then to begin making changes.

When Drake took over the shelter in May of this year, she streamlined the adoption process and reduced the adoption fees for the cats. As cats have been adopted, reducing the cat population in the shelter, a number of the old-fashioned, stainless-steel cages have been removed.

According to Drake, these cages, closed on three sides with solid stainless steel, are cold and reflective, and both sound and light bounce around, assaulting the cats’ senses. This increases their stress level, causing emotional and physical distress and changes in their behavior.

She said that while the shelter’s current configuration was adequate for the time when the shelter opened, recent research has shown better ways to house shelter animals that make it less stressful and more comfortable for them.

Eventually, all of the stainless-steel cages will be removed, and many of the cat population will live in colonies.

“Cats like to climb onto ledges, and hide inside of things,” Drake said. “Our adoptable cats will be housed with other cats in cat colonies, or individually in large ‘kitty condos’ with perching and sleeping ledges, allowing them to feel more at home.”

Drake said it’s a common misconception that cats don’t get along with each other. She said the majority—80 percent—of cats enjoy being with other cats. She said they become more outgoing and friendlier, making them more adoptable, which after all, is the point.

Drake said that the shelter’s current dog kennels also have problems, one of which is that they are too small. With the renovation, there will be fewer, wider kennels. The small dogs will be housed in pens, with the bigger dogs in their own small rooms.

Other modifications to the dog areas will include additional outdoor areas for the dogs to play together, the replacement of chain link fences with landscaping material in the dog runs, the addition of agility jumping poles for more exercise opportunities and additional pea gravel in the play areas.

The $660,000 renovation project, in addition to updating its animal care areas, will expand the parking area and replace the outdated plumbing.

The shelter plans to shut down for the month of September for the construction and renovations. Some of the animals will be moved to a satellite adoption location, where adoptions will continue while the shelter is closed.

Anderson staff is currently looking for foster volunteers willing to care for an adult dog or cat or a litter of puppies or kittens for the transition period.

“We’re looking for as many as 100 foster homes willing to bring a shelter pet into their home for a period of one to two months while the shelter is under construction,” said Jon Koffenberger, the shelter’s Animal Care manager, in a press release. “You don’t need to be an experienced foster volunteer, but we do ask that you have some pet experience.”

The shelter will provide the food and any veterinarian care the animals would need. Shelter staff will also be available to assist if the fosters have behavior concerns about their foster pets.

“All we ask is that you love them and care for them as if they were your own until it’s time for them to come back to the shelter,” Koffenberger said.

Drake said that many of the animals at Anderson have been at the shelter for a long time. They’ve forgotten what it means to be part of a family and will need some help readjusting to that type of life.

“It can be very helpful to engage foster homes and get the animals out of our facility so that they can learn manners and work on potty training and those kinds of things,” Drake said. “Regardless of how wonderful a shelter is, it is an inherently stressful place to be.”

She said that at the end of the six weeks, if the families have fallen in love with their cat(s) or dog(s) and don’t want to bring them back, they would be given first priority for adoption.

“We currently have 120 cats and kittens,” she said. “I would love to adopt out half of them.”

In the meantime, Drake has instituted several new practices with the dogs at the shelter, all with the goal of making them more adoptable.

One such practice she calls “Nothing in life is free.” All of the volunteers now have treats in their pockets, and before a dog is given anything, they require the dog to sit first. They don’t tell them to “sit,” but they will be rewarded with a treat when they do.

“Their default behavior will be butt-on-ground,” she said.

Once they learn that sitting will get them what they want, their behavior will be much more appropriate when they are visiting with a potential adopter, rather than jumping up or panting.

She said that this practice also leads to much more appropriate communication, speeding up the training process and making it a more positive experience.

Drake has also begun play groups with the dogs, in which three to five dogs are allowed to interact with each other off-leash. These groups are a way to reinforce appropriate dog-to-dog interactions, as well as provide a positive outlet for pent-up energy.

“Unless we allow them off-leash, they lose the ability to interact with other dogs,” she said.

Michelle Adams, who volunteers at the shelter on a daily basis, said that these play groups have made a big difference in many of the dogs’ behavior. She said when they are able to play together and get some good exercise, the dogs become calmer and become more enjoyable to be around—again, becoming more adoptable.

Adams said that, through another new program at the shelter, she has begun to work with some of the dogs as part of a behavior intervention team. Each week, Koffenberger creates new objectives for dogs with behaviors that could potentially keep them from being adopted. It could be a dog that’s afraid of other dogs, one who wants to chase everything in sight, or a dog that will too vigorously guard his food.

She has seen progress in several dogs already, as well as some major successes, where dogs with resolved problems have been adopted into loving homes.

Drake said she was brought in to Anderson Animal Shelter because they have some growing to do. Drake had worked at the Anderson shelter from 2000 to 2002 as the director of operations. She left to oversee the creation of the state-of-the-art TAILS Humane Society Shelter in DeKalb.
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“This organization has so much potential,” she said.

Last year, Anderson totaled 700 adoptions, and Drake said this year they are on track for 1,000 adoptions.

“There is no reason we can’t greatly exceed 2,500 adoptions in a year,” she said. “The more adoptions, the more lives we save. There is so much need in the welfare community that we all have to overachieve.”

The challenge
The Anderson Animal Shelter receives no governmental funding. Marco and Patricia Muscarello, on behalf of the Ivar and Ruth Anderson Animal Anti-Cruelty foundation, have donated generously toward the renovation project, but the shelter still needs to raise at least $400,000 to cover the cost.

If you’d like to donate, the shelter is seeking monetary and in-kind donations. Naming and sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested and donations of various items, including portable 6′ x 6′ chain link or panel dog kennels and pea gravel, are being sought.

For questions, a detailed list of options or to discuss areas of interest, contact Holly Alcala at or (847) 697-2880 x33.

in fostering?

The shelter is looking for as many as 100 foster families that will care for the animals beginning in September for the six weeks that the shelter will be under construction. Food and vet care will be provided. Assistance with any potential behavioral issues or concerns will also be provided, if needed.
You don’t need to be an expert in pet behavior or medical issues, but you should have some pet experience.
Information about fostering cats and dogs is available online at, by calling Jon Koffenberger, the shelter’s animal care manager, at (847) 697-2880, ext. 23. or emailing
An orientation for cat fosters will be held on Saturday, Aug. 23, and one for dog fosters on Saturday, Aug. 30.
Individuals are encouraged to fill out an online application at the shelter’s website,

Other ways to help:

Jewelry Faire
Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Sept. 5-7

Gala Dinner & Auction
Saturday, Nov. 8

Real Estate Transactions 8-14-2014

6/13/14 CHRISTIANA GAMBILL from JAMES P. PHILLIP; 43W663 MARIAN CIRCLE S., SUGAR GROVE IL 60554-9501 for $320,000


7/21/14 ELIZABETH J. BEYER from ZACHARY R. SCHINDLER; 702 WILLOW ST., MAPLE PARK IL 60151-7309 for $101,500



7/24/14 MEGAN M. EVANS from DALE W. HAMREY; 2N924 GRAND MONDE DRIVE, ELBURN IL 60119-9427 for $288,000

Big Rock Plowing Match set for Sept. 19-21

BIG ROCK—The weekend of Sept. 19-21 will play host to the 120th annual Plowing Match in Big Rock.

A traditional competition based on Welsh heritage, this event began in 1894 under the direction of Big Rock farmers S.A. Chapman, W.D. Powell, and Walter Scott. Located just west of Aurora on Route 30, this farm show is one of the longest running events of its kind.

Activities get underway on Friday, Sept. 19, with the carnival wristband night from 6 to 9:30 p.m. The concession stand will sell hot dogs, chips and pop. This year, Big Rock will welcome back Darrin Lee, who will be the DJ from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Antique Steel and Rubber category plowing begins on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 9:30 a.m. A Western & English Horse Show will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. 5-B’s Catering of Waterman at 11:30 a.m. will prepare pork chop and chicken dinners. The Ladies Fair auction will be held at 1:30 p.m., and the Jr. Fair auction will take place at 1 p.m. The round bale roll-off will be at 4 p.m.

Following a community church service on Sunday, Sept. 21, Reuland’s Catering will provide a roast beef dinner starting at 11 a.m. A watermelon-eating contest will also take place at 11 a.m. Plowing will resume at noon, and the 4-H Beef Show will begin at 1 p.m. The Prince and Princess Contest will be at 1:30 p.m., followed by Big Rock Park District Bingo at 2:30 p.m.

A must-see is the craft and art show, included in one of the last Plowing Match festivals held in Illinois. All types of hand-crafted items are available, and the event will include over 50 vendors. For more information, call Jeanne at (630) 556-3779.

