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$5 US VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2 WINTER 2019

PHILANTHROPY & FRIENDSHIPS Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club Celebrates 60th Anniversary

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LETTER from THE ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER

PAYING IT FORWARD

W

hen approached to help launch Downers Grove Magazine for our community by Scott Jonlich of Hinsdale Magazine Group, I had a sneaking suspicion that it could be a big hit with our residents. After all, other neighboring towns have publications dedicated to their community, businesses, schools and people. Why not Downers Grove? To say I was pleased with the response from our community—with the release of the premier issue in September—is an understatement. The support and encouragement that we have received has been tremendous. Thank you, Downers Grove, for welcoming us into your homes with open arms.

#WeAreDG. Have something to share with us? Want to stay informed on our latest efforts? We encourage our readers to follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/downersgrovemagazine) for ongoing updates from Downers Grove Magazine, as well as to communicate with us as we continue to grow our online presence.

In the spirit of the holiday season, much of the winter publication content is dedicated to the theme of “giving back.” After many discussions, our team landed on featuring a diverse group that all contribute to our community in a unique way. This issue features an organization dedicated to 60 years of community service and outreach, two families that rally the community and fundraise in honor of their sons, a couple of educators that ignited a reading competition craze, and a special family that continues their courageous journey to help others within the rare disease community. The contributions these personalities have made to our town—and beyond—is remarkable.

Finally, based on the tremendous feedback from the community, I am also happy to report that our readers can subscribe to the publication. Scan the QR code below to ensure Downers Grove Magazine is delivered right to your door.

The content we feature in the magazine also relies on feedback from you, our readers. For example, this month, we asked for story submissions for neighborhood holiday traditions, Chicago Marathon participant stories and folks with unique ties to our hometown to highlight in our ongoing feature,

Once again, a special thank-you to our advertisers featured in the magazine that have partnered with us on this new publication. We look forward to continuing to build sponsor relationships in 2020. In the meantime, we encourage our readers to support these businesses that play a pivotal role, as the magazine gains traction and momentum within the community.

Enjoy the latest issue, and have a wonderful holiday season with family, friends and neighbors.

Anne Healy Associate Publisher anne@hinsdalemag.com

Anne Healy is married to Tom Healy, with three children, Tommy (11), Jimmy (10) and Mary Katherine (8). Often you can find her hauling her three children to various events around town. Do you have any news you would like to share? We are always looking for great stories to feature. Please e-mail Anne Healy directly at anne@hinsdalemag.com.

Scan the QR code with the camera app on your Smartphone -orGo to: http://www.hinsdalemagazinegroup.com/dgm-physical-sub

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DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


CONTENTS |

November 2019

8 PAYING IT FORWARD

By Anne Healy, Associate publisher

14 LEADING OFF

Local Chicago Marathon runners

32

21 COVER STORY Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club

26 SPOTLIGHT

55

Taking the Plunge District 58 Reading Games Noah’s Hope

32 #WeAreDG 36 PHILANTHROPY

Safe Families

40 ON THE MARKET

Real Estate spotlight

42 SPECIAL FEATURE

Local holiday traditions

44 TO DO LIST

Mark your calendars

47 GIVING BACK Hodie Bash ‘19 grit2

55 COMMUNITY SCENE

Faces and places in Downers Grove ON THE COVER: Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club board members Sam Figueroa (vice president), Erika Wingate (ways and means chair), Colleen Schaefer (president). Photograph by Marcello Redarte

FOR THE LATEST NEWS, HAPPENINGS AND PHOTOS, VISIT DOWNERSGROVEMAGAZINE.COM 10

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No person, organization or publication can copy or re-produce the content in this magazine or any part of this publication without a written consent from the publisher. The publisher, authors, contributors and designers reserve their rights with regards to copyright of their work. Downers Grove Magazine assumes no liability or responsibility for any inaccurate, delayed or incomplete information. The information contained about each individual, event or organization has been provided by such individual, event organizers or organization. The opinion expressed in each article is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Downers Grove Magazine. Comments are welcome, but they should be on-topic and well-expressed. Copyright ©2019 Hinsdale Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved.

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Downers Grove Magazine | Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon A story of why they run 14

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


physical push to override the brain from screaming “stop”? People often ask, “Why run 26.2 miles?” For some, its purely a personal challenge, a goal unfulfilled, a bucketlist unchecked; while for others, it’s a cause worth fighting for; or a dedication to a loved one who lost a life to disease. Each mile brings them closer to a cure. Those athletes running may be unsure of their ultimate goal. It’s a desire to push themselves beyond their abilities. “I ran my first marathon in 2003, the year after my dad died of cancer," Amy Goray of Downers Grove said. "He was my inspiration to start running marathons, as well as my daughter Sophie, who was 1 at the time. I trained pushing her in a jogging stroller, and eventually after my second daughter was born, upgraded to the doublejogger. I wanted to show my girls that you can set you mind to anything and do it.” Downers Grove resident Dan Paschall ran his 18th Chicago Marathon this year. Paschall started running about 12 years ago, when he wanted to make some changes and lose some weight. “I became addicted to showing my kids anything is possible, anything can be achieved. What’s important is not how fast you go, but getting out there and doing it. When you run a marathon, you see people that are all different, but heading towards the same finish, whether it be in three hours or six hours.” Paschall reflected on the marathon camaraderie. “It is a community. Having run marathons in a few different states, Chicago is the best I have seen so far. The crowd and energy that lasts for all 26 miles through our great city is unbelievable. Someone I know once said, 'As you turn north in the last miles of the race, let the city pull you in,' and it really does. It never gets old, earning that medal.”

PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY CARA

A

rea runners finished the Chicago Marathon and its grueling 26.2-mile pace with most participants exceeding four hours on a track of physical and mental endurance on a cool, 39-degree morning on Oct. 13. The 42nd

Bank of America Chicago Marathon started at 7:20 a.m. for 45,000 runners. Downers Grove Magazine reached out to its readers to find those who finished the Chicago Marathon to ask the question, “Why do you run?” Is it to measure the toughness of the 26.2-mile course? The DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

15

Irene Nelson is mother of three from Downers Grove, and ran the marathon with three other Downers Grove moms, Kim Carter, Megan O’Sullivan and Marianne Hulbert. “This was Kim and my second marathon, but it was a first for Megan and Marianne. None of us made the 2019 lottery, but that did not deter us. We decided to run for four different charities.” Nelson and her friends each raised over


(L-R) IRENE NELSON, KIM CARTER, MEGAN O’SULLIVAN, MARIANNE HULBERT

$1,500 per charity fundraising for Bright Pink, the American Diabetes Association, the Arthritis Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Running for a cause felt very rewarding and meaningful, but more than anything, it was very humbling. “It put life into perspective for us whenever we felt tired or didn’t want to run, as we knew others don’t always have a choice in how their lives are run, whether they are battling cancer, diabetes, arthritis or a child requiring extended medical care, and needing a place for their family to stay with them,” Nelson said. The family trained together for 18 weeks, often getting up before 5 a.m. to complete its running, before returning home to pack lunches,

take the kids to school and head off to work. Jackie Mariani, a resident of Downers Grove for 25 years, ran the Chicago Marathon for the second time. “I don’t think there are enough words for me to express what running has meant to me the last eight or so years,” said Mariani, who is a working mom with two special-needs young men. “My oldest son has autism, and my youngest suffers from a debilitating mental illness and Tourette's Syndrome. For the last 15 years, I have made it my life’s mission to advocate for them, to teach them to advocate for themselves, to not let their diagnosis stop them from giving everything they do 110-percent. 16

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Downers Grove Magazine | Chicago Marathon Julianne Lambiasi Downers Grove “Completing the marathon this year was a big accomplishment for me, since I broke my leg nine months ago. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends and physical therapists. My running family, who I met through the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), inspires me to keep chasing my goals, and I have enjoyed training with them for the past ten years.”

Jennie Fabianski Downers Grove “One of my 'musts' I do during each race is dedicate miles to those in my life that I love and care for. Specifically at times when those miles get tough, I find that thinking about special people in your life help you get through the challenging

miles. The person that always gets a few miles dedicated to [her] is my late mom and all the wonderful memories of her. My inspirations for running starts with doing it for myself. There is nothing better than going out for a run and allowing my mind to wonder and take on the day's tasks at hand."

Tera O’Malley Downers Grove As the mother of two small children, coupled with a busy career, running has always been O'Malley's therapy. She joined CARA in 2008, starting out with local 5K races, moving onto 10K races, and worked her way up to a half-marathon. In 2011, while cheering for friends at mile four of the Chicago Marathon, she told her husband, “I’m going to run the Chicago Marathon next year.”—And she did.

