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Get Healthy Verhines’ Basketball Journey Being A Part Of History Special Olympics More Than Just A Hobby

June 2013

Looking at the options

By Rorye O’Conner With each of her three children, Lesa Mann gained about 10 pounds. When she had a hysterectomy, she found she was gaining more weight. And when she fractured her foot, all that extra weight meant she had an even harder time recovering, she said. The Mt. Vernon resident said she began seeking a solution to her weight issues when she found out her blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol were well above the normal numbers. “I almost had to be scared about it,” she said. “I had let myself get to the point I had before I made a change.” Mann started a diet and exercise plan through Asbery and Associates’ Centers for Medical Weight Loss on Nov. 7, 2012, and has lost 42 pounds so far. Mann’s lifestyle change is focused on a restricted-calorie diet and exercise, but there are multiple options for people trying to improve their health and nutrition in the Mt. Vernon area, from exercise and support groups to 2

dietary supplements. Kathy Asbery runs the Centers for Medical Weight Loss clinic, which she said is geared toward non-surgical weight loss. Clients of the weight loss clinic begin their journey by having their metabolic weight analyzed - how much of their weight is body fat, how much is muscle, and so on and figuring out what health issues they may be at risk for. Then, clients are placed on a lowcalorie diet with all food provided by the clinic, Asbery said. “Because the food is nutritionally sound, we are able to place people on a lower calorie diet that you Charity Brandon would do on your own,” she said, for medical concerns. A lot of times adding that clients remain on the low-calorie diet for about six weeks. people have thyroid issues. We are able to get them off medications She said once they reach their they think they’re going to be on desired weight, they are slowly forever.” returned to eating regular food, Mann stayed on an 800-calorie while undergoing education about diet for six weeks and is still on how to eat and cook to maintain a reduced-calorie, though less their weight loss. “We have a maintenance program restrictive, diet in order to continue to lose weight. because that’s everybody’s biggest She said she has seen multiple concern,” she said. “We have a physician’s assistant for them to see improvements to her health through the program. June 2013

“Normal triglycerides are at 150, and mine were almost 300,” she said. “Now they’re down to 66. My cholesterol was 270, with normal being 200, and at the last test it was 161. I have weaned off blood pressure medicine that I was on for five years. I hated having to be on it. Now at the weight I’m at, with diet and exercise, it’s better than it’s been in years.” She said the biggest challenge for her was making it through the first two or three weeks of the program, but with the support of her husband and her daughter, who is also participating in the program, she was able to make it. “I’m a hamburger lover, and I haven’t had one since Nov. 2,” she said. “I was on Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem, and when I was, I had to have my hamburger. Now I don’t even want it. I never dreamed I would say that.” She said in addition to her supportive family, the counselors who she works with through her weight loss program are consistently inspiring and empowering. Mann said she believes taking steps to lose weight has saved her life. “I pulled out three bins of summer clothes recently, and I can’t wear any of them, because they’re all too big,” she said. I never would have thought when I put those clothes away that they wouldn’t fit, and it’s so rewarding to be able to say that.” The YMCA of Jefferson County provides multiple opportunities for weight loss and fitness throughout the year for adults and kids alike. Matt Greene, YMCA program director, said the YMCA has three areas of focus - youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. June 2013

“In addition to working out in the wellness center, members can do any program we do through youth sports, adult league sports or our Lose to Win competition,” he said. He said the YMCA encourages baby steps to better health. “It doesn’t have to be a huge paradigm shift,” he said. “Little changes and healthier choices more often than not grow on themselves, allowing someone to become a healthier person mentally,

physically and spiritually.” One way the organization encourages healthier eating habits for life is through its after school program, which provides a safe after school alternative for kids where they have the opportunity for physical activity and healthy snacks, Greene said. He said the program provides kids structure and an opportunity to burn off excess energy from being in class all day.


In addition, the YMCA employs personal trainers and offers classes for group aerobics, spinning, yoga, P90X, Zumba and more. Greene said the organization’s Lose to Win weight loss competition has been very successful, with more than 400 people participating last year. The competition awards the team that loses the most weight, as well as individuals who manage to lose the most percentage of their body

Publisher Bob Dennis Editor Tesa Glass Associate Editor Rick Hayes Advertising Manager Sheonna Hill Business Manager Brenda Moore Circulation Director Jimmy Bass Advertising Account Executives Missi Morgan Jeff Mullen Berry Waggoner Editorial Staff Writers Rory O’Conner Paul Hines Mailing Address