Other attractions this weekend include train rides and a horseshoe tournament. For more information. call the following:

• Plowing—(815) 495-9418
• Business Space Rental—(630) 556-3171
• Ladies Fair—(630) 556-4771
• Junior Fair—(630) 556-3171
• Horse Show—(630) 556-3501
• Horseshoe Tournament—(630) 556-3547
• Prince/Princess Contest—(630) 556-3238
• Pedal Tractor Pull—(630) 327-2512
• Tractor Trot 5K fun run—(630) 417-0340

Hultgren supports legislation to protect community banks

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) this week voted to support two bills, which will relieve community banks from excessive regulations and protect their ability to lend to Illinois homeowners. H.R. 4042, the Community Bank Mortgage Service Asset Capital Requirements Study Act of 2014, and H.R. 5148, the Access to Affordable Mortgages Act of 2014, both passed the House Financial Services Committee (FSC), of which Rep. Hultgren is a member.

“Without healthy community banks, many responsible Americans—including my constituents in the 14th District of Illinois—could not own a home,” Rep. Hultgren said. “These banks lend based upon their customer relationships, which means they can often serve the borrowers that the larger banks may turn down. These bills provide some relief for community banks that are struggling under the weight of often unnecessary regulations.”

H.R. 4042 requires federal oversight agencies to study capital requirements for mortgage servicing assets at certain banks, including all small- and mid-sized banks, and delays the application of certain capital requirements for six months after completing the study. Easing regulations on community banks can free up their ability to lend to customers, such as small businesses and farmers.

H.R. 5148 exempts certain high-risk mortgages valued $250,000 or below from federal appraisal requirements. This eases compliance burdens on lenders and increases credit access for lower- and middle-income borrowers.

Rep. Hultgren previously signed a letter urging the Federal Reserve to appoint a community banker to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, ensuring their interests are represented.

Rep. Hultgren also cosponsored a number of bills that have offered regulatory relief to community banks, including:

• Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act (H.R. 2673), which amends the Truth in Lending Act to define as a “qualified mortgage” a residential mortgage loan made by a creditor so long as the loan appears on the balance sheet of such creditor. This bill passed the FSC on May 22, 2014, by a vote of 36-23.

• Mortgage Choice Act of 2013 (H.R. 3211), which modifies the definition of “points and fees” for the purposes of determining defining a qualified mortgage. H.R. 3211 passed the House on June 9, 2014 by a voice vote.

• Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2014 (H.R. 4521), which exempts community banks and credit unions with assets below $10 billion from escrow requirements for loans held in portfolio, and amends the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act to increase the “small servicer” exception threshold to 20,000 annual loans (up from 5,000). H.R. 4521 passed the FSC by a vote of 43-16.

Dental visits a good habit to start

NAPERVILLE, Ill.—While two-thirds of Illinoisans visit the dentist at least once a year, nearly half of them have gone three years or more without seeing the dentist.

“According to the Delta Dental of Illinois Oral Health and Well-Being Survey, most Illinoisans visit the dentist at least once a year, and those who do are more likely to report their oral health as good or better versus those who are in a dentist’s chair less frequently,” said Dr. Katina Spadoni, dental director for Delta Dental of Illinois. “Still, a lot of people take a break from routine dentist visits at some point in their lives.”

More than half of Illinoisans say they have felt fear or reluctance regarding a dental visit. Most said they had a bad past experience or were afraid to find out what care they needed. Younger Illinoisans ages 18 to 44 have felt more apprehension than those 45 years and older.

“Regular dental visits are part of important preventive care,” Spadoni said. “It’s good to stay in—or get back into—the habit of visiting a dentist. Your dentist can help you determine how often you need to visit, and preventive care is key to help avoid more comprehensive and costly treatment.”

For people with existing oral health problems, such as gum disease, or medical problems like diabetes or dry mouth, one dental visit a year may not be enough, according to Spadoni. For those at higher risk of developing oral problems, three or four visits a year may be best.

“On the other hand, if you have low risks, you will not need the same level of preventive treatments or exams,” Spaldoni said.

One way to stay in the habit is to find a regular dentist. One in five Illinoisans do not have a regular dentist, while nearly half say they’ve beenusing the same dentist for three years or more.

It’s more refreshing than a relief

Despite the fear and reluctance many Illinoisans feel in going to the dentist, most say they feel refreshed after doing so.

“More often than not, you feel good walking out of a dentist’s office,” Spadoni said.

For more information about how you can improve your oral health, visit

Every arm is needed this summer

AURORA—Heartland Blood Centers, an independent medical organization serving 57 hospitals in a 12-county region in Illinois and Indiana, asks all healthy individuals to “roll up their sleeves” and give blood in August. The need for blood is constant, especially in the summer months, when eligible donors have even less time in their busy schedules to give. If you have not yet made your summertime blood donation, you are urged to do so this month.

“Summertime is historically the time of year when blood centers across the country struggle with their blood inventory levels. We are no exception,” said Dennis Mestrich, CEO and president with Heartland Blood Centers. “Holidays, vacations, weddings, and other celebrations keep many regular donors from giving blood in the summer months. This compounds our challenge to collect the blood needed to maintain safe and adequate blood inventories.”

In the United States alone, someone needs blood every two seconds. This could be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker or person you may never know. They all have one thing in common—the need for a lifesaving blood donation. Each and every day there are patients who depend on the transfusions of red blood cells, platelets and plasma to stay alive—including those with cancer, leukemia, and victims of accidents and other traumas. Blood and blood products cannot be manufactured. They can only come from volunteer blood donors who take an hour to attend a blood drive or visit a donor center.

“We not only need our loyal blood donors to continue to donate in the summer, but we need new blood donors every day to help replace those donors who are no longer eligible to donate,” Mestrich said. “We ask that all healthy community members visit a mobile blood drive or center location this summer to share their good health with others by donating blood. If you are unable to donate blood, please consider sponsoring a blood drive with us. We provide all the tools you will need to host a successful event.”

As a “thank-you” gift, blood donors will receive a $5 Subway gift card when they donate at any Heartland Blood Centers mobile or center location in August. Some blood drive or center locations may have an alternative “thank-you” gift to give.

For a list of convenient donation locations, visit for a Heartland center or community blood drive near you.

Blood donors receive free mini-medical exams on site including information about their temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin level.

To be a blood donor, individuals must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with written parental permission; weigh at least 110 pounds; be symptom free of cold, flu and allergies; and be in general good health. Donors who have traveled outside the United States within the past 12 months should contact Heartland at 1-800-7TO-GIVE to determine eligibility.

Kaneland wraps up 2014 Summer Theatre Production

KANELAND—That’s a wrap for Kaneland’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

The recent “Once Upon a Mattress” performances marked Kaneland Arts Initiative’s fifth annual Summer Theatre Production at Kaneland High School. There were six performances in all during two weekend slates.

Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of KAI and producer and pit orchestra director of “Once Upon a Mattress,” called the productions “successful.”

“I was very proud of our work this summer,” she said. “I feel like every aspect of the production, from the pit to the the cast of characters (and) the crew, all came together a little earlier than we have in the past.”

Dripps-Paulson said there were around 600 people who attended the performances. She considers that to be a low number for turnout.

“If you ask me, what was disappointing about the week, with the run, or the show or whatever—it really wouldn’t have anything to do with the cast and crew (or) the pit. It was just that we had low attendance,” Dripps-Paulson said.

General admission was $10 a ticket. Dripps-Paulson dismissed the idea that ticket cost was a reason for people not seeing the the show, which is based on the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

“It’s never the admission price,” she said. “$10 a ticket is really cheap to go see any production. I mean, productions down the street in other cities nearby us are more than $10.”

She added that a Family Ticket is $25. The Family Ticket allows a family living in one household to see the production for one low price.

“There’s a bunch of people who are walking in for free or half-price on that ticket,” Dripps-Paulson said. “So it’s not the ticket price. People don’t know the show very well.”

Last year’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” had more than double this year’s crowd.

This year’s production featured people ranging from 11 to 69 years old in the cast. Cast members were mostly from the Kaneland area, with some from St. Charles, Elgin, Ill., Hoffman Estates, Ill., Yorkville and Geneva.

The cast also included KHS graduates, such as last school year’s Mr. Kaneland Mitch Bateman, and Alec Kovach. Kaneland School Board member Peter Lopatin and Kaneland teachers Emily VanDelinder-Birchfield and Pamela Gianakakos also acted in the Summer Theatre Production

Gianakakos, who played a princess from the swamp named Princess Winnifred, sang a solo called “Shy.”

At one point during the show, a large cage rolled out with Erica Johnson, 15, as The Nightingale of Samarkand. Erica’s mom, Brenda Johnson, is a Maple Park area resident.

“She was a bird with an attitude,” Brenda said of Erica.

Meanwhile, Diane McFarlin, artistic director of KAI and director of the summer musical, had spoken about her hopes for the cast before she knew who they were. She wanted them to bring out the best in themselves, and for them to get out of their comfort zones “to be all they wanted and more.”