THE FAMILIES OF NELSON, CARTER, O’SULLIVAN, AND HULBERT CHEERED ON THE WOMAN THE DAY OF THE RACE. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE 17


Downers Grove Magazine | Chicago Marathon

The following year, she signed up to run in support of RMHC to help keep families close. This year marks Tera’s sixth Chicago Marathon with Team RMHC, a charity that is near and dear to her heart.”

Steve Carlson Downers Grove “This past Sunday was my 18th Chicago Marathon and 73rd marathon overall," Carlson said. “I think the best part is the shared experience. The people I’ve met through training are friends for life.”■

Downers Grove Magazine wants to know why you run marathons. Go to DownersGroveMag. com, and please let us know.

JULIANA LAMBIASI 18 DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


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Cover Story

Downers Grove Junior Woman's Club celebrates

60 ANNIVERSARY th

LOCAL WOMEN DEDICATE TIME AND SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY THEY CALL HOME SINCE 1959 BY MIKE ELLIS PHOTOGRAPH BY MARCELLO RODARTE |

SAM FIGUEROA (VICE PRESIDENT), COLLEEN SCHAEFER (PRESIDENT), ERIKA WINGATE (WAYS AND MEANS CHAIR)


PHOTOGRAPH BY CAROLINA MENAPACE

No matter what your capacity is, or what you feel compelled to do to volunteer or give, we have something for you.

-COLLEEN SCHAEFER

DGJWC HELD THEIR 60TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION AT CADENCE KITCHEN IN SEPTEMBER. PHOTOGRAPHED ARE PRESIDENTS PAST AND PRESENT THAT WERE IN ATTENDANCE. LEFT TO RIGHT: LAURA HILL, COLLEEN SCHAEFER, ERIN KOLSCHOWSKY, STEPHANIE VROMAN, JOANNE VOUGHT, KELSEY AUSTIN, TRISH BORLA, CARRIE REDPATH

T

he Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club (DGJWC) is celebrating its 60th anniversary during its 2019-20 club year.

Founded in 1959 by the late Ruby Heckel, the club has evolved considerably from its roots, first meeting on the second floor of a defunct park district building then located at Fairview and Maple Aves., which is now the site of Hummer Park. But the mission of the DGJWC has remained dedicated to supporting the Downers Grove community in various capacities, raising funds to support local students, seniors and individuals in need. The first fundraiser the club conducted was a “style show,” and it organized a “reading hour” at the Downers Grove Public Library as its first service project. Lynn Zaba, who served as club president in 1987-88, said while she was in the DGJWC (c. 1981 to 1988), there was initially an age cap that marked a distinction between the club and the Downers Grove Woman’s Club. Zaba said during her club tenure, this restriction was lifted statewide, enabling ladies to remain in their junior woman’s clubs after attaining a certain age.

According to Zaba, when she joined the DGJWC, there was a wait-list; and during her presidency, the club consisted of approximately 150 members. “We were one of the biggest clubs in the State of Illinois,” she said. “When we competed at state, we were in the top level. Hinsdale, on the other hand, which is large now, was small then.” In those days, Zaba said the club assisted with vision and hearing screenings at District 58 schools, donated a toy room at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital and was instrumental in launching the Safety Town program in 1984. Presented by the Downers Grove Police Department in conjunction with the DGJWC and the Downers Grove Park District each summer, Safety Town introduces incoming kindergarteners and first-graders to sundry safety concepts, while allowing them to familiarize themselves with local public servants such as police officers and firefighters. Current club president Colleen Schaefer said the DGJWC’s involvement with Safety Town was a primary motivator in her joining. “I [wanted] to make sure that that program is still around when my kids go there,” Schaefer said. “That [was] one of the main 22

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

drivers of why I joined.” In the two decades following Zaba’s presidency, club membership diminished substantially, falling to an estimated 30 to 40 members by 2008. Club leadership has attributed this decline to an increase in women in the workforce, as well as the general recession that began in 2007. Over the past decade, the DGJWC has attracted more participation once again, and now consists of roughly 85 members. In recent years, the club has begun to initiate annual partnerships with local nonprofit organizations, which serve as the primary fundraising beneficiaries for a given year. The DGJWC’s current beneficiary is Reclaim13, which is devoted to assisting victims of human trafficking in the Chicago metropolitan area. Reclaim13 was founded in 2012 by psychologist Dr. Cassandra Ma, who developed a safe-house at an undisclosed location in the western suburbs, which services up to six female victims of human trafficking from 11 to 17 years old at any given time. This is the only such safe-house that exists for child trafficking victims in Illinois. In 2014, the organization changed its name to Reclaim13 to signify the


ALISHA LACASSA, ASHLEY ESKO AND KERRA MOELLER PHOTOGRAPH BY CAROLINA MENAPACE

average age at which studies indicate children are drawn into human trafficking. “We were shocked,” DGJWC vice president Samantha Figueroa said. “We had no idea this was in our backyard.” In previous years, the club partnered with Operation Snowball and MAVinS (mothers against violence in schools), which was started by a group of Whittier Elementary School moms to deter the trend of school violence that has escalated in modern times. MAVinS developed a “buddy bench” program, using park benches to encourage kindness and inclusion among students at a young age. These benches, on which students sit to indicate that they are in need of a classmate to play with, were placed on the playgrounds at Whittier and several other District 58 schools. “It’s a bench with purpose,” Figueroa said. ... “It’s a nice social cue for the students.” Desiring to promote equity across the district, the DGJWC pledged to fund benches at any D58 schools that requested them; and last year, the club donated 11 buddy benches to requesting schools, as well as concomitant MAVinS assembly programming to discourage bullying and promote inclusion.

JEN MEGGOS, MICHELLE GENTILE, ERIKA WINGATE PHOTOGRAPH BY CAROLINA MENAPACE

“When you fundraise or you donate to the community, you always wonder, ‘Did I make a difference?’” Figueroa said. “And to then hear parents talk about how their children are making good use of the ‘buddy bench,’ or how the buddy benches are helpful for them, is so validating in knowing that the fundraising initiatives that we’re doing are making a difference.” Each buddy bench contains an inspirational quote on the back, following the theme of kindness and inclusion. “I think that we can all think back on moments where you remember when people were kind to you—when maybe you were having a hard time, and somebody made an extra effort to be kind to you,” Figueroa said. “And those are the kind of moments that I think children remember. Knowing that those benches are serving a really special purpose for these kids just makes our work feel so special.” The DGJWC provides charitable support through various fundraisers throughout the year. The largest of these is an annual “casino night,” which raised roughly $38,000 last year. “That event has gained so much popularity that it sells out every year now,” Figueroa said.

A MOMENT CAPTURED ON THE BUDDY BENCH AT LOCAL DISTRICT 58 SCHOOL.

The 2020 casino night fundraiser will incorporate a “Havana nights” theme, and will be held on March 7 at the moose lodge in downtown Downers Grove. In addition to supporting the primary club

beneficiary, proceeds from casino night are also directed to the DGJWC charity fund, which supports other philanthropic initiatives such as scholarships for local high-school seniors. Zaba said the tradition of providing scholarships antedates her involvement with the club. Other recent charitable donations include a $4,000 gift to the library for a new child interactive area complete with S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) kits. The DGJWC meets the fourth Tuesday of each month from September through May at Emmett’s Brewing Co. in downtown Downers Grove. To become a member, one must attend three club events, two of which must be meetings, as well as pay a $50 annual fee. Figueroa said she “always felt a call for philanthropy, but never really knew where to go.” She said DGJWC “makes volunteering easy.” “If you have a volunteer spirit, come to our meetings, and it makes volunteering easy,” Figueroa said. Schaefer said members are not required to have a lot of time on their hands for volunteer work. “No matter what your capacity is, or what you feel compelled to do to volunteer or give, we have something for you,” she said. Zaba said both she and her husband met their best friends through her involvement with DGJWC, speaking to the lasting social impact the club makes on its members. “I’m thrilled to see that it’s continuing,” she said. ... “It was a major part of our lives when I joined, and it was and always will be a part of me.” ■ For more information about the Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club, visit www.dgjwc.org.


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Taking the Plunge TWO FAMILIES UNITE THE COMMUNITY FOR A SPECIAL CAUSE BY JANIS VON KAENEL

A

round every first Sunday in March, when the air is cold, the skies are gray and the weather can be chilly, thousands of people gather to run, jump and leap into the brisk waters of Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach for a quick dip. It’s not just for some wintery wonder; it’s for a cause that has been going strong for almost 20 years. The Chicago Polar Plunge, benefiting Special Olympics Chicago, has assisted in raising funds to serve more than 7,500 Special Olympians for year-round sports

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training and competitions. The Plunge is one of Special Olympics Chicago’s largest fundraising events to raise money and awareness. Residents of Downers Grove David and Holly Francis and Mark and Cindy Clifford are no strangers to the yearly tradition. In fact, the couples serve as co-captains to the largest noncorporate team in Chicagoland:The Plungaholics.  In 2019, the couples rallied a crew of over 100 team members to take the plunge and raised $38,000, ranking them 8th place overall for their team fundraising efforts. Since the Francises and Cliffords

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight

PLUNGAHOLICS TAKE TO THE WATERS IN 2018.