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weight. “We have special classes, where doctors come in and talk about cardiac issues, diabetes and blood pressure,” Greene said. “We have a boot camp and teach about nutrition and healthy ways to be active and exercise.” He said enjoyment is key to success when it comes to making working out a lasting lifestyle change. “Find something you enjoy doing,” he said. “Find someone who has been successful to mentor and encourage you. It is hard when you feel like you’re in a fight by yourself. Seek out those types of people so you don’t get discouraged and quit.” He said people need to stop looking for quick fixes for their weight and nutrition issues. “Look at life as a long-term solution,” he said. “Americans are very focused on instant gratification, and they need to start looking at it as a long-term thing.” While exercise may be the first thought when considering fitness and weight loss, there are also other options to helping the body improve. Lora Greathouse, owner of Quantum Nutrishoppe, sells nutritional supplements from Dr. Bob Marshall’s Premier Research Labs, as well as cereal bars and other food items. Greathouse said most people

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come to her business for help with digestive issues, but also for concerns about immunity, hormones, energy and skin issues. “If you give the body the raw materials it needs, it many times will heal itself,” she said. “God designed our bodies to heal themselves. They are beautiful, amazing machines that we live on that cannot be replicated.” In addition to selling the supplements, Greathouse said she believes that there are a few steps to looking and feeling one’s best. She said the American diet, with its focus on fast and processed food, is part of the problem. “We were designed to eat fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said. “If you’re not eating fresh food, you’re setting yourself up for problems.” Her first step to looking and

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May 2013

feeling great is drinking lots of water. She said people should drink half their body weight in ounces of water each day. The second step she recommends is getting exercise - she recommends, for example, five to 10 minutes of stretching, 5-10 minutes of weights and a half hour walk. She also recommends making sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and keeping life on a schedule to make sure that happens. Greathouse said she doesn’t like diets, but instead recommends moderation based on healthy choices of “live” food. “If you go to a birthday party, have a piece of cake,” she said. “Keep your splurges to 15 percent.” She recommends people stop eating by 6:30 p.m. to aid digestion. She said in order to be successful when attempting to lose weight, people should rid their kitchens of

May 2013

unhealthy items. “Refill your pantry with real food,” she writes. “Simple food with simple ingredients.” She also recommends daily doses of sunlight and fresh air, as well as prayer and positive thinking; finally, she recommends living source supplements. She said her ultimate goal is to help her customers help themselves. “You are your body’s best expert,” she said. “I feel like that should be considered more often. You know when something’s not quite right.” Local hospitals provide a font of support groups and classes for people seeking to lose weight and improve their health. Rachel Hall, Good Samaritan Regional Health Center marketing and public relations specialist, said the hospital offers several programs to support those who seek weight loss and better nutrition.

In May, Good Samaritan will offer prenatal, infant feeding and car seat safety courses, blood pressure screenings, diabetes support, yoga, stroke support, skin cancer support and more. In addition, Good Samaritan is working to provide a bariatric support group in the future, Hall said. More information is available at Crossroads Community Hospital provides two programs geared toward health in the community Healthy Woman and Senior Circle. Healthy Woman works to empower women to make healthy choices for themselves and their families, according to the Crossroads Community Hospital website. Among other services, Senior Circle provides exercise and wellness classes to seniors in the community.


Carbondale ends Verhines’ basketball journey Bronson Verhines never saw it coming. There was no way to predict the path he took on his basketball journey, but it will end with Southern Illinois University. “There’s no way I could have predicated that this could happen,” Verhines said several weeks ago after committing to the Division-I school in Carbondale. “Or that things would unfold like they have, but I sure am pretty happy and content with the way things have gone.” Verhines starred for Woodlawn in high school. The older brother of Dawson Verhines, he helped the Cardinals advance to the 1A boys basketball state final where Woodlawn finished second in 2009. The Cardinals finished with a record of 30-2. Verhines played 29 minutes in the 1A final loss to Macon Meridian and finished with eight points and 13 rebounds. He played basketball one season at Kaskaskia College before taking a two-year hiatus from the sport. He attended Rend Lake College for academics only before moving on to SIU-Edwardsville. As Bronson Verhines was focusing on academics, his brother Dawson finished off his own Woodlawn career and committed to Rend Lake. He played his freshman season and the team advanced to the national tournament. “I think Bronson saw that basketball could be fun again, and I think he started to miss it No. 1, but I think he saw that maybe 6