Following the conclusion of this year’s Summer Theatre Production, McFarlin confirmed that her initial hopes for the cast had been met, and she was pleased with the product.

“We always say at the very beginning of the project that this is different,” McFarlin said. “And we want to make it different than just community theatre. We want to elevate it to a more advanced level and want it to be the best it can be.”

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Zero Edge, PetSmart donate tank to Delnor

ELBURN—A 180-gallon aquarium from Zero Edge Aquariums in Elburn is now easing the anxieties of sick children at the Lurie Children’s Outpatient Center, part of Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva.

“For pediatric patients, for the kids who come in, it’s often a traumatic situation, so in a lot of ways an aquarium is a distraction,” said Christopher King, spokesperson for Cadence Health. “It’s something comforting, and it just kind of eases the anxiety of being at a hospital.”

The tank, which was installed in the outpatient center’s waiting room on June 21, was presented to Delnor by PetSmart, as part of the PetSmart Gives Back program.

Brian Travilla, PetSmart’s district manager for the region, said that each district does one project a year to give back to the community.

“We have a very strong belief at PetSmart that pets inspire us and make us better people,” Travilla said. “I think big corporations should really work to enrich people’s lives locally, and it’s a wonderful feeling as a district manager to do something to help kids.”

The project was the brainchild of Nathan Brooks, the manager of PetSmart’s Bloomingdale, Ill., store. Brooks suggested the idea and did all the groundwork with Zero Edge and Delnor, Travilla said.

“We feel strongly that when kids go in for treatment and can interact with fish, it calms them down,” Travilla said. “We were fortunate enough to work with Zero Edge to give them a great fish tank. The walks in the children’s wing are decorated with an aquatic theme, with waves and sea turtles painted on the walls. So the tank was a perfect fit.”

PetSmart chose Elburn-based Zero Edge Aquariums to create the aquarium because of a belief in supporting local businesses, Travilla said.

Zero Edge is known for producing high-end rimless, overflowing aquariums that have been purchased by celebrities such as Pitbull, a Miami-based rapper, and even Queen Sirikit of Thailand. But the company also produces a variety of standard aquariums and custom aquariums. Delnor representatives chose the kind of aquarium they wanted, said Aaron Sinclair, director of sales and marketing at Zero Edge, and selected a 180-gallon rectangular aquarium, as well as white cabinetry to house the aquarium.

The aquarium was formally presented to Delnor Hospital at a ceremony on June 25, Sinclair said, and a check for $5,000 was given to the president of the hospital. Several physicians from the pediatric unit attended to thank PetSmart and Zero Edge for the aquarium.

The $5,000 donation covered the cost of the aquarium, the cabinetry, a filtration system, and the tropical fish now living in it, Travilla said.

“It’s a great donation, and I think it’s one that shows the importance of working with the community and the importance of giving back,” King said. “Most importantly, the kids will be able to experience it. That’s the real value—the warm environment that the tank creates.”

Zero Edge Aquariums is located at 810 E. North St. in Elburn. For more information, visit

Sugar Grove, Aurora townships approve intergovernmental agreement

SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove and Aurora townships recently approved an intergovernmental agreement to bring transportation services for seniors and disabled persons in Sugar Grove Township.

The new agreement went into effect on July 1, and allows seniors, ages 65 and up, or disabled residents to schedule rides for medical appointments only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Interested persons need to register at the Aurora Township office, 80 N. Broadway in Aurora, prior to scheduling a ride. The fee is $4 per ride within a 10-mile radius, and a companion may ride along for free.

According to Sugar Grove Township Supervisor Tom Rowe, the new agreement extends transportation services for seniors and the disabled to Copley Hospital on the east, Delnor Hospital to the north, Dugan Road on the west, and Route 30 to the south.

If you would like more information about this topic, contact Sugar Grove Township at (630) 466-4283 or Aurora Township at (630) 897-8777.

2014 Kane County Fair 4-H schedule

PigInBucketHC0903_M_150_C_Y ST. CHARLES—The following is a schedule of 4-H events slated to take place during the 2014 Kane County Fair at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles.

Thursday, July 17
8 a.m. Swine Judging
8:30 a.m. Dairy Judging
8:30 a.m. Horse & Pony Judging
9 a.m. Rabbit Judging
5 p.m. Goat Judging

Friday, July 18
8:30 a.m. Beef Judging
10 a.m. Horse & Pony Fun Day

Saturday, July 19
8 a.m. Horse & Pony Dressage Show
4:30 p.m. Awards program, Arena
5:30 p.m. Milking Derby, Livestock Arena

Sunday, July 20
8 a.m. Blue Ribbon Sale set-up, Arena
1 p.m. Blue Ribbon Sale, Livestock Arena
5 p.m. 4-H exhibits area closes
6 p.m. 4-H exhibits released


Avenue J Studios, Peak for Kids move to North Aurora

Photo: Monday night saw performers from Avenue J Studios rehearsing for the upcoming show “Willy Wonka, Jr.” Sugar Grove resident Lexi Holt, 12, will play Mrs. Bucket.
Photo by Lynn Logan

SUGAR GROVE—Avenue J Studios and Peak for Kids are teaming up to create a studio for students.

The studio would offer kids a variety of activities on a regular basis. Jennifer Madziarczyk of Avenue J Studios and Renee Dee of Peak for Kids are Sugar Grove residents who have lived on the same street for the last 12 years, but they only met within the past year.

Both Dee and Madziarczyk have kids who attend Kaneland schools. They are passionate about serving the Kaneland School District through their organizations. After meeting, they realized that it would be perfect for them to work together, according to Dee.

“Jennifer empowers youth through performing arts, and I empower youth through a variety of healthy community programming and events,” Dee said. “It made perfect sense for us to create an alliance. It was a natural evolution.”

Initially, they had hopes of staying in Sugar Grove. According to Dee, the duo presented their first formal proposal to the Sugar Grove Village Board in April. After receiving no formal answer, they decided to search for an alternate location that could house their organization.

“We really wanted to be located here,” said Dee. “Our heart was in Sugar Grove. We were never able to secure a good and easily accessible location since we never received a formal response from the Sugar Grove board.”

After some thorough investigation, Dee and Madziarczyk discovered a building that would work well for them, located on the west side of North Aurora at the Orchard Road and Gateway corridor. Their new building is located in a shopping center next to State Farm and Carmax, located at 208-210 Genesis Drive. The new location is around 2,600 square feet and will provide adequate space for Avenue J Studios and Peak for Kids as they continue to grow and expand the programs they offer. Their expected move-in date is Friday, Aug. 1.

“This new location in North Aurora will be an amazing space for us,” Dee said.

Madziarczyk commented on how the new space will provide them with the opportunity to offer more to the community.

“We will have an office by day and activities by night,” Madziarczyk said. “We are thinking of offering a preschool, yoga for moms during the day, theatre camps, music and voice lessons, strings and guitar lessons, birthday parties, and more in the evening.”

There will be a reception area, a large studio, an open activity room, and three music rooms in the new location, according to Madziarczyk.

“We will also have what we call ‘Epic Friday Night Lights’ at this location that will be geared toward artsy activities,” Dee said. “It will have a creative twist. This new location will attract people from all over, but our main focus is the Kaneland area.”

Hultgren supports Illinois’ community banks with legislation

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that would ease Dodd-Frank’s regulatory burden on community banks, a lifeline of credit for Illinois farmers and rural communities.

Hultgren is a member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises.

“Community banks and credit unions are an essential lifeline to credit for small banks, farmers, and rural communities,” Hultgren said. “Too often, Washington bureaucrats force these institutions, which did not cause the recent financial crisis, into a one-size-fits all model of lending. We must change that, and promote a relationship lending model, where community banks extend credit not solely through the lens of credit scores and history, but making decisions informed by the knowledge they have from working on the ground in their communities.”

Hultgren sponsored the following bills:
• Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act (H.R. 2673) amends the Truth in Lending Act to define as a “qualified mortgage”—a category which exempts financial institutions from otherwise complying with costly regulations—a residential mortgage loan made by a creditor so long as the loan appears on the balance sheet of such creditor.
• Mortgage Choice Act of 2013 (H.R. 3211) provides regulatory relief to community banks and credit unions by modifying the definition of “points and fees” for the purposes of determining defining a qualified mortgage.
• Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2014 (H.R. 4521) provides regulatory relief to community banks and credit unions by exempting banks with assets below $10 billion from escrow requirements for loans held in portfolio, and amending the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act to increase the “small servicer” exception threshold to 20,000 annual loans (up from 5,000).
• Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act (H.R. 1553) improves the consistency and clarity of the federal examination process for financial institutions, reducing compliance costs for community banks.
• Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory Relief Act of 2013, or CLEAR Relief Act (H.R. 1750), provides various pieces of targeted regulatory relief for community banks and credit unions.
• Municipal Advisor Oversight Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 797) provides targeted regulatory relief to municipal advisors that advise state and local governments on financial matters.