Through their education of special needs, the couple became hyper-aware of the need for people with all abilities to be included. “We don’t want Hank or anyone to be excluded because of his or her differences,” David said, “rather, we want to help create a community for our son where he is appreciated for who he is and not what he isn’t.”   The Francis and Clifford families share some common ground – they both have sons with Down syndrome and the boys are just seven months apart. “When our son, Holden, was born with Down syndrome, we looked to David and Holly for support. They introduced us to the Polar Plunge as a way to support our boys and the community of families that have loved ones with special needs,” said Mark. The Cliffords met many Downers Grove neighbors by participating in the Plunge who were eager to support inclusion. “We are lucky to have our Holden and we are amazed at the amount of happiness he brings to everyone he meets. The fun we have at the plunge allows us to pay it forward to a community that we become more ingrained in throughout each year,” added Cindy. The Francises and Cliffords combined their inspiration of inclusion with the Downers Grove local community, and their Polar Plunge team has quickly progressed throughout the years.  Dozens of family members, old friends and new have contributed to their success.  Some participants have connections to the special needs community while others do not.  “This is absolutely not a solo effort,” Holly said. The couples are clearly inspired and motivated by their openminded, supportive and loving community.  “Our team feels a sense of honor that they contributed to supporting people of all abilities,” Cindy said. “They feel proud that they were part of something truly special and, at the end of the day, it’s all about celebrating the impact diversity can have.” And it’s not just a swim at the beach for The Plungaholics and their supporters. The team makes a whole day out of it with preplunge festivities complete with music, a costume contest and even an awards ceremony. “It’s a memorable tradition and it makes the day very exciting,” Mark said. The two families look forward to continuing this community tradition as the team takes the plunge on the lakefront for their fifth year on March 1, 2020.  The Plungaholics are always looking for new team members. “If you want to be a part of something incredibly fun and special, join us!” David said.  Have no fear. A full body plunge in the icy waters is not necessary to join the team, with many going in knee deep, some simply cheering from the sidelines and others plunging virtually.  The couples just encourage all their supporters to have fun. started participating four years ago, The Plungaholics, are responsible for raising more than $150,000 for the Special Olympics and have been ranked in the top 10 fundraising performers year after year. The Francises’ son, Hank, who was born with Down syndrome, is the source of inspiration for their participation. “Hank inspired us to live our lives with unconditional joy. His spirit is infectious, and we were immediately moved to learn and contribute everything we could,” Holly said. 

For more information on how to support The Plungaholics and their icy visit to Lake Michigan in March, please visit https://secure. qgiv.com/event/team/850683. “We will continue to be part of a movement that is building a world where people are respected and accepted for their abilities,” David said.  And who knows?   Based on the success of The Plungaholics and the community spirit it evokes, maybe one day in the future Downers Grove will see a Polar Plunge at Barth or Prince Pond. ■

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight

Let the Books be in Your Favor TWO EDUCATORS IGNITE PASSION FOR READING WITH DISTRICT 58 STUDENTS BY JANIS VON KAENEL PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAROLINA MENAPACE

I

n a digital world of computers, phones and tablets, with Netflix, YouTube and whatever else might be at our fingertips nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder for kids to pick up a book and do some good old- fashioned reading. However, two local teachers led a mission to change just that.

Former Whittier Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Deb Krygeris and current reading specialist Christy Gergits were both inspired by other schools’ reading programs, such as Reading Olympics and Battle of the Books, that made kids excited to pick up a book and read. “We talked about how great it would be to have a program like that,” Krygeris said. “We loved the idea of getting kids to read and talk about books.” So the two took the concept to District 58, rolling out “The Reading Games” in 2013. Since then, it has opened kids’ minds and imaginations, while reaching new reading heights.

Downers Grove Public Library. Using money raised from T-shirt sales and soliciting local businesses and families, Krygeris and Gergits were able to get The Reading Games off the ground. They even reached out to the authors that were featured on the reading lists for assistance, and many donated items to help promote the program. The Reading Games was a success before the program even took place. When the registration window opened for the first time, Gergits was astounded by the results. “I was flabbergasted at the speed at which teams were signing up,” she said. “Within a matter of hours, we had reached our cap of 95 teams. ... We were hoping for maybe 20 teams.” The second year, it only took an hour before all available Reading Games team spots were filled.

We had 95 teams of eight students that spent several months reading and talking about books

But with the spirited representatives from each school who visited classrooms and talked about the program at school assemblies, coupled with the notices to parents to get involved, the registration turnout exceeded expectations.

The Reading Games is a district-wide event for students from third through eighth grade with teams of up to eight students. The program’s name was inspired “We had 95 teams of eight students by The Hunger Games, a book series written that spent several months reading and by Suzanne Collins that was also made talking about books,” Gergits said. “That, to into a series of films. Its catchy name and me, was the grand prize.” pop-culture buzz contributed to students’ —CHRISTY GERGITS eagerness to participate. To get students It didn’t matter if students had the involved and engaged in the program, Krygeris and Gergits ensured highest number of points or the most team spirit: Gergits was just the reading lists captured students’ interests. happy the students were reading. Krygeris agreed, adding that she wanted the students to fall in love with at least one of the books, “I worked very hard to instill a love of reading in each of and be able to feel and talk confidently about it. Seeing this happen my students,” Krygeris said. “I’m an avid reader of children’s and witnessing the event come to life was much more than the literature—particularly middle-grade literature—so I wanted a creators of The Reading Games expected. reading competition that included books that I knew kids would

love.” But it wasn’t just a matter of creating a list of books that students would want to read: there was also a lot of collaborative involvement behind the scenes. Krygeris and Gergits spent the entire summer of 2013 formulating the logistics, and were also assisted by the district’s superintendent, liaisons from each of the 13 District 58 schools and the children’s department staff of the

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Krygeris and Gergits were also surprised by the community support for the program. During the school-year, the Downers Grove Public Library had meeting rooms filled with students talking about the books from the program’s reading lists. The library staff made a list of practice questions, and hosted a day for the teams to come in to quiz each other in preparation for competition day. Many local businesses even provided prizes that were awarded to winning teams.

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


CHRISTY GERGITS AND DEB KRYGERIS

And without their fellow staff members at Whittier who jumped in to help, especially during the first year, Krygeris and Gergits don’t believe The Reading Games would be the success it is today. Since the first year’s positive outcome, the Downers Grove Area Council of PTAs and the District 58 Education Foundation have helped to fund the program. Three parent volunteers emerged to take the reins from Krygeris and Gergits a few years ago, and have led the program to what it is today. The seventh annual Reading Games competition will be held on Feb. 22 at O’Neill Middle School, and will challenge teams of students to answer questions about 12 books from one of two book

lists, one geared toward readers from third through fifth grades, and the other geared toward readers from sixth through eighth grades. The current organizers have also split the event into two parts, with younger students competing in the morning and older students in the afternoon, in an attempt to accommodate all students interested in participating. ■

More information about The Reading Games can be found at https://www.readinggamesdg58.com/.

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Downers Grove Magazine | Spotlight

ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH BY TANGIE SHEETS, PHOTO ON THE RIGHT BY KAREN KARDATZKE

Noah’s Hope Despite losing two of their own children, Downers Grove parents Jennifer and Tracy VanHoutan have saved the lives of countless others BY KERRIE KENNEDY

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owners Grove residents Jennifer and Tracy VanHoutan have experienced the unimaginable: in the past three years, they have lost two of their four children.