the experience and the things that happened at Kaskaskia didn’t happen everywhere,” Rend Lake College coach Randy House said. Eventually, Bronson decided to give basketball another try. It wasn’t easy initially. “For two years, I really hadn’t played any competitive games, I hadn’t been running too much,” Verhines said. “The main thing was just getting back into shape, and (the coaches) do a great job of conditioning our team and getting us ready for the style of play we have. They did a great job of preparing me for the season.” He suited up this past season for the Warriors and helped take Rend Lake and its fans on a journey to the national title. “I’m taking two years off and coming back,” Verhines said. “I didn’t really know what to expect from this season, but it ended up going pretty well.” Rend Lake entered the Region 24 tournament as the top seed after winning their conference and ended with the title. The championship ensured another trip to the NJCAA Division II national tournament, which was held in Danville. “I think the main thing is we have a a lot of heart,” Verhines said. “Every single person on the team has a desire to win. Just everybody comes together unselfishly, the coaches included.” Rend Lake behind Verhines ripped past its opponents to the championship game where the

Warriors played Moraine Valley. Verhines finished with a doubledouble and the Warriors won 87-69. “You know Bronson just goes about his business,” House said. “He’s not physically intimidating. He’s not a huge physical specimen by any means, but he plays hard. He’s very active.” House said one of his key characteristics is his movement away from the basketball when other players would chose to stand still. “And that’s not something that our kids and Bronson especially did very much of was stand around and not be active,” House said. “That alone should help him at the next level.” He was later named Most Valuable Player of the national tournament. A couple days after the victory Verhines and his teammates celebrated the title in front of a crowd of hundreds of supporters. “I’ve got six sophomores that I’m not going to be able to coach again,” House said at the celebration. Two of those graduates were the Verhines brothers. In late April, Bronson announced his commitment to SIU. His brother will also get a chance to walk-on for the Salukis. “It makes the process easier having my brother right there alongside of me,” Bronson said. “Throughout this year we’ve grown pretty close playing ball at Rend Lake.” May 2013

By Paul Hines

May 2013


Being A P History

By Tesa Glass


May 2013

Part Of Project Gemini, NASA’s second human spaceflight program, made world history. And, as a part of the Gemini project, Mt. Vernon Resident Jim Nichols helped make that history. “I’m very proud of the part I played with Gemini,” Nichols said. “It’s a part of history, I was able to be a part of history.” Nichols was the methods engineer with McDonnell Aircraft Corp., acting as the liaison between planning, engineering, quality assurance, mock-up and manufacturing departments on the Gemini program.

“A methods engineer breaks a project down and shows how to build it, put the wires and the components together,” Nichols said. “We worked in a white room, and it was my job to pull all the departments and people working on the project together. If the astronauts wanted a yellow light with an orange lens, then I would get it done for them. One thing about it, McDonnell Aircraft hired people and let them do their job and we got it done.” Gemini 12 had a crew of James A. Lovell Jr. and Edwin Aldrin. It launched at 3:46 p.m. eastern standard time on Nov. 11, 1966 and splashed down at 2:22 p.m. eastern standard time on Nov. 15, 1966. The crew was in space


for four days, completing 59 revolutions of earth in 94 hours and 36 minutes. The launch was a three orbit rendezvous to simulate the lunar program rendezvous. “It was different then with the space program,” Nichols said. “At the time, they started with Mercury, and of course the

Russians had Sputnik. But with Mercury, the astronauts went up then down, they didn’t get out of the vehicle. When there was a launch, it was on television all day long. Now, two or three days after a launch of this or that, it’s not big news, you might hear a little bit or read a small piece in the newspaper.”

May 2013

Gemini was started to demonstrate endurance of humans and equipment in space for extended periods of time; to rendezvous and dock with another vehicle; to demonstrate and devlop space walks; to perfect re-entry into the atmosphere and give astronauts the experience they would need for the Apollo missions to land on the moon. “We were very meticulous about the quality of our stuff going into space,” Nichols said. “The Russians and British were part of the moon race, but they had problems with their computers. The Sputniks from the Russians had a dry landing — on dry ground. That killed everyone in there, but that didn’t seem to bother them much. We didn’t want to kill anyone, so we designed the wet landing. We took more time, quality and pride in developing our space program.” Nichols remembered creating the components and ultimately the Gemini capsule was very painstaking work. “We always wore white suits,” Nichols said. “I have black plastic shoes on because as the liaison, I had to go in and out of the white room. When you went in, you went through an air lock, then you would go to a locker room, get your shoes and jumpsuits and caps on. Then, you would go through a bigger airlock that scrubbed the shoes,

the suit — everything. It was a six micron clean room. One micron is 1,000ths of a human hair.” Nichols recalled that Gemini 4 was the first time an astronaut was asked to get out of the space vehicle — which was a very scary thought at the time. “It always amazed me that in space there is no gravity and things float, but they always float up,” Nichols said. “Why not go down or sideways? On Gemini 4, it was the first American to get out of the capsule. ... They were telling this guy to get out. Open a hatch and get out and if Einstein was wrong, he