Kane County Recycling Extravaganza set for Saturday

ST. CHARLES—Kane County will host a free residential recycling and document shredding event from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, at 540 S Randall Road in St. Charles.

The county will be collecting for reuse or recycling:
• Electronics and books
• Bikes, bike parts, helmets, bike baskets, sewing machines
• Mobility devices: wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, leg braces, scooters
• Fluorescent lamps (four foot tubes)
• Clothes, linens, curtains, paired shoes, hats, ties, belts, purses, backpacks, stuffed animals, plush toys
• Carpet and carpet padding (the speckled kind)
• Latex paint: No oil-based product will be accepted. Please note: Latex paint is the only item that has a recycling fee per container, payable by the resident with cash or check

Residential document shredding
Confidential document destruction will also be available, as the county will have two document shredding service trucks on site for residential use only (no businesses). Staples, paperclips, envelope windows are okay to leave in. Remove all large binder clips and plastic folders. Please do not bring periodicals, or other paper that does not need to be shredded and can go in your household recycling bin. All paper collected will be shredded on site and then taken for recycling. You can watch it being shredded.

What will not be collected:
• Oil, paint, or other household hazardous waste will not be accepted at this event.
• Styrofoam will not be accepted at this event.

Kane County continues to hold its Monthly Electronics and Book Recycling Collection Events at 540 S Randall Road, St. Charles, on the second Saturday of every month, between 8 a.m. and noon.

For more information, go to , or contact Jennifer Jarland, Kane County’s Recycling Program Coordinator at or (630) 208-3841.


Local church provides four-legged comfort

Photo: Chloe, a comfort dog from Lord of Life Lutheran Church in La Fox, gets love from some young dancers during a recent party at Dreams Dance Academy in La Fox. Photo by Debbie Behrends

LA FOX—Chloe Comfort Dog is living proof that happiness is a warm dog. And she recently visited with some young dancers at Dreams Dance Academy in LaFox.

A dozen little girls gently stroked Chloe’s soft golden coat, some sharing stories of their own pets or the desire for a dog. Handler Sue Kessler of South Elgin, Ill., listened to their stories, and shared a few tales of Chloe’s visits to people in need of the comfort a warm, gentle and calm dog can provide.

“(Chloe’s) been to Sandy Hook, to New York after superstorm Sandy, to Rockford after a shooting, Washington, Ill., after the November tornado, and so many more places,” Kessler said of the 3-year-old Golden Retriever.

A member of Lutheran Church Charities (LCC), Chloe is based at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in La Fox. Chloe’s mission, according to her Facebook page, is to bring a calming influence, allowing people to open their hearts and receive help in times of need.

Kessler explained that Chloe was trained as a general service dog in a women’s prison. She was picked specifically as a comfort dog based on her gentle temperament. She was 13 months old when her leash was passed to handlers at Lord of Life.

Chloe’s primary handlers are Sandy and Bob Kessler. Although she is of no relation to the primary handlers, Sue laughingly refers to herself as “Chloe’s grandma.”

Sue is no stranger to comfort dogs. She said she has been a handler before, and was among the first comfort teams to arrive at Northern Illinois University after the 2008 shooting that left six students dead.

“I was excited when the church decided to get a comfort dog,” Sue said.

Lutheran Church Charities’ website shows 44 working comfort dogs all over Northern Illinois and other states, as well. Two more are in training.

Dreams Dance Academy owner Jenny O’Brien learned of Chloe online.

“I saw a picture on Facebook of one of my students with the dog,” O’Brien said. “I contacted the church and invited her here.”

Watching her young dancers interact with Chloe, O’Brien smiled, pleased that she had reached out.

For more information about LCC and its comfort dogs, visit and click the Ministries tab and then K-9 Comfort Dog. For more pictures and specific information about Chloe, visit Facebook and search for Chloe Comfort Dog.


Dance teacher assists with ‘bucket list’ wish

Photo: Jenny O’Brien, owner of Dreams Dance Academy in La Fox, assists Cammy Babiarz in crossing an item off her bucket list by helping her tap dance. Photo by Debbie Behrends

LA FOX—The “tappa-tappa-tappa” of a dozen pairs of small feet was accompanied by excited squeals of glee on Sunday at Dreams Dance Academy in La Fox.

Although Cameron “Cammy” Babiarz, 5, of Wheaton, is in a wheelchair and unable to tap on her own, Dreams Dance Academy teacher Jenny O’Brien and a young assistant moved her legs so she could feel and hear the taps, too.

Cammy at 18 months of age was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects about one in 10,000 girls.

“I was just really touched by their story,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien became acquainted with the Babiarz family in March when Cammy’s dad, Bill Babiarz, ran across Illinois to raise awareness for the syndrome and funds for research. He made a stop in Elburn, and Jenny and her students presented him with several pairs of legwarmers for Cammy.

In the past year, the Babiarz family has raised about $90,000 for research. And Cammy has been accepted into a clinical trial starting in July in Boston for drug therapy that may reverse the syndrome’s effects.

“Hopefully this drug will be beneficial,” said Cammy’s mom, Jackie Babiarz. “(Rett’s) was reversed in mice in 2007. We’re confident there will be a cure in her lifetime.”

According to Jackie, Rett’s is not terminal, but life expectancy is “about 40” years of age. She said there was no indication at birth that anything was wrong with Cammy.

“It’s just a genetic fluke; it’s not hereditary,” Jackie said. “(Cammy) developed normally until she was about 8 months old, when she just stopped progressing. At 14 months she lost hand function, and at 18 months she lost the ability to sit up on her own.”

Tap dancing is one of the many items on Cammy’s bucket list. And that’s where O’Brien comes in.

A dance teacher for 15 years, O’Brien teaches a wide variety of styles in addition to tap dance, including ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and musical theater. With no specific training for working with children with special needs, O’Brien said she loves teaching and loves working with children.

Jackie said Cammy receives aquatherapy and hippotherapy, allowing her to enjoy swimming and horseback riding. Although she is unable to speak, Cammy uses eye-tracking devices and buttons to communicate with her family and teachers.

“We were just so excited when Jenny offered this special party. It brought tears to my eyes to see how excited Cammy was,” Jackie said.

The party also was attended by Cammy’s younger sister, Ryan, 3, along with several cousins and friends.

O’Brien said she would like to start a class for children with special needs.

For more information about Dreams Dance Academy, call (630) 262-5051 or visit


Great turnout & success for Special Olympics fundraiser

ELBURN—Sunday marked the seventh annual Pulling for Special Olympics event, held at the St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club in Elburn. The event year after year continues to grow and includes more people who are passionate about raising funds for Special Olympics participants.

The funds that are raised at the event are allocated for the participation fees for people who want to participate in the Special Olympics. Over 350 people attended the event on Sunday for an afternoon of clay pigeon and trap shooting.

Colleen MacRunnels, one of the main organizers of the event, commented on the importance of the fundraiser.

“The money we raise pays the participation for people in the Special Olympics,” she said. “We also have all-in participants today who pay $500 to shoot. It warms my heart.”

The Maple Park Police are supporters of the event, and many of the officers, including Chief Mike Acosta, were in attendance. Maple Park Police Officer Ray Radis was there to help out, as well.

“I’ll do anything to help,” Radis said. “It’s great for the kids, and it’s a wonderful to do.”

Acosta has been participating in Pulling for the Special Olympics since he started working in Maple Park.

“This is a great event, and it teaches people how to use a gun safely,” Acosta said. “It also raises a lot of money. We would like to be the highest-raising group in the state of Illinois this year.”

This year, organizers added a special twist and invited disabled veterans out to the event at no charge. Janet and Charlie Johnson from the Vaughan Paralyzed Veterans of America appeared at the event to show their support.

“This is a great opportunity for veterans to assimilate back into civilian life and use guns for recreational purposes,” Janet said. “They can feel good about being at this event that’s for a good cause without being the spotlight.”

There was also a raffle and a silent auction run by Jim MacRunnels.

“Our sponsors donated all kinds of guns, equipment for the guns and for camping,” Jim said. “There are also bigger items, too.”

Jim later said that over $45,000 was raised during the afternoon.

A couple of outdoor games and activities were also set up for people to enjoy during the event. Stacy Reever and her daughter, Kassidy, volunteered for the day and were helping out with a couple of activities.

“I have been helping to fundraise for the Special Olympics for 10 years, and my daughter Kassidy has volunteered with me,” Stacy said. “Kassidy started a Special Olympics club by us when there wasn’t one.”

Terry Monnett, a supporter of the event, became involved in helping raise funds for the Special Olympics because of the MacRunnels’ interest in the cause.

“The president of the gun club at the time was very supportive of raising funds for the Special Olympics when we approached him, and the club has been a great help ever since,” Monnett said. “This is one of the most unique events, and I’ve heard of other people in different areas wanting to create an event like this one after they hear about it.”