Their son Noah died in March 2016 at the age of 11, and their daughter Laine passed away two years later in March 2018 at the age of 12. Their children succumbed to a rare 30

but devastating disease called CLN2 Batten disease. “Jen and I were both unknowingly carriers of this condition, and each of our children had a 1 in 4 chance of being affected,” Tracy VanHoutan said. “The symptoms don’t present until the age of 3 or 4, when [the affected children] start having seizures and language delays. Eventually, they lose their vision, their speech and their ability to walk and eat by mouth. An easy way to explain it

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


2019 A FIFTH SEASON: (L-R) JENNIFER VANHOUTAN, TRACY VANHOUTAN, SARA KENNICOTT, DR. JON COOPER, DR. JILL WEIMER, DR. ELIZABETH BERRY-KRAVIS, DAVE KENNICOTT, DR. MICHELLE HASTINGS

is, combine ALS with Alzheimer’s, and put that in a three-and-ahalf-year-old.—Not that any life-threatening disease is worse than another, but this is just cruel.” Within months of their son Noah being diagnosed, the couple set up a research fund at the DuPage Foundation for this devastating and little-understood disease, and named it Noah’s Hope. Eventually, they merged with a local foundation (Hope 4 Bridget Foundation) that was founded by the Kennicott family— another Chicago-area family whose daughter was diagnosed with Batten disease—and formed a 501(c)(3) in 2013. “We couldn’t believe that a horrible disease like this did not have any treatments,” VanHoutan said. There are more than 7,000 rare diseases, and one in ten Americans is affected by one or more of them; although not all of these diseases are deadly. But unfortunately, Batten disease is another story. “Some people walk around with a rare disease and don’t even know it,” Jennifer VanHoutan said. “No one on either side of our families [has] been afflicted. It’s just a genetics lottery.” In short order, Jennifer and Tracy became leaders in the rare disease community. They met with members of Congress to increase research funds and understanding of rare diseases, in the hopes of finding a treatment for the disease that would eventually take the lives of two of their children.

“The results were pretty incredible, though,” Tracy VanHoutan said. “The kids [who received the treatment] showed significant stabilization in some symptoms of the disease. If you started treating them at 1-and-a-half or 2, they would have better outcomes than if they started treatment at age 6 or 7. The data was so incredible, the life-saving drug named Brineura was approved both in Europe and in the United States as a therapy for kids with CLN2 Batten, and was written up in The New England Journal of Medicine.” Today, the VanHoutans, who have two healthy children, an eighth-grader who was Laine’s fraternal twin and does not have Batten disease, as well as a 4-year-old who is also unaffected, focus their efforts on getting Batten testing into the newborn screening panel. “Noah was misdiagnosed initially,” Jennifer VanHoutan said. “Part of our mission is awareness building—for parents and doctors. You don’t want to scare new moms, but you want to catch it early.”

Jen and I were both unknowingly carriers of this condition, and each of our children had a 1 in 4 chance of being affected

Because the treatment can’t undo past damage—only stop it from progressing any further—early diagnosis is crucial. It took nine long years to bring Brineura to market, and the process for including Batten in the newborn screening panel is equally arduous.

“Once you get an FDA-approved treatment, people have to advocate state by state to get it into state legislation,” Jennifer VanHoutan said. “A CLN2 Batten newborn screening panel —TRACY VANHOUTAN pilot program began this past July, which is the first step in adding CLN2 Batten disease “Early on, we figured there were four to a newborn screening panel. Even if we had done genetic testing different therapeutic strategies: small molecules, stem-cell [with Noah and Laine, Batten] wouldn’t have been detected; so a transplants, gene therapy and enzyme-replacement therapy,” Tracy newborn screening panel is critical.” VanHoutan said. “The last one—enzyme replacement therapy—

seemed to be the most promising. Batten disease is caused by a genetic mutation that disrupts the cells' ability to dispose of wastes. Cells are thrown out of balance with the build-up of proteins and lipids.” The VanHoutans co-funded ongoing research with a group at Rutgers that figured out a way to synthetically make the missing enzyme in the lysosome that leads to CLN2 Batten disease. Agonizingly, by the time it got through the animal-testing phase, as well as pre-clinical studies in order to begin a clinical trial, both Noah and Laine were too far progressed in the disease to participate.

And so, despite the heartbreak, the VanHoutans continue their crusade to help children living with CLN2 Batten, and fundraising is a big part of that. On Nov. 9, the VanHoutan and Kennicott families will host A Fifth Season: Hope Shines on Batten, at the Marriott Oak Brook, featuring dinner, open bar, music, live and silent auctions, and a lot of twinkling lights, which Jennifer VanHoutan said “represent our little angels shining down on us.” ■ To purchase tickets to Hope Shines on Batten or to make a donation, go to noahshope.com.

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Downers Grove Magazine | #WeAreDG

We are Downers Grove CATCHING UP WITH STEPHANIE WILLIAMS, WHO GREW UP IN DOWNERS GROVE AND MARRIED INTO A THREE-GENERATION DOWNERS GROVE FAMILY. BY KERRIE KENNEDY PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAROLINA MENAPACE

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ll in the family. “My mother-in-law, my father-inlaw, my grandparents-in-law, my uncle-in-law, and my husband and I all live in four separate houses but on the same plot of land in Downers Grove. It used to be a dairy farm that my husband’s grandparents—the Johanssons who came here from Sweden— owned. They sold it off but kept a small piece of the land, which is where all of us live. We call it our compound.” Everybody Loves Raymond—without the annoying mother-in-law. “Every day is like one big family reunion here. We see each other every day. People always ask me, ‘are you sure you want to live that close to your in-laws?’ and my answer is ‘yes’! And of course, they always mention Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s a little like that in the sense that we always see each other, but it’s happier than Everybody Loves Raymond. Coming home. My husband and I have been together since we were 15 (we met at Downers Grove High School) so my in-laws are like my second parents. When I found out I was pregnant, we had the opportunity to buy the land from my in-laws, so we decided to build our house here. I work in Wheaton as a forensic behavioral health counselor for the DuPage County Health Department and my husband owns a printing company. We’re both busy, but we always have someone to look after our threeyear-old son. We’re very fortunate to have free babysitters right next door and it’s so nice for our son. Even when we’re home, he always wants to go over and say hi.” And they cook. “My husband I and like to go to Gatto’s for dinner—the penne vodka pasta is a favorite of ours. When we were dating, we’d go to Every Day’s a Sundae a lot, so we keep the tradition going with our son. But we’re lucky, because my grandmother-in-law cooks for us all the time. She’s famous for her strawberry rhubarb pie.” Celebrate good times. When I was pregnant with my son, my husband was on Shark Tank. He ended up getting a deal for his DigiWrap™, which is digitally printed customized tissue paper and gift bags. We threw a huge screening party with friends and of course, family. And no surprise, holidays are amazing here. On Christmas, we have a big progressive party, starting with breakfast at my parents-in-law and then dinner at my grandparents-in-law. We just have to walk a few feet to get to each other’s houses so we don’t have to worry about driving in the snow. ■ If you know a Downers Grove resident who should be featured on this page, email anne@hinsdalemag.com

SHIRLEY JOHANSSON, CARL JOHANSSON RUSSELL WILLIAMS, KAREN WILLIAMS, TOM JOHANSSON, CHARLES WILLIAMS, ADDISON WILLIAMS, STEPHANIE WILLIAMS


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Downers Grove Magazine | Philanthropy

Safe Families PROVIDING SHELTER FOR CHILDREN FOR THEIR STRUGGLING PARENTS BY SCOTT JONLICH PHOTO BY DICK MORTON

DR. DAVID ANDERSON, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SAFE FAMILIES ORGANIZATION

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D out?”

r. David Anderson was working 16 years ago at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago with abused kids who were destined for foster-care. The psychologist started to think, “Why in the world do we wait for children to be harmed in our society, when we know that these families are in trouble? Why can’t we help them

The Safe Families founder, husband and father of three developed an idea of recruiting volunteer families to take in children whose parents are in difficult situations. “By taking them in and caring for them, we can give the parents space and time to help them get back on their feet, and ultimately have their children back with them again,” Anderson said. Anderson decided to visit Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley after a pivotal point in his life. One day at Mt. Sinai, he was interviewing children who were abused, and met a five-year-old girl—almost the same age as his daughter. “Her face was black and blue, and her retina was detached," Anderson said. "Her brain was swelling, and her arm was broken. My job was to find out what happened, so I met with the mom, and she said she grew up in foster-care—she had no one else. [If] she would have missed one more day of work, she would have lost her job.” Anderson recounted the terrible predicament the mother was in. Her daughter was sick, and she had no one else to turn to; so she called her exboyfriend. She later found out he was on drugs while she was at work. “If someone was there to help her out, this wouldn’t have happened,” Anderson said. “The daughter was the same age as my daughter, and I just started thinking about what if that were to happen in my daughter; so I wrote a letter to Mayor Daley. ... I said, 'I have this idea: we can recruit hundreds of families to take in children and create a safety-net for children, so if there’s ever a child that’s in [such a] difficult situation, there would be a family there for him.” Daley listened to Anderson, and had a question for the determined doctor: “Is New York doing this?” Anderson immediately replied, “No; we could beat New York.” Daley proceeded to provide the funding for Anderson and his wife Karen to get started. But first, Daley instructed Anderson to meet with the head of Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to “tell them that it’s the best idea I’ve ever heard." To Anderson’s surprise, DCFS told him the idea would never work, and “don’t bother wasting your time—you’ll be a failure.” “Children are not valuable in our society, unless they’re your own, or unless you adopt them," a DCFS agent told him. "There’s nobody looking out for someone else’s child, and if you were to be successful, you have to convince people and a large number to love and care for someone else’s child, and then give them back. People won’t do that unless they have an ability to keep them.”