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was going to fall out not to return or blow up. He’s in there, going 250,000 foot per mile, and they tell him to open a hatch and stand up.” Nichols said the first time Edward H. White was told he was to open a hatch and get out of Gemini 4, he wasn’t sure about it either. “He asked, ‘what happens if I faint?’ They said, ‘I don’t know, you fall down,’” Nichols recalled. “’Then he said, ‘what if I fall out?’ and the brass said, ‘well, it won’t matter anymore.’ (White) wanted a lanyard or something put on the hatch that he could pull to get back into the hatch quickly. So, we fixed him a lanyard. A few days later, he came back because he wasn’t happy with it. So, we ran a bar with the lanyard on the hatch, that way if he fell down on the pod, it would bring the hatch down. He was still not sure it would work. By that time a big admiral, three stars or something like that says, ‘Ed, open the hatch and stand up.’ He was in the Navy too, so he argued a bit again, then this admiral, he finally says ‘Edward White, this is a direct order. You will open a hatch and stand up.’ He did, and nothing happened. It’s little things like that that went on with the program that most people don’t know anything about.” 12

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May 2013

“And, if I cannot win, may I be courageous in the attempt.” It takes a special person to help children with special needs. Mt. Vernon is blessed to have several of these individuals involved in three Special Olympics organizations — at Mt. Vernon Township High School, and independent groups like the JC Jets and Mavericks. There is also a grade school organization in Jefferson County.

June 2013 13

By Rorye O’Conner

13 May 2013

The high school group is the longest running organization — competing in the Summer Games at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1978. JC Jets has been in existence for approximately three years and the Mavericks — a spinoff group of the Jets — was organized this past year. Megan Clodi has been coaching the MVTHS Special Olympics team for a decade. Two other volunteer coaches — Kevin Braddy and Leann Ferguson — have been approved by the District 201 Board of Education. Clodi said several other paraprofessionals help coach and chaperone, and nearly 100 student volunteers assist during the annual Spring Games held at J.D. Shields Memorial Stadium. Currently, about 20 athletes represent Mt. Vernon Township High School. In addition to the Spring Games, the group participates in bowling and basketball. “Special Olympics is just a great organization because it helps level the playing field both figuratively and literally,” Clodi said. “The kids may struggle in the classroom, but on the field or court, they can show off their talents to their families and classmates, and even to themselves,


to show how valuable they are.” Linda Krikie, who has been involved with the Jets for several years because of a special needs son, 36-year-old Manny McClellan, added Special Olympics boosts self confidence among the participants. “A lot of these kids are athletes that didn’t do anything. A lot of them come from group homes and the two workshops in town, Comp Services and Progressive Housing. When we started we rallied a lot of people out. The Cain brothers weren’t doing anything. Another young man, John Donovan, wasn’t doing anything, and now he’s going to be our softball pitcher. He’s like on Cloud Nine,” Krikie said. “We try to give them a sense of friendship, trust and pride. I try to keep the JC Jets at a level to where people know who we are. So many of these athletes have been put down for so many years and we try to build

them up. It’s frustrating, and we have our problems, but we just go in there and work with them, talk to them, and do what we can. But

June 2013

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most of them are very happy.” Krikie said the group went on a campout recently and she described it as “one of the greatest experiences that some of them ever had.” “With Special Olympics we do track and field, basketball, softball, and bowling, and we do some outside activities too,” she said. “If I get a break for two weeks it’s a miracle,” she added, noting there are activities planned year-around. The group annually attends a Southern Illinois Miners game, the zoo, and to tractor pulls. Bryce Woods is the head coach, Tim Flanagan assistant coach and Kim Dent is the cheerleading coach. “A lot of these kids have never been to any of those activities outside Special Olympics,” Krikie noted. The group started with 13 athletes which has grown to 72, with six coaches. Krikie, Bryan Jennings and Karen Shaw make up the board of directors, and 22 volunteers are certified through Special Olympics. Krikie said the tears of happiness makes it all worthwhile. “When we went to state for basketball, both of our teams got to go. They both came home with gold. They all cried, and to see the joy and happiness that they have fulfilled some things they’ve never been able to do before is exciting,” Krikie said. When not competing in events, the Special OIympic athletes are participating in fundraisers, including bake sales, car washes, garage sales, and May 2013