Play on at McNair Field

BLACKBERRY TWP.—Mya McIntire’s team, the Blue Sox, played their first game of the season at McNair Field on Sunday, thanks to the efforts of Blackberry Township to renew the lease on the field.

Mya and her father, Steve McIntire, vice president of the Elburn Youth Baseball and Softball League (EYBSL), and other league representatives attended Tuesday’s township meeting to thank township trustees for their support of the league.

The previous lease, negotiated 10 years ago between Blackberry Township and the landowner Transmission Relay Corporation, had granted local athletic leagues the use of five of the corporation’s 20 acres south and east of the intersection of Bateman and Rowe roads in exchange for a fee of $1 a year. According to township officials, the checks were never cashed.

Elburn Youth Baseball volunteers during the past 10 years had made a number of improvements to the property. Last year, they had begun the process of expanding the field’s parking lot when they received a call telling them to hold off on the expansion. It was then that the baseball organization members realized the lease had expired on April 30, 2013.

Since November of last year, township trustees have been attempting to renegotiate the lease with TRC so that the youth organization could continue using the field. The meetings were cordial, and according to Township Road Commissioner Rod Feece, landowner Lynn Limanowski was receptive to the baseball organization continuing to use the field. However, he said she was not open to the property being used for football activities.

Township Commissioner Jim Michels said they were finally able to come to terms on a one-year lease, which will expire at the end of November 2014. The agreement allows for baseball and softball, but not football, and requires the township to pay $2,600 for the use of the field for this year, which includes attorney’s fees.

Michels said that the township will begin negotiations this summer for future use of the field.

Hultgren bringing office to 14th District constituents

Sugar Grove among selected locations
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) recently announced that staff members from his Geneva office will be traveling throughout the 14th Congressional District during the month of May to meet with constituents. These meetings are on top of the many meetings he will hold with constituents during the district work period next week.

Hultgren’s staff will appear on Wednesday, May 21, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sugar Grove Village Hall, 10 Municipal Drive, Sugar Grove.

Staff will be available for a full day to address any issues constituents may have with federal agencies, listen to their concerns and deliver those concerns directly to the Congressman. Staff can assist with state-related issues and give assistance regarding Social Security benefits, Medicare, Veteran’s Affairs, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Internal Revenue Service and more.

“I am looking forward to being able to serve the constituents where they live throughout the 14th District, and I am especially excited to make my staff available to assist for a full working day so constituents have ample opportunity to connect with Congress,” Hultgren said. “As their representative in Congress, I am ready to assist my constituents as they interact with the federal government.”


Photos: Home on the range

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez with Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, dig the first scoops of dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Kane County Shooting Range, located at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles last Friday.


Rivals come together in Cougar-land

Photo: KHS softball coach Brian Willis, who is battling colon cancer, will be honored at Monday’s Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park in Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland-Batavia clash to benefit great causes
KANELAND—Area baseball teams aren’t only mindful of the postseason task ahead. They’re also willing and able to help out their fellow man.

“This annual tradition has given us an avenue to do something bigger than baseball and has allowed each of the programs involved to give back to the community,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

On Monday, May 19, at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Midwest League’s Kane County Cougars, Kaneland and Batavia will do battle for a Senior Night game that will benefit three honorees.

The honorees are Harter Middle School student Drew Hahn, son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn, and dealing with Anaplastic Large-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Phil Kassinger, father of Knight baseball player Kevin Kassinger, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer; and KHS softball coach Brian Willis, battling colon cancer.

“This year, we’ve found multiple needs in our community, and it is unfortunate that we can’t reach all the families that have been touched by this dreaded disease,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Willis, who is scheduled for his last chemotherapy treatment the day of the game, is thankful of the proceedings.

“Thankfully I am almost done and hope I am cleared of any cancer cells left in my body,” Willis said. “Every day a new struggle starts or continues and that is who we fight for.”

Admission is $5 for adults and students, with kids under 6 able to be admitted for free. All proceeds collected will be donated to the honorees and their families.

The game is also slated to be broadcast on BATV, and the radio. Shirts will be available for purchase and multiple silent auctions will be going toward the benefit of the families, as well.

“This will be a very special night for the seniors, their parents, both baseball programs, and the people that we will be honoring,” Aversa said.

First pitch for the sophomore game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., while the varsity is slated to begin at 7 p.m. under the lights.

Visit for more details.

Hultgren commends Illinois’ heroin state of emergency declaration

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) recently commended the Illinois State House for unanimously passing a resolution declaring a “heroin state of emergency” across the state, and pushed for the community to come together to finalize a plan to combat heroin and opioid abuse. In recent years, heroin has seen a striking reappearance in the Chicago area, including in the collar counties.

“Heroin and opioid abuse is a growing threat to our communities in Illinois, as we found out at my community leadership forum last month. I applaud the Illinois House for recognizing the seriousness of the situation, but we must act now to stem the tide of heroin deaths and overdose,” Rep. Hultgren said. “What we need is an action plan that our entire community can pursue, and I encourage everyone to review the community forum’s draft action plan and send their recommendations to my office so we can finalize a solution to move forward and coordinate our efforts across northern Illinois. I will be sharing this draft action plan with the state legislators for their review. Together, we can combat heroin and opioid abuse and provide hope for the victims and their families caught in its trap.”

Hultgren on March 7 convened a Community Leadership Forum on Heroin Prevention in Geneva to bring together a diverse array of experts and local and state leaders—including law enforcement, drug courts, elected officials, educators, treatment providers and recovery centers—to share resources and ideas to tackle the growing threat of heroin addiction and opioid abuse in northern Illinois. Participants represented all seven of the collar counties, including Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb and Will counties.

Following the event, Hultgren launched an event summary and working draft action plan, available at, based on the breakout discussion groups and ensure community coordination and follow-up to what was discussed.


Swimming with ‘sharks’

Sugar Grove couple’s trackless train scores investors on ABC show
SUGAR GROVE—An appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” was just the ticket for Sugar Grove residents Stan Krozel and Kevin Ullery, who scored two billionaire investors for their trackless train amusement ride in an episode that aired April 11.

The Sugar Grove pair appeared on the popular reality show to pitch their business, Fun Time Express, which offers rides on a trackless miniature train in shopping malls, to a group of wealthy entrepreneurs—the “sharks”—who look for new businesses and products to invest in.

“Shark Tank,” now in its fifth season, currently stars billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of AXS TV and the Dallas Mavericks, as well as real estate investor Barbara Corcoran, QVC star Lori Grenier, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion and branding expert Daymond John, and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary.

Krozel and Ullery flew out to Los Angeles last fall to ask the sharks for $125,000 in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the company so that they could further expand.

Despite a dramatic presentation where they rode into the room in the train, the company nearly didn’t get an investor. Grenier changed her mind at the last minute when Krozel modified the pitch to sweeten the deal, offering to pay back the $125,000 out of this year’s profits. She agreed to put up half of the $125,000 if O’Leary would partner with her—a moment that left both Krozel and Ullery cheering.

“We are going to bring a trackless train in every mall in America!” Krozel exclaimed in the episode.

It’s a great opportunity for Krozel and Ullery, but it wasn’t easy to get there.
Developing the perfect pitch for the show was one of the biggest challenges for the duo, who had only one chance to sell the concept to the sharks.

“Before you go out, they know nothing about you, and you get one shot,” Ullery said. “So you really need to be prepared, and it’s very nerve racking.”

Krozel said that presenting a clear financial picture was key to securing investors.
“We were really very prepared with our numbers, and we had evaluated our business and what it was worth,” Krozel said.

Fun Time Express is in its third year of operation—the first train began running at the Cherry Vale Mall in Rockford, Ill., in 2011—and the business has tripled since then. Eight trains are now operating in five states, including three in Illinois, and the company’s gross revenues were $300,000 in 2013, up from $96,000 in 2011. About 30 percent of that is profit, Ullery said.

Krozel handles the company’s business operations and finances, while Ullery handles the company’s marketing, website and graphic design. It’s been a good business pairing for the couple, who said working together has strengthened their relationship.

It isn’t the first time they’ve worked together. They also own Royal Service Realty, a real estate company that they opened in 2002 in Aurora, Ill. After the housing market crashed in 2008, the couple had to close their main office in Aurora, which Ullery describes as one of the toughest moments in their lives. Though they still own and operate Royal Service Realty—a smaller office survived—they needed to find a second source of income during the recession.

When Krozel first suggested the idea of opening a business specializing in train amusement rides, though, Ullery admits he didn’t think it was the wisest idea.

“I thought he had lost his mind,” Ullery said.

But Krozel was serious, and when Ullery went to see a similar train in action, he realized that the business had real potential.
“I thought, ‘Oh wow, we can really do this and take it to a whole other level,” Ullery said. “If you had told me four or five years ago that I would be running choo-choo trains in the mall, I would’ve said you were crazy. But it’s been amazing.”