The DCFS words troubled Anderson, but he never wavered.

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Downers Grove Magazine | Philanthropy Anderson often recalls the fate of the many girls and boys with similar fates as the 5-year-old girl he often thinks about. Many are infants without a certain future. “Kids do need a safe place to stay," he said. "The most common situation is a parent that is homeless or doesn’t have a regular place to

I don’t have any special skills, other than I have a family, and my house is a little bit bigger than maybe I need. It doesn’t cost me hardly anything to feed a kid for six weeks. [Host families] want to show their kids what it means to be caring for somebody else. It’s not all about them. We have a responsibility to give back. We’ve been blessed, and we can give back with money—we can give back with sharing our home. ­­­—DR. DAVID ANDERSON

stay. Domestic violence puts children in a place where there’s nowhere to go. Sometimes a very difficult economic for parents causes a stressful and unsafe environment.”

host families are taking in kids throughout Chicagoland. Safe-Families is sheltering children in 40 states cities, and has assisted in changing 17 laws to benefit children. The organization has also grown in the United Kingdom, where thousands of families are benefiting under their affiliation with local chapters. “I don’t have any special skills, other than I have a family, and my house is a little bit bigger than maybe I need," Anderson said. "It doesn’t cost me hardly anything to feed a kid for six weeks. [Host families] want to show their kids what it means to be caring for somebody else. It’s not all about them. We have a responsibility to give back. We’ve been blessed, and we can give back with money—we can give back with sharing our home.” Anderson said anyone can provide a Safe-Families home by contacting 773-653-2200, or visiting www.safe-families.org. Companies and organizations can get involved by providing needed supplies such as diapers, clothing and everyday items. ■

A Circle of Support

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About 75 percent of the children are below the age of 5. Oftentimes, their parent is homeless, or doesn’t have a regular place to stay. “The common issue is social isolation—that they’re raising their kids and they have nobody else to turn to," Anderson said. "It’s hard to even imagine not having a friend or relative that you could call and say, 'Can you give me a hand?'—They have nobody.”

Family in Crisis

Host Family

Voluntarily host children in your home on a temporary basis

Anderson pointed out that host families normally will take in the child for six weeks on an average. While it seems like a short time, the healing and safety provided to the child can be life-changing. “Even though a child’s body might recover [from] the psychological impact of being harmed by someone who was supposed to care for them, the impact can go well beyond,” he said. Anderson’s vision 16 years ago has a lasting effect for over 50,000 children and the families that cared for them. Today, more than 1,200

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Downers Grove Magazine | On The Market

ON the MARKET

Entertaining properties From ultra-modern to vintage charm to grand and glam, presenting three Downers Grove homes perfect for holiday entertaining. BY KERRIE KENNEDY

Rarified Retreat This ultra-private, five-bedroom, four-bath, three-car-garage home, designed by local architect and luxury builder Dan Roberts, offers incredible space for entertaining inside and out. Featuring a walk-out lower level with sleeping and entertainment quarters, the home sits on more than 2.5 acres—enough space for a pool, tennis courts and more—and features stunning vistas out of every window,

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sans views of the neighbors. Just five blocks away from the Metra BNSF Downers Grove stop, the home offers state-of-the-art security, technology and energy efficiency. 4816 Roslyn Road in Downers Grove, Elaine Pagels Group, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, $1.5 million

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Magestic Mansion

Custom Charmer.

Starting with its double-entry doors and grand two-story foyer, this custom Downers Grove estate was seemingly built for family entertaining. Featuring a large dining room with butler’s pantry, chef’s kitchen, beamed family room, see-through stone fireplace, sunroom and walk-out basement, the home sits on 2.5 acres of gardens, and offers an oversized deck overlooking the breathtaking gounds. Drenched in natural sunlight, not to mention open spaces and volume ceilings, the home’s oversized first-floor master suite boasts a fireplace and celebrity-worthy closet, dressing area and spa bath.

As featured on HGTV, this 3,000-square-foot Sherwood Ave. home, built in 1921, but updated throughout, features four bedrooms, four baths, hardwood floors, a kitchen with quartz countertops, stainless-steel appliances and custom built-in banquette, a living room with a wood-burning fireplace, a family room with vaulted ceilings and a finished lower level perfect for hosting large family gatherings. Located close to the train, the home offers plenty of private space as well, including a first-floor guest bedroom/office and a master-bedroom sanctuary with a walk-in closet and en-suite bath.

3654 Highland Ave. in Downers Grove, Patti and Chase Michels, Michels Realtors, $1.5 million

4601 Sherwood Ave. in Downers Grove, Tracy Driscoll and Diane Crisp, The Discoll Team at Platinum Partners, $579,900

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Downers Grove Magazine | Speical Feature

FAMILIES ON BLODGETT AVE. PREPARE FOR THE LUMINARIA.

Local Holiday

Traditions BY VALERIE HARDY

Two neighborhoods in Downers Grove have made it a tradition to deck the streets—rather than the halls—each winter. The neighborhoods that feed into Whittier and Lester Elementary Schools make holiday decorating a collective effort, brightening up their blocks on the coldest of days and darkest of nights by embodying both the spirit of community and giving. Back in 2001, Heather and Scott Isacson, residents of the Randall Park neighborhood near Whittier, wanted to bring one of their childhood holiday decorating customs to their current

decorated Park from Summit to Randall Street with luminaria, and some friends around the corner on Randall also put luminaries out. “After a couple of years, someone further south on Park said, ‘Hey, we want candles too.’ So it expanded south on Park to Farley,” Heather said. “At the beginning, all of the [costs for the luminaria supplies] were out of our pocket. As we expanded, we asked for donations to help cover costs.” The first year they collected money, there were contributions beyond the cost of the luminary supplies, so they donated the extra funds to the Whittier PTA. Each year that followed, the number of Randall Park neighbors that wanted to put out luminaria on Christmas Eve snowballed. “As it got bigger, there were lots of people participating who didn’t have any connection to Whittier, so we decided on donating the extra money to St. Jude’s,” Heather said. “After that year, we decided the proceeds should go to a non-profit that is more local, so we donated to Sharing Connections.”

KIDS ON PARK AVENUE HELP LIGHT UP THE HOLIDAYS WITH LUMINARIA.

block on Park Ave. “Coincidentally, both Scott’s family and my family put out luminaria growing up,” Heather said. The Isacsons began putting luminaria in front of their own home on Christmas Eve for a couple years, before asking some neighbors to join in. “It’s so pretty in Randall Park, so we thought, ‘Let’s do the whole street,’” Heather said.

Initially, the Isacsons and a few neighbors

Now every block in the Randall Park neighborhood is lit up with luminaria on Christmas Eve, thanks to the coordination of not only the organizers, but also the captains from each block, who coordinate the materials and accept the monetary contributions from their neighbors. After Downers Grove resident Noah VanHoutan was diagnosed with the rare genetic condition CLN2 Batten disease, the annual proceeds from the Randall Park luminaria have been donated to the non-profit Noah’s Hope. “We had raised over $12,000 over the years to Noah’s Hope by the time I passed the leadership of the luminary process,” Heather

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said. The Isacsons transitioned the luminaria coordination to Susan and Simon Lorenc, residents of Lyman Ave., in 2016. The Lorencs lived on Lyman south of 55th Street before moving into the neighborhood, and they “used to look across 55th on Christmas Eve, and enjoy how beautiful the luminaries were,” Susan said. The Lorencs shared that while coordinating and setting out the luminaria takes time and work, it is undoubtedly worth the effort, and has become an extended family affair for them. “My dad and brother, in particular, look forward to coming in town, and helping put out luminaria on Christmas Eve morning," Susan said. "It’s kind of become a larger family tradition as well. Our kids love it too. They look forward to it, and they know the charitable aspect of it; so it helps drive home the meaning of Christmas.” Cindy Maquet, who lives on 5th Street, also saw the value and beauty in the luminaria, and led the extension of them across Fairview Ave. in


2016. “I just wanted to expand what they had started in the Randall Park neighborhood to make it a full part of the Whittier community,” Maquet said. Maquet loves seeing neighbors coming together on Christmas Eve morning to assemble and set out the luminaria bags and again at dusk to light them. “What makes it worth it is, the gratitude from the neighbors when they come out and see the luminaries," Maquet said. "To some of these people, the luminaries might be the only brightness in their holiday." Her 11-year-old daughter Sophie also helps with the luminaria and said, “Even though it’s freezing a lot of the time, I like getting hot chocolate while we work, and my favorite part is lighting up the luminaries.” Lindsay Whalen of 8th Street took over the luminary coordination for the neighborhood east of Fairview from Maquet last year. Whalen hopes to continue to expand the luminaries more and more each year, and to continue to use the proceeds to support Noah’s Hope. The neighborhoods near Lester School also work together each holiday season to light up their streets and raise money for charitable causes. About ten years ago, Julie Jacobs got a handful of her neighbors on Chicago Ave. to purchase and line their block with small Christmas trees from the non-profit Brittany’s Trees. “I grew up with Jim Guthrie, the founder of Brittany’s Trees, which he started to honor the memory of his neighbor, Brittany, who passed away from a congenital heart condition,” Jacobs said. Jacobs liked the idea of decorating her block, while remembering Brittany and raising money toward congenital heart disease research, and providing automatic external defibrillators to local schools. But she never imagined how

LESTER COMMUNITY STUDENTS LEND A HAND IN THE TREE SET-UP PROCESS.

quickly and widely the tree tradition would expand within Downers Grove.

(L-R) HARPER MYERS, OLIVIA SLOCUM, CAROLINE FREYER AND MICHELLE FREYER HELP WITH THE TREES.

“We started so simple, with a few neighbors right near us, but by year three or four, the trees went [down Chicago] all the way from Main Street to Fairview,” Jacobs said. “It’s gotten so big.” As of last year, 700 lit trees lined many blocks throughout the Lester community and beyond. This was an increase of more than 450 trees from the prior year. “This blew Brittany’s Trees away," said Joy Myers, a Chicago Ave. resident. "Downers Grove was the largest community supporting this foundation, and even surpassed Brittany’s Trees’ home community of Carol Stream in tree orders." In fact, Downers Grove’s participation in the Brittany’s Trees tradition grew so much that the organization can no longer support it with their volunteers. But the tree tradition will still continue within Downers Grove. This year, though, the trees will come from a farm in Wisconsin, and proceeds from the tree purchases will go to Lester Community Playground (LCP), which Myers called “a not-for-profit organization that we created three years ago to build an adaptive, inclusive playground for Lester School and the entire Downers Grove community— similar to Hillcrest’s playground—where all children can play." Vicky O’Boyle, who is on the LCP board and is

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helping with the 2019 tree coordination, is glad to see the tradition continue. “I found that people are gracious and grateful to bring, again, such a heartwarming tradition [to our community],” O’Boyle said. In the past, members of the participating neighborhoods would come together the Friday after Thanksgiving to put up the trees and string the lights. Myers said, on Chicago Ave., “Volunteers would gather in our front-yard with warm drinks and food. The moms would proceed down the block with the littles with wagons and string the lights. The men would follow with their poles [to finalize the tree setup]. It culminated with a trip down to see the downtown Downers Grove tree-lighting." Myers hopes to see this communitybuilding and philanthropic tradition continue. “We’ve seen this community light up their streets—whether it’s every house on the block or only a few—and it all is adding to our community’s future,” she said. O’Boyle also wants the tree tradition to carry forward for years to come. “I think this time of year is one of reflection and memories," she said. "It would be nice if it could be individualized for each neighborhood’s charity of choice.” ■


Downers Grove Magazine | TO•DO•LIST

11/15 11/14

History on Tap Pub Crawl Explore Downers Grove history while enjoying a beverage at five historic watering holes on Downers Grove’s Main Street. Emmett’s, Ballydoyle, Cellar Door, Pierce

Village of Burr Ridge annual Jingle Mingle Parade and tree-lighting, along with kids’ crafts, giveaways, make a card for the military, get a Santa hat—and more.  www.burr-ridge.gov/events/jingle-mingle

Tavern and Tivoli Bowl

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11/28

Bonfield Express Join the 16th annual Bonfield Express 5K. The race, held on Thanksgiving morning in downtown Downers Grove, is a community tradition. Main and Grove Streets in Downers Grove www.bonfieldexpress.com


11/30 – 12/1

Salt Creek Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Featuring Chicago West Chamber Orchestra, a traditional holiday classic for young and old alike. Hinsdale Central Auditorium

12/14

Merry & Bright: A Victorian Christmas Enjoy some holiday cheer and celebrate the season with Victorian Christmas traditions, carolers, luminary walk, campfire and a visit with Santa. Downers Grove Museum dgparks.org

12/14 – 12/15 11/29

Village of Downers Grove Tree-lighting Ceremony Join the mayor in the countdown to turn on the lights of the tree at the Main Street train station. Over 1,000 ornaments handmade by local youth decorate the tree. Downtown Downers Grove

It’s A Wonderful Life 2019 benefit showing Proceeds from the two movie presentations are generously donated to Sharing Connections (Furniture Bank) in Downers Grove. Classic Cinemas Tivoli Theatre

Grove South High Schools. Downers Grove North High School: Holiday Mosaic Concert on Dec. 10 Downers Grove South High School: Holiday Concert on Dec. 12 http://www.csd99.org/

12/31

New Year’s Eve Countdown to Noon

12/10 & 12/12

District 99 holiday music performances District 99 welcomes families during the holidays to attend special performances by the student musicians of Downers Grove North and Downers

Ring in the new year at noon and celebrate with party favors, a DJ, photo booth, face-painting, snacks, a balloon drop and more. Advance registration is required. Downers Grove Recreation Center

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DIVEHEART IN DEPTH

Steve Woodham

STEVEN WOODHAM MARINE CORP VET & DIVEHEART DIVER

Q: HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT DIVEHEART? I heard about Diveheart through the Aurora Vet Center. I was going there for readjustment counseling, and was told that I might enjoy the Diveheart Scuba Experience (DSE) event that was being held nearby. This was in the spring of 2017. Q: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ABILITIES? I retired from the Marine Corps in 2010, after 22-plus years of combined active duty and reserve service, including deployments for Desert Storm and three deployments for OIF/OEF. I also spent 24 years as a police officer in Naperville. The combination of these two professions resulted in the onset of depression and anxiety, as well as several other physical limitations caused by multiple injuries during my times of service. Q: CAN YOU TELL US HOW DIVEHEART ACTIVITIES HAVE HELPED YOU? I started diving in 2017 with Diveheart, and since then, I have attended around 20 different diving events, including a trip to Key Largo, Fla. in June of 2019, where I received my open-water diver certification. Through Diveheart, I

have been able to deal with my physical and emotional challenges in an environment that is safe, supportive and fun. Q: HOW HAS YOUR DOG MOLLY HELPED YOU? Molly and I have been together since February. She goes just about everywhere I do. Since retiring from both the military and police service, I no longer wear body armor when I go to work, or am generally out in public. I tell everyone that Molly has replaced that body armor for me. She acts as a barrier between me and the rest of the world, and she only lets people in when I feel safe. Q: HOW HAVE YOU SEEN DIVEHEART BENEFIT OTHER ADAPTIVE DIVERS? Diveheart is what you choose to make of it. For some, it is just a bucket-list item to “go try” scuba. They may go to an indoor DSE, one of the open-water dives in the area over the summer, or even try one of the trips to Cozumel or Key Largo, but then that’s it.—And that’s okay since one of the tenets of Diveheart is “challenge by choice.” I, however, have always been involved in teaching and training, so I thought that this program would be a great way for me to give back to my fellow veterans, as well as 46

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

others with special needs. Currently, I try and volunteer twice a week at the locations in Downers Grove. I do everything getting air tanks filled for other DSE events, to changing lightbulbs and vacuuming the office if needed. I just try and help where I can, because I know that the freedom, challenge, sense of accomplishment and happiness that the program brings to everyone who is involved, both volunteer and participant, is something very special; and I look forward to continuing for a long time. ■


Downers Grove Magazine | Giving Back

Hodie Bash Mixes Fun WITH LEGENDARY BAND STYX AND FUNDRAISING FOR LURIE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL B Y SCOTT JONLICH PHOTOGRAPHY BY DICK MORTON

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Downers Grove Magazine | Giving Back