Fun Time Express has been growing, but Krozel and Ullery thought it had the potential to be much bigger. Purchasing more trains—each one costs about $37,000—and negotiating with malls was a challenge, though.

“There’s always an uphill battle with any new business,” Krozel said. “Some of the concerns malls have is how you’re going to drive a train through a mall with shoppers.”

The trains operate at walking speed, Ullery said, which makes it easy to avoid shoppers, and because they don’t stop at stores, there’s no issue with people trying to get on or off while the train is moving. They’ve never had an accident.

An appearance on “Shark Tank,” the couple realized, could help them gain the money and contacts they needed to expand further, as well as increase the visibility of their business. They applied to be on the show a year ago, and producers were interested enough to ask them to submit a video application to see how they did on camera.

After that, producers flew them out to Los Angeles to meet the production team and film the episode last fall, but there was no guarantee they’d make it in front of the sharks until they’d worked through part of their pitch.

They were required to keep their appearance and the show’s result secret for nearly six months until the episode aired.

“It was so hard to keep it a secret,” Ullery said. “But the nature of the show is keeping people guessing. It was difficult, but it was also fun to surprise all our friends and family.”

Though their pitch was condensed to 12 minutes for television, Krozel and Ullery met with the sharks for over an hour.

“Even though it’s condensed on air, we were in front of them for four or five times as long,” Krozel said. “There were a lot more details behind the scenes. (Viewers) don’t see how they come up with their questions, but there are more details about the finances and specific details about the product and where the businesses are located.”

Some of the details about the filming aren’t supposed to be revealed, Ullery said, but each business creating a pitch is assigned a producer who helps them design the pitch.

“It’s really up to you to get it right,” he said. “We just practiced over and over.”

Producers also came out to Sugar Grove to film the couple at their home, offering a glimpse into their home and personal life, which doesn’t happen with all contestants. The “home package,” as Ullery described it, was somewhat less realistic—the episode showed the pair sitting in rocking chairs on their front porch, which they rarely do—but otherwise the show is absolutely real, he said.

“Of course they edit for television, but ‘Shark Tank’ is the real deal and the negotiations are legitimate,” he said. “The producers and everybody involved were nothing but wonderful.”

In the six months since Grenier and O’Leary committed to investing in Fun Time Express, the partnership has been moving forward. Grenier and O’Leary are serving as financial backers for the company, but the business itself hasn’t changed much yet.

“They want small businesses to keep doing what they’re doing,” Krozel said. “They are just offering advice and contacts. There’s a limit to how fast a small business can grow, and this is a catalyst to help you grow quicker and bigger.”

Their appearance on “Shark Tank” and securing investors has been an amazing experience overall, Ullery said.

“I can say this: this was one of the proudest moments we’ve had as a couple,” he said.

“Shark Tank” airs on Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC. To watch the episode Krozel and Ullery appeared on, visit ABC’s website at and select Episode 24; the Fun Time Express pitch is the third segment.

courtesy photos

KHS, McDole in tech demonstration

SPRINGFIELD—Kaneland High School and McDole Elementary School are among approximately two of 60 schools statewide that will participate in the annual TECH 2014 Students for the Information Age event on Thursday, May 8, at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield.

From 1 to 3 p.m., students will show the public and elected members of the Illinois State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is being used in the classroom to improve student achievement. Computer workstations will be set up in the Capitol Building Rotunda so students may show how technology has helped them with their schoolwork.

Taking part in the demonstrations locally are KHS seniors Andrea Petrarca and Jackson Thomas, junior Alexander Ochoa, and teacher Beth Trafton. Representing McDole Elementary School will be teachers Anne Olsen and Cathy Lannert, and selected fourth- and fifth-grade students. Students will share how their knowledge of Google documents has enhanced their
learning to better prepare them for college and beyond, as well as innovative blogging ideas for writing.

The purpose of TECH 2014 is to raise awareness of the critical role technology plays in preparing students to succeed in today’s world, and to show the need for increased funding for classroom technology. Students will demonstrate for lawmakers and the public the creative ways technology is being used to enhance and accelerate student achievement in Illinois schools today.


An Easter journey

Photo: Valleybrook Community Church Pastor Brian Smith of Batavia touches base on the meaning of Easter with the youth before excusing them to Sunday school. Photo by Lynn Logan

Valleybrook Church celebrates Easter with new location
MAPLE PARK—Valleybrook Community Church celebrated Easter on Sunday in its new location at the former Kaneland Middle School on Meredith Road, next to the high school.

Valleybrook was founded in 2002 and began life at the former campus of the Broadview Academy on Keslinger Road in La Fox. The church in 2005 moved to Blackberry Creek Elementary School in Elburn.

Valleybrook was originally a daughter church to the First Baptist Church of Geneva. Initially it had a launch team of 100 people from the First Baptist Church, and now has around 150 people who attend regularly. After experiencing an increase in attendance, Pastor Brian Smith felt it was time for Valleybrook to move to a different location that would support a bigger congregation.

“With growth in attendance beginning to squeeze us at Blackberry Creek last fall, we learned of the larger middle school and made plans to hold our larger Christmas service there in December (2013),” Pastor Smith said. “Our people were excited about the middle school facility at Christmas, and we began to explore possibilities of making a more permanent move by Easter.”

The church gathered together at their new location at 9:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday to enjoy a continental reception with coffee and rolls, followed by its worship service at 10 a.m.

Their service featured a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary music, a children’s lesson, and a message explaining why Christ’s death on the cross is the most important gift that the world has ever received, according to Pastor Smith. Kids in grades kindergarten through third had their children’s church during the service, where they learned about the importance of the meaning behind Easter.

After their regular church services, Valleybrook has what it calls a “connection time,” which is similar to Sunday school for adults and children.

A forward-thinking church, Valleybrook has already preselected a location should it choose to have a new facility built in the future.

“The location is on Hughes Road, not far from Route 47,” Pastor Smith said. “As far as the timing, that is in God’s hands.”


Teamwork turns discovery of books into opportunity

Photos: Elburn Lions Club members, community supporter Melisa Taylor and surrounding school district (including Kaneland and West Aurora) and community members recently collaborated to compile a large assortment of books for the Elburn Lions for Literacy program to donate. Over 2,000 brand-new books were distributed to surrounding schools and families, including the Guerreros (right), and Julio and Erik Gallegos (below, left to right) of Sugar Grove. Photos by Lynn Logan

ELBURN—Elburn Lion Joe Kryszak said he’s good at making pork chops and raising money. That’s why, when Lion Brooke Kelley’s husband Vince and his brother Gene came upon a motherlode of beautiful, brand new books in a repossessed warehouse in early January, Kryszak called on the people who were experts on books.

The Kelley brothers were cleaning out the warehouse when they found about 4,000 mostly elementary-level children’s books. Many of the books were bilingual, with Spanish words alongside the English translation.
Vince knew that Kryszak was in charge of the Elburn Lions for Literacy program, so the brothers contacted him. The mission of the Lions program is to get age and gender-specific books into the hands of needy children within the Kaneland School District.

Kryszak enlisted the help of local librarians, as well as Dr. Sarah Mumm, Kaneland School District’s director of Educational Services for grades K-5. They were able to help sort the books by age and gender.

Representatives from Westside Services, the Maple Park Family Fund, Between Friends Food Pantry in Sugar Grove, as well as area churches, provided anonymous lists of children to receive the books.

“Everybody got involved,” Kryszak said. “The sorting process took well over a month, with various members of the community helping.”

Members of the Literacy Committee, including Lions Pam Hall, Bob Burkholder, Mary Gustafson and Hilda Meyer, helped sort, as did Town and Country Public Library employee Ben Brown and Friends of the Library members Al Guthke and Sharon Kryszak.

Lions Ron Algrim and Tom Mahan made sure that the driveway to the garage was continuously plowed so the volunteers could get into the building to sort, and Lions J.D. Lamb and Tommy McCartney gave up a Sunday afternoon of watching football for moving cases upon cases of books from one area to another.

Melisa Taylor, director of the Between Friends Food Pantry Director in Sugar Grove, received some of the books from Kryszak to distribute to the Food Pantry’s clients for their children and grandchildren.

Taylor, who also collects and distributes coats to families in need each year, contacted the West Aurora School District with coats beyond what was needed in Kaneland. When Laurie Klomhaus, principal of Aurora-based Todd Early Childhood Center, came to the food pantry to pick up the coats, Kryszak was there volunteering.

Kryszak found that Klomhaus was interested in the collection of bilingual books for her families, and he was glad to find a home for them.

“They are absolutely gorgeous books,” Klomhaus said.

They are called board books, as they are made with a hard, stiff cardboard, she said. They are smaller and thicker, making it easier for little hands to manipulate them, and they’re great for parents to read with their children.