O

ver 800 people came together at Lagunitas Brewery concert hall In October to listen to legendary Chicago band Styx and raise money for Lurie Children’s Hospital. Currently, a resident of Brentwood California, Brian Hodous, grew up in Downers Grove and came home to host his annual “Hodie Bash” at Lagunitas Brewery in Chicago. Hodous and his wife Micki continued their 38th annual gathering to support the research of childhood diseases in memory of his nieces Jessica (2) from bacterial meningitis and Chelsea (3) with Leukemia. The former Downers Grove South wrestler and youngest of five kids made his mark on the business world, upon graduating from Marqutte University, at Glaxo-Smithkline, Pfizer, Cadbury-Schweppes and eventually becoming a key executive for the world’s leading video game powerhouse Activision Blizzard, the company behind Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Candy Crush and many more. The video gaming company would later spur interest

with Hodous in coordinating entertainment concepts in pursuit of distraction therapy with children suffering from pain in pediatric facilities. Hodous’s fundraising opportunities with popular bands began after he became instrumental in growing the company to a leader in the field and got involved with Guitar Hero, the wildly successful twist on video entertainment which allowed him the opportunity to meet and become close friends with music acts, such as Styx. A few years ago, a protégé of his,

BRIAN AND MICKI HODOUS


who had become CEO of Lagunitas Brewing in California, told him about the new first class concert venue that was recently created at the their Chicago brewery location. She said, ‘Brian, with all your contacts in the rock world, and your interest in raising money for good causes, why don’t you use our facility for your

annual event?’ The couple jumped on the idea of putting on the concert and inviting guests to the “Hodie Bash” where friends could enjoy a great evening and make whatever contribution they like. The all-Chicago fest spotlighted Lurie Children’s Hospital, Styx, Lagunitas and features amazing food such as Italian beef, pizza, and Chicago-style hot dogs.

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“It took me two years to organize this because we needed a weekend night for Styx,” Hodous said. “People flew from literally all over the world to enjoy this truly historic evening and to donate money to the Lurie Children’s Hospital. (The event) allows us to raise money on the front end of the evening and throw a hell of a party and concert without any donation pressure on the night. No paddles (raises) no silent auctions.


Downers Grove Magazine | Giving Back

LAGUNITAS BREWERY IN CHICAGO

The night is about bringing people together and providing resources to children who are experiencing the most difficult times of their short lives.” With every dollar donated, the Hodous couple is excited about some of the research they are seeing. He saw new research with distraction therapy helping kids in hospitals focus on programs based on their interests. Clinical trials were run for distraction therapy for the reduction of opioid medication through engaging the mind and Hodous said why not other sensory distractions including video games, linear entertainment, music and other auditory and visual engagements. “So, it wasn’t just video games but it’s also music, movies, and TV,” said Hodous, who hopes more hospitals will add the distraction therapy for children dealing with pain and treatment effects. According to studies, by treating the brain virtually, researchers have become more confident that relevant entertainment is not only capable of distracting a patient from their acute pain but blocking their brain’s pain receptors in much the same way a prescription opioid would. Hodous continues to channel what he has learned in his professional career to helping Lurie Children’s Hospital and the wider pediatric community. He plans to continue with his “Hodie Bash” in the future. He decided on doing something different 38

years ago to bring friends together. Now he brings those same people and MANY more together to make a difference. To learn more about Lurie Children’s Hospital’s treatments and philanthropic opportunities contact Lurie Children’s Foundation at 312.227.7500 or foundation@ luriechildrens.org.

GUITAR AND DRUMHEADS DONATED BY STYX FOR CHARITY AUCTION

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Inside Downers Grove | Giving Back

GROWNING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY

A GROUP OF LOCAL WOMEN HELP THE COMMUNITY TO LEARN, CONNECT, AND ENAGE ERIN GUTH, LORI DOY, ANN CUMMINS, MELISSA NUTTALL, PAIGE PUC AND SARAH DIEHL

G

rowing up amid a backdrop of social and technological changes like no previous generation, today’s teens are facing record levels of mental health problems. Just Google “teen issues,” and the results are sobering: stress, bullying, depression, suicide, just to name a few. In the fall of 2017, it was these issues—and tragedies within Downers Grove and other western suburbs—that had a small group of friends wondering what could be done. “We had this shared concern for our kids and the well-being of this generation,” Melissa Nuttall of Downers Grove said. “We knew there were various local resources out there, but couldn’t find anything that really brought it all together. So, we decided we’d try.” Thus, grit2 (Growing Resiliency In Teens Together) was born. “Parenting today is hard,” grit2 co-founder Sarah Diehl said. “With technology and social media, our teens really have a completely different landscape than we did growing up. It’s like being asked to guide someone up Everest—and you’ve only ever been to Starved Rock.” To better understand the landscape, the founders met with local high-school principals, counselors and social workers, as well as regional advocacy groups including the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) chapter in DuPage County and Navigate Adolescence. They identified existing resources and opportunities to complement what was already being offered, while also consulting similar models outside the area such as Kids Matter in Naperville and Barrington’s BStrong Together. “We had no healthcare or counseling backgrounds; we were basically a bunch of moms with an idea,” grit2 co-founder Erin Guth said. “Yet the professional community couldn’t have been more welcoming or excited to have another partner in the area.” With the goal of helping the community learn, connect and 52

engage, the co-founders created a website, www.grit2.org, to serve as a hub of local information, and established an advisory board of industry professionals. To date, grit2 has hosted speakers on technology, mindful parenting, academic stress, anxiety and resilience, and offered conversation circles—smaller, private group discussions led by a professional—on a variety of topics. Additionally, the organization recently introduced the Gritty Parent Book Club. Led by advisory board members Jen Benish and Peggy Tomchek, the 15-member club will connect and support each other through the review and discussion of parenting books. First up is The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen. “We have great upcoming programs, and are looking to add more community partners and host an increasing number of events each year,” co-founder Lori Doy said. “We’re really excited to keep growing and learning in order to offer the best support we can to this amazing community.” For more information on grit2 and other area upcoming events, as well as to take a survey on topics you’d like grit2 to address, visit www. Lori Doy and Erin Guth at the Downers Grove grit2.org. ■ South provider fair

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


"Your tastings are enlightening. I’m sold!" - Laurie Siebert

"Delicious and happy to say hangover free.” - Beth Vroman

"Thanks for the magic wine.” - Bill Stang

“I gave up wine due to health challenges. Thanks to Scout & Cellar, I can enjoy it again!” -Lisa Marsicano

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Give the gift of Scout and Cellar. Contact one of us for all your holiday wine needs.

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Citro Johnson ncitro@sbcglobal.net

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Courtney

Hanssel courtney.tumpach@gmail.com


Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

SWIM & RACQUET The Downers Grove Swim and Racquet Club hosted its inaugural cardboard boat regatta on Labor Day. Homemade boats and oars were constructed from cardboard and duct tape for the competition by pool members. Contenders raced to the finish-line, with some boats sinking, others tipping, and a few declaring victory on the other side of the pool. Visit www.dgsrc.net for more information on the 2020 pool and tennis season at Downers Grove Swim and Racquet Club.

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1. PATRICK AND KEEGAN GARRITY; 2. CHERYL BETTINARDI AND SONS AQUINAS AND MAKAIO; 3. NATE PATTEN; 4. LIZ BANASZAK AND DAUGHTER ELEANOR; 5. MARK BORCHERS AND SON ADAM BORCHERS. 54

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

NAPLETON PORSCHE 911 UNVEIL The dealership invited guests to view the newest model of the luxury sports car up close and in person complete with an official unveiling, guest speakers, and hors d’oeuvres Napleton Westmont Porscheheld a special launch event for the newest 911 model on Thursday, Oct. 10. Guests in attendance were treated to an official unveiling of the iconic 2020 911 luxury sports car while enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a few words from Jeff Witham, General Manager of Napleton Westmont Porsche. The main purpose of the event was to educate customers on what makes the newest model different from some of its predecessors. Those in attendance were surprised to learn that while the newest 911 certainly looks similar to previous model years, the 2020 edition is equipped with an all-new chassis, suspension system, engine, interior, and technology. The brand-new 911 keeps everything that is great about its storied history with a healthy dose of modernity that drivers will enjoy well into the new decade of the 2020s. The event also featured a display of classic Porsche 911s from throughout the generations.

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1. KERRY TERLEP, TONY LAPINSKAS, JESSICA RIVERA, MATTHEW MENKE; 2. MIKE LEE, SAMANTHA KROLL, JAY STUDE; 3. & 4. THE 2020 PORSCHE 911 (992) CARRERA 4S. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

ALTER FEST Alter Fest 2019 took place in the evening on Sept. 28, and was the fourth annual festival put on by Alter Brewing Company. General admission and VIP tickets were available, the latter of which included early entry and an exclusive tasting with the brew team. Over 600 attendees enjoyed an assortment of unique barrel-aged and experimental beers, the musical stylings of local rockers Mojo and Whiskey Jezebel, food from Toasty Cheese and Toasty Taco and the always-popular Bob’s Photobooth Bus. 1

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1. TOASTY CHEESE FOOD TRUCK (AND CROWD); 2. BOB’S PHOTOBOOTH BUS; 3. TAYLOR GRAHAM AND JAMES BIGLER; 4. MOJO: A TRIBUTE TO TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS (BAND); 5. MIKE AND BETH FIGURAY; 6. MALLORY COBB; 7. WHISKEY JEZEBEL (BAND) 56 DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

BBQ BOLT The Downers Grove Park District hosted its inaugural BBQ Bolt Run/Walk on Sept. 7. Starting and finishing at McCollum Park, the BBQ Bolt brought the community together to celebrate the end of summer with fitness and fun for the whole family. Participants had the choice of three course distances—five miles, 5K or one mile— and a 50-meter dash for children under the age of 12. Following the run/walk, racers enjoyed a post-race party in the park, featuring City BBQ and Shiner Bach beer.

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1. JAMES MINALIK; 2. PAULIUS ELVIKIS; 3. (17) KATIE COLELLA, (94) KEVIN MASTERSON, (95) KEVIN MASTERSON, (93) CONOR MASTERSON; 4. ARMANDO SERAFINI (CENTER); 5. DEBORAH MALARSKI; 6. KATIE HAWKINS

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

THE EDWARD FOUNDATION ANNUAL GALA The Edward Foundation raised $940,000 at its 29th annual gala, The Big Gig: 1001 Nights, on Sept. 28 at the Westin Lombard. Nearly 700 people attended the event, which is the foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year. A portion of the funds raised this year will be used to purchase a new $2.7-million PET CT scanner to replace the current scanner, which has been in operation at the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville since 2005. A PET CT scan is one method doctors use to find cancer and determine its stage. 1

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1. JEFF AND TERESE SURGES, MELISSA AND STEVE PETERSON; 2. BRETT SKEEN AND JAN AND JOE DANT; 3. STEVE AND JULIE CHIRICO, BRENDA AND TOM HARTER; 4. DR. KARL NAPEKOSKI BIDS ON A LIVE-AUCTION PACKAGE DURING THE EDWARD FOUNDATION’S 29TH ANNUAL GALA; 5. RON AND NANCY NYBERG, JOHN AND KAYLIN RISVOLD AND BRENDA AND TOM HARTER 58 DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE


Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

SHARING CONNECTIONS There were no dining room tables, chairs, beds and cribs scattered among the golfers on Sept. 16, but the morning was made for golf and good company. The annual Sharing Connections golf outing has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past 16 years, and the 2019 outing proved no different. Sharing Connections supports the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to eat at a table and sleep in a bed. For more information about Sharing Connections, visit www.sharingconnections.org.

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1. BRAD DANNEGER AND HIS TEAM FROM ARCO MURRAY; 2. KRISTYN VANEEKEREN AND MIA CHURMA WITH FORMER NFL PLAYER COREY MAYS; 3. PRESENTING SPONSOR PAUL NEUSTED AND NEUCO ENJOYING THE DAY’S ACTIVITIES; 4. GOLF OUTING DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

BARKAPOLOOZA West Suburban Humane Society held its annual fundraiser at Lisle Community Park on Sept. 29. Those that attended Barkapalooza enjoyed a day filled with fun, food, and games, while helping to end animal homelessness. The event raised more $75,000 for the animals at the shelter. West Suburban Humane Society’s Pawction, an online auction featuring great gifts from designer handbags to family outing throughout Chicagoland, will take place from Dec. 4 to 15. Every dollar raised goes to help the West Suburban Humane Society and its ability to provide medical care to homeless dogs and cats. Bidding starts Dec. 4 at https://wshs2019.givesmart.com/. Visit www.WSHS-DG.org for more information.

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1. SHELBY SCHEUERMAN, KITTY VANGEMMEREN, SARAH ROSERO AND CAROLYN ILLES; 2. VOLUNTEERS HELP AT THE EVENT; 3. A COOL DOG GETS A BLESSING 5; 4. THE LOFT LIZARDS 60

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Mary Braatz (630) 258-7677 www.marybraatz.com

Let me show you my hometown, Downers Grove!

DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE Subscribe to Downers Grove Magazine now. Get the physical copy of the magazine delivered right to your door.

Only $20

Scan the QR code with the camera app on your Smartphone -orGo to: http://www.hinsdalemagazinegroup.com/dgm-physical-sub DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

ART WALK Downtown Downers Grove was all about art on Oct. 5 during the inaugural Art Walk Downers Grove. The event partnered 14 artists with 11 retailers to create pop-up shops and, in some cases, miniature art studios within the stores. The event culminated with the weathered art exhibit at St. Andrew’s. The exhibit featured the work of 12 artists from the Chicagoland area, who were invited to create a work of art on a fabric panel that was weathered outside during the creative process. A community art project featuring 168 fabric blocks was also on display. Both events were designed and produced by The Art Department, a Downers Grove organization committed to connecting people through art, and raising the visibility of area artists.

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1. KEN REIF PAINTED IN OIL OUTSIDE OF ADORN 512; 2. JON BELONIO; 3. RACHEL DAVIS AND HER SON WITH LILY FIELD AND JUDY EMEZ AT GREAT HARVEST BREAD; 4. SUSAN AND ROB RIMMEL AT STYLE SUDIO WITH LAURA KLOSS; 5. MICHELLE GENTILE AND ARTIST MAGGIE CAPETTINI AT MAPLE HOME MARKET; 6. PAUL CALLAHAN AT PETE’S COFFEE 62

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Downers Grove Magazine | Community Scene

FINE ARTS FEST The annual Downtown Downers Grove Fine Arts Festival was held the first weekend of September in downtown Downers Grove. P Presented by Downers Grove Downtown Management, Main Street from Grove to Curtiss was home to an array of fine art. Local, regional and national artists joined the event, and attendees enjoyed live entertainment, a kids’ art booth and more. A variety of mediums were on display, including jewelry, painting, photography, woodwork, mixed media, glass and graphics.

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1. BENJAMIN TRAPP AND ARTIST CYNTHIA DYBSKY; 2. JOSH MERRILL, FINE ARTS FESTIVAL WINNER; 3. JUSTIN PADRAIC STANKUS, LOCAL DOWNERS GROVE ARTIST. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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GET THE MIND SET TO STRIVE

In order to succeed, it’s important to do the right thing at the right time. STRIVE PROGRAMS develop self discipline to do the right thing and build confidence to take action at the right time STRIVE MARTIAL ARTS is more then kicking and punching.

SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

Call 630.850.3500 or visit us online at www.strivema.com WILLOWBROOK/DARIEN 6950 Kingery Hwy

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GLEN ELLYN DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE 836 Roosevelt Rd

NAPERVILLE 827 N Washington St.


STRIVE for Achievement Local martial arts school Inspires kids, adults to self mastery

HM: Your schools are called Strive. What was the inspiration to choose that name? BILL THOMPSON: The definition of Strive is to make great effort to obtain or achieve something. That is exactly what a black belt is. Training for a black belt, regardless of who you are, your age, or what you have done, you start as a white belt, and work your way up to achieve a black belt. There will be challenges and struggles along the way, and that is okay, because along the way, you will change. HM: How long have you been involved in martial arts? BILL THOMPSON: I started with a friend at 12 years old. I was infatuated with it, and practiced every day. My friend stopped. After becoming a black belt, I began teaching at age 19. At age 21, my master sold me the school, and I became a school owner.

HM: Why is martial arts so beneficial for children? BILL THOMPSON: Most people think martial arts is punching and kicking—it is actually the ultimate success program. Most people come inside and dream of being a black belt. Everything in life is a dream if you do not have goals. In martial arts, there are the smaller goals of yellow belt, orange belt, etc., to achieve black belt. In martial arts, we teach you the skills to achieve those goals: self-confidence, self-discipline, focus. HM: How important is self-esteem at an early age? BILL THOMPSON: We build self-esteem the first seven to eight years of our lives. Self-esteem comes from accomplishment. Martial arts gives you the tools and abilities to achieve. DOWNERS GROVE MAGAZINE

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HM: What is the greatest benefit of martial arts? BILL THOMPSON: There are a few, but if I were to pick one, it would be self-discipline. It is the foundation of any goal or dream. Selfdiscipline is so important, that two-thirds of Fortune 500 CEOs have martial-arts or military backgrounds. HM: Is it ever too late to get started in martial arts? BILL THOMPSON: It’s never too late. We always need to be exercising our body and our mind. So many people think fitness is about how much they weigh, of how they look, but it is really about optimal function. Martial arts provide balance, strength, coordination, flexibility. ■


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Downers Grove Magazine Winter 2019 Issue  

Downers Grove Magazine Winter 2019 Issue