“I was just at the right place at the right time,” Klomhaus said. “It’s neat how it all worked out.”

Klomhaus said she has begun to distribute the books to the families in her program, which includes 380 3- to 5-year-olds who are all at-risk for one reason or another. The Early Childhood Center gives these children a leg-up to get ready for kindergarten, she said.

The next distribution of books in the Kaneland District will take place during the Easter holiday, Kryszak said. It’s the literacy program’s second year.

“From two brothers standing in a warehouse to kids getting new books. Isn’t it surprising what can happen when a community chips in to help those less fortunate?” Kryszak said.

Kryszak said that the Elburn Lions for Literacy will host a book drive in May, and will gladly accept new or gently-used book donations. He said a good test for what “gently used” means is that they are good enough to give to his grandchildren.

“We asked the librarians, ‘Where do we start with kids?’,” Kryszak said. “They told us, ‘As soon as they can hold a book.’”

For information on how to participate and assist in combatting illiteracy in our community, visit the Elburn Lions website,

stefanos sioux falls cropped

House of Steel

Lekkas brothers have lived lives on ice
ELBURN—There’s a whole lot of hockey talent in Elburn.

Much of it is courtesy of one household.

The Lekkas brothers of Elburn have long shown an affinity for hockey, having all participated to various degrees. Even when not participating, the chill of the sport was always around.

“Hockey was always on TV in the house, always that instead of MTV,” said Stefanos, who graduated high school in Springfield this past December and has donned the goalie mask for the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues and currently for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.

Older brother Stelios, a sophomore in the medical program at University of Illinois-Chicago, also participated in cross country at Kaneland and played hockey before shoulder surgery put his ice career on the backburner. Youngest, but not least, is eighth-grader Evan, who attends Kaneland Harter Middle School and is currently playing “AAA” level with the Chicago Young Americans this spring.

“There was always 110 percent support for each other. Our house was definitely a hockey home,” Stefanos said. “I think it was great my parents (Angelo and Lisa) followed it.”

Angelo, principal of Genoa-Kingston middle school, is able to view the sport as a bonding experience for any family, not just the Lekkas’ of Elburn.

Courtesy photos
Courtesy photos

“Hockey is a very family-oriented sport,” Angelo said. “Due to the long distances and overnight trips, families and players spend many hours together in rink lobbies and hotels. Very strong bonds develop. The relationships they build last a lifetime.

“Each of the boys drove their decision to play and the level to which they take their game,” Angelo said.

Stefanos, who was named team MVP in Springfield at the conclusion of the last season, was called up to Sioux Falls and got thrown into the fire on ice, having to step into goal in the middle of the April 5 regular season finale against the Omaha Lancers. Stopping 12 of 12 shot attempts in the 3-2 loss, the netminder was cognizant of the level of play.

“Every level you move up, the players that move up with you are better,” he said. “You’re playing for an opportunity and trying to go to college for free.”

The Stampede, facing the Waterloo Black Hawks this week in the USHL playoffs first round, led the league in attendance with over 127,000 fans in 2013-14 at the Sioux Falls Arena.

“Springfield is the capital, and it’s a good team, but hockey is big in Sioux Falls. They get a lot of support there and the arena is packed and the whole town rallies,” Stelios said. “I’ll always try to give him a shoutout on Facebook after a game or call him.”

The Tier 1 junior hockey level club has accented the strides Stefanos feels he’s made in the two years since suiting up for the Chicago Mission U16 club in Midget-level hockey.

“I’m just mentally able to handle adversity better and whatever comes along,” Stefanos said. “I just try to go out every day and stick with what works.”

Stelios had to make a decision after shoulder surgery stopped his forward momentum and championship run with the “AA” level Northwest Chargers of Hoffman Estates, Ill., but can still be supportive and offer experience.

“I still wanted to play, and it kind of sucks to stop,” Stelios said. “I talked it over with my parents, who played a big role, and it was tough at the time, but it ended up being the right decision.”

The current UIC Flame student can point at his mask-donning brother as taking the passion to a new level in the family.

“Hockey is definitely our No. 1 sport. I’m not as crazy as my brother about it, he was only hockey. We would watch it all the time on TV, but we still have our stupid shows we watch,” Stelios said.

Now with Evan coming up through the ranks, the elder brothers can relive a bit of what they went through, and even issue perspective.

“Evan’s getting up there now, and it’s cool to see and to see him go through some of the same things I went through,” Stefanos said. “I’ll do anything I can for him.”

“He’s a real hard worker, and it’s going to turn out all right for him,” Stelios said. “He’s very focused.”

With the brothers having spent countless hours in chilly ice arenas, pride for the hockey accomplishments don’t need to thaw.

“I’ve been very fortunate to spend hundreds of hours with each of my kids coaching them on the ice,” Angelo said.

Stefanos and the Stampede began the first round of the Western Conference semifinals in Waterloo, Iowa, on Friday, losing 7-4 to Waterloo. Saturday saw the the Stampede lose 6-3, they now travel back to home ice tonight at 7:05 p.m.

When not picking
up the stick, the brothers are also musically inclined.
Stelios plays piano,
Stefanos plays trumpet
and Evan plays violin.

Broader band

Village Board discusses potential fiber optic grant
SUGAR GROVE—The Sugar Grove Village Board on Tuesday discussed an application for a grant to fund a fiber optic project.

The competitive grant would allow the village to implement fiber optics from Kaneland Harter Middle School to John Shields Elementary School and also to Sugar Grove Village Hall, Fire District and the Public Library.

Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger explained the possibilities and details concerning the grant.

“It looks like this is a joint project,” Eichelberger said. “This project would have an extensive cost, but if we got the grant, it would make it affordable for us all.”

Kaneland School District hasn’t 100 percent signed off on this idea, but it is for the project, according to Eichelberger. The main base project would concern the connecting of fiber optics to John Shields Elementary.

There is currently a main fiber optic strand that runs on I-88 and Route 47, and Harter Middle School connects to that line via Waubonsee Community College. If the project were to be finalized and the grant received, a small fiber optic line would also run from the middle school and travel down Esker Drive, Municipal Drive and then Route 30 to connect to Village Hall.

According to Eichelberger, the project would potentially lay down 96 fiber optic strands and create a limitless bandwidth, according to Eichelberger.

Village President Sean Michels noted that it would be possible for village businesses to connect to the dark fiber.

“The first step would be applying for the grant,” Eichelberger said. “We think it has a good shot.”


Kaneland celebrates 15th Fine Arts Festival

Photos: The Kaneland Arts Initiative celebrated its 15th annual Fine Arts Festival on Sunday at Kaneland High School. The event boasted a wealth of professional artists, musicians, dancers and actors. Peter Thaddeus (right) creates an acrylic work of art to add to those displayed around him. Peter has a B.A. in interior design from the Illinois Institute of Art. He not only creates acrylic paintings, but enjoys teaching others to do the same. Potter Earl Heinz (below) works with McDole second-grader Gianna Walgren to create a clay masterpiece. Photos by Patti Wilk

KANELAND—More than 500 Kaneland School District art pieces were on display at the Kaneland Arts Initiative’s 15th annual Fine Arts Festival on Sunday.

The festival also had a variety of professional artists, musicians, dancers and actors. According to Maria Dripps-Paulson, executive director of KAI, about 2,500 attended the arts gala, held at Kaneland High School.

“There’s always something new. And always something fun,” Dripps-Paulson said.

The event showed art in the hallway, around the corner and in the pavillion, aka cafeteria.
Gloria Elliott, a fifth-grader at Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School, during the festival walked to a display table and pointed out her artistic creation. Elliott, a Maple Park resident, had made a little lavender with blue specks dragon sculpture with thin wings flapped out.

She said it was cool to be able to show her work.

“People actually get to see what you’ve made,” Elliott said. “It just makes you feel really happy to see it.”

Kaneland parent Chris Wimberger, a Sugar Grove resident, expressed his appreciation for the festival.

“We have, I think, just a mix of everybody—diverse backgrounds and different cultures,” he said. “Seeing all that come together in the form of art is just amazing.”

Dylan Good Trio took center stage in the dark auditorium during the Fine Arts Festival. Good, a Kaneland High School graduate, was featured as the fest’s Kaneland Alumni Spotlight.

The trio included Good on drums, Dan Lopatka on bass and Mike Lockler on electric guitar. Together they blended jazzy, mellow and cool sounds with a beating drum pulse.

Autumn Ross, a KHS sophomore, had an art piece that stood out during the arts festival. From afar it gave the appearance of a colorless drawing with eyebrows, wide almond-shaped eyes and thick, curved lashes, with the bottom of her eyes showing diamond-shaped tears.

A closer look showed no tears but rather fingers gripping, clutching.

“It’s creepy,” said Kim Yost, a Sugar Grove resident.

Paul Quitno of Rochelle, Ill., approved of Ross’ artwork.

“That’s very artistic,” Quitno said. “Very creative.”

The pavillion came alive with professional artists doing their crafts. The Kaneland Youth Orchestra serenaded those in attendance with slow tunes.

Lawrence J. Cimaglio did a glass-fusing demonstration during the festival. He rolled glass in a flame, then he blew the end of the glass and it bubbled to become a Christmas ornament.

Lee Chulwoo provided Korean calligraphy, dipping his brush in black ink and painting characters on thin, white Korean paper made of rice.

Breanna Roberts, a John Stewart Elementary School student, smiled as she watched her name written in the calligraphy.

“I’ve never seen something in Korean,” she said.

Greta Bell, a modern oil painting artist, peddled on a red bike and powered a colorful carousel, an “r/evolving circus.”

As the carousel moved, it showed vivid painted canvases. Painted pictures included a chandelier, teddy bear and cassette. Each picture represents a submitted story that Bell turned into art.

Natasha Lehrer pumped her feet up and down on treadles of a spinning wheel. She used a mix of wool and angora to create yarn.

“It brought back memories,” onlooker Martin Perez said. “It brought me back to my childhood and growing up with my great-grandparents, helping them do the same thing (Lehrer’s) doing here. So it’s an emotional thing.”

Meanwhile, Michael Shiroda, caricature artist, created standout caricatures of posed attendees, making exaggerated facial features. His tool of choice was a Caran d’Ache Fixpencil. He smudged the art with a blending stump.

“It creates a little bit more depth,” Shiroda said.

Hix Bros. Ukulele Ensemble brought in the tropical singing and ukulele sounds of Hawaii. Dancers smiled and moved hands gracefully.

People from C.AK.E. Village, an African cultural, visual and performing arts center, had volunteers on the auditorium stage as drums sounded like a party happening.

Dancers from The Barefoot Hawaiian, a professional dance troop, did hula dancing. As the lights turned off, one tossed a glowing fire-like stick and circled it round and round to the sound of a beating drum.

Michael McCormack, a junior at KHS and member of the school’s Science Club, helped students make harmonicas out of popsicle sticks, tiny straws and rubber bands.

Leah DeClue, 10, a Shabbonah, Ill., resident, used the harmonica to create a sound she described as “weird.”

“I think it’s actually interesting because I’ve never seen anything made out of popsicle sticks,” DeClue said.

KHS Art Club members painted dragons and black cats on childrens’ cheeks. One child walked around while sporting a full-faced tiger.

Art Club members also twisted balloons into pink swords and yellow and red flowers with green stems.

Brianna Silva, a sixth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, participated in an acting workshop through Avenue J Studios. She pinpointed what made the festival “a great one.”

“Probably being able to just let my personality go,” Silva said. “When we were doing charades, I didn’t have to hold back on what I was going to say or what I was going to do. I just got to do it and got to have fun in that moment.”


Student urges community to ‘Seize the Purple’

Photo: “I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves. It affects over six million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does
deserve more awareness than it is given.”
Samantha Havlin, Kaneland High School junior photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—People can learn more about epilepsy this month thanks to Samantha Havlin, a junior at Kaneland High School.

Havlin, an Elburn resident, recently organized “Seize the Purple,” a DECA project that is a 5k walk-and-run event intended to create epilepsy awareness in the local community. The event will take place on Saturday, April 19, at Kaneland Harter Middle School, 1601 Esker Drive, Sugar Grove.

Why purple? It’s the color of epilepsy awareness.

“I personally feel that epilepsy doesn’t get the awareness that it deserves,” Havlin said. “It affects over 6 million people worldwide, and it’s just as common as breast cancer is. And I just think it really does deserve more awareness than it is given.”

Havlin said she has noticed KHS students who have epilepsy.

“I would say a hundred percent, they are exactly like you and I,” Havlin said. “They’re normal people. They just have frequent seizures.”

Josh Marczuk, an eighth-grader at Kaneland Harter Middle School, was diagnosed with epilepsy during his basketball season this year.

Marczuk acknowledged that having epilepsy can sometimes be hard.

“Always having to be aware of stuff,” he said.

Marczuk pointed out that he has to sleep eight to 10 hours so that a seizure won’t be triggered. And what should a person do if they happen to be around Marczuk while he has a seizure?

“Call my mom,” Marczuk said. “Or 911. And put me on my side.”

Marczuk said he experiences a “black out” during a seizure. Sharon Marczuk, Josh’s mom, described what it is like to see her son suffer a grand mal seizure in front of her, shaking and biting his tongue for “a minute or so.”

“It seems forever,” Sharon said. “Probably one of the most traumatizing things to see.”

Sharon expressed her gratitude for the upcoming 5k event.

“I do know from my younger child (Jimmy), being diagnosed with cancer as a baby that until it touches you, you really don’t understand the whole concept of having a child who is sick,” she said. “So the fact that she doesn’t (know the concept first-hand) and wants to raise all this awareness for a good cause is just awesome.”

Havlin’s mom, Melissa Hubbard, said that she is proud of her daughter.

“(Samantha) really, really wants to make a difference,” Hubbard said. “And I think learning the awareness and bringing it in our area definitely stands for a lot.”

The walk will begin at 9 a.m., with the run scheduled to kick off at 9:15 a.m.

A free Easter Egg Dash will take place on the school’s track prior to the walk. Children aged 10 and under are invited to participate in the dash. They will have an opportunity to seek colorful eggs—particularly purple—filled with candy treats. Free pizza and water will also be available.

Both Josh and Sharon plan on being at the race.

“Well, I definitely don’t think I’ll be running,” Sharon said with a laugh. “But yeah. I’m hoping to walk in it.”

The registration fee is $30, which includes a T-shirt and goodie bag. Those interested in participating can register the day of the event or by visiting and typing the event name “Seize the Purple.”


Dewey Dash to celebrate 10th anniversary

Town and Country Public Library 10th annual Dewey Dash
Sunday, April 13, at 7:30 a.m.
320 E. North St., Elburn
(630) 365-2244 •
Fees for 1-mile walk/run: $22 ($25 on race day) for adults,
$12 ($15 on race day) for ages 12 and under
Fees for 5k: $22 ($25 on race day) for all entrants
USATF Certified 5k Course

ELBURN—This Sunday, April 13, will mark the date of the 10th annual Dewey Dash, the Town and Country Public Library’s spring run/walk and 5k race.

Same-day registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the 1-mile walk/run commencing at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 5k at 9 a.m.

Registration forms and more information are also available ahead of time at the library and on its website,, under “Dewey Dash.” Participants may re-register by clicking on the “” or “” links.

The theme of the 2014 Dewey Dash is “From Pooh to Who,” with guests of honor Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Who.

“Don’t ask why—just enjoy the quotations along the way,” Library Director Lynn Alms said of this year’s theme.

Alms said that dash participants are free to dress in costume to fit the theme, and prizes will be awarded for the best ones. She said she’s looking forward to seeing what people come up with for this interesting juxtaposition of characters.

This is the second year the race will have a theme. Last year’s theme was fairy tales. At least 150 participants ran and walked in the 2013 race, but Alms said she has seen as many as 300 in some years, depending on the weather.

Funds from the race will go toward the library’s technology needs, with this year’s proceeds going to increase the speed of the public computers’ internet connection, and to purchase three new computers to replace three of the library’s public machines.

Last year the event raised $5,000, which comes from registration fees and donations from local businesses.

All 5k participants will receive a goody bag, and refreshments will be provided to all runners and walkers of both races.


Photos: Ultimate competition

Rocky’s Dojo and Gym in Sugar Grove held a fighting event exhibition on March 29. A combination of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai and modified mixed martial arts matches were on display. Romeoville, Ill., resident Odalis Loya (above), 18, wins her boxing match and is awarded a championship belt.
Photos by Lynn Logan

Ivan Rodriguez and Joy Sengsuwane face off in MMMA (modified mixed martial arts) with Ivan taking the lead. Both fighters are from Elgin, Ill.

Rodriguez was given the win by the ref.

Nick Heibert (red gloves) takes on Bobby Richardson (blue gloves) in kickboxing.

Odalis Loya poses following her boxing match March 29.

Metra parking to increase May 1

ELBURN—Commuters will pay 25 cents more a day to park at the Elburn Metra Station beginning May 1.

Parking rates will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 per day.

Village President Dave Anderson said that the Village Board had actually approved the increase two years ago, but put off its implementation until now.

The board has discussed the need for maintaining the parking lot.

“I’m worried it’s not going to be enough down the road when we need to replace the blacktop,” Anderson said.

“The day-to-day expenses are still more than the revenue,” Finance Director Doug Elder said. “Eventually, if you do that year after year after year, the reserve will be gone and the fund will not be able to support itself.”

The fund’s revenues are $90,300 and its expenses are $100,499.

The village will honor quarterly and annual parking permits, which have already been purchased.