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spaghetti suppers. At Summersville Grade School, Leah Williams works with about five athletes who participate in track and field events, although not all of them attend the school. She indicated the special athletes take a lot of pride in competing. “Our kids look forward to it every year. In February and March we start preparing. They get so excited to be there and see other students and athletes. It makes it all worth it,” she said, adding the students also participate in fundraising throughout the winter months. “It’s a good experience and they look forward to it every year,” Williams said. Clodi said there have been several good memories over the years. “We had an athlete, Antonio Moore, that participated in the World Games in 2007 in Shanghai, China. That was an exciting time. Three years ago we started up a basketball team. The first year we came in second in the state, and this year we won state for Division I teams. During that time, it was exciting to challenge our students to come together,” she said. Most recently, Clodi said, a project called Project Unified was organized to incorporate peers to develop leadership skills. “They buddy up — the peers and athletes — and do fun and social activities and participate in state activities for a Youth Activation Summit. Those have been new initiatives that have help build tolerance and awareness,” she said. Clodi’s husband, Ray, just started the Mavericks. That group participates in bowling and basketball activities, and one athlete competes in power lifting. 16

June 2013


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By Rorye O’Conner

More Than Just A Hobby

What started as a means to alleviate boredom has turned into a business opportunity for one local woman. Linda Hoffman of Mt. Vernon is the artist behind Lula’s Jewelry Designs, handmade artisan jewelry featuring semi-precious stones. Her designs are featured at the Upstart Art Mart at 805 Broadway.


Hoffman first began making jewelry more than a year and a half ago when she was recovering from surgery. “There was this bracelet I bought, which was beaded that I loved and wanted to fix,” she explained. “I had taken a chainmailing class at Cedarhurst I enjoyed, and then I just went to some of the hobby

stores, got some books and tools. I started reading more about it and fixed (the bracelet)., and then I started buying more beads. I enjoyed it, so I just kept making things.” She prefers to use semi-precious stones for her pieces, as well as recycled glass and pearls. She also likes to mix interesting chains with

June 2013

beads, she said. “Usually when I buy beads, I have an idea in my head of what I’d like to make,” she said. “But when I look at something and like it, sometimes I don’t have a design until later.” Some of her favorite stones to work with include yellow fire agate, a glossy, mottled lime green stone; mookaite jasper, which comes in red and yellow varieties; and quartz, fired glass and onyx. Some of the pieces on display at the Upstart Art Mart are made of African opals or sponge coral. Most of her pieces are one of a kind, or from a small set, Hoffman said, because she hand selects her beads and can’t often find beads to make large amounts of the same type of pieces. The findings, chains and pendants on her jewelry are primarily silver or pewter, she said. She said she has fun making jewelry for her friends and family. “Semi-precious stones are a step up from costume jewelry,” she said. “... This is what I do to keep busy.” Hoffman draws her inspiration from the jewelry she owns and loves, as well as the latest fashions. “I’ve noticed that a lot of jewelry is from one color and one stone quite a bit right now,” she said. That Hoffman is utilizing her creativity may not be too surprising, since she considered majoring in art in college. “I took a lot of art classes through high school,” she said. “I almost majored in art, and then I went to junior college and ended up becoming a medical office assistant.” Hoffman met her husband in Peoria, and they moved to Mt. Vernon more than 30 years ago to open a doctor’s office. June 2013

Art has been a hobby for her throughout her career, she said, though her focus has been on painting rather than jewelrymaking. She said she now prefers making jewelry over painting for several reasons. “I can stop and start a project easier,” she said. “I don’t have to wash brushes, I can just lay something down and come back to it.” Hoffman has sold about 10 pieces since the art mart opened, she said. “I kept buying beads and making things, and I decided I needed to sell to keep my habit going,” she said. Before her work was featured at the art mart, it was sold on consignment at the former Johnson’s Gift Company, she said. “I was looking for a place in town to sell it, and then the Downtown

Development Corporation opened the art mart, and I said I was interested,” she said. Hoffman had her choice of locations in the gallery, as she was one of the first people to indicate she was interested, she said. Lula’s Jewelry Designs is named in honor of Hoffman’s grandmother. She said her grandmother first saw her as a newborn and commented that she had good hands for needlework and embroidery. Hoffman said she doesn’t have any specific monetary goals for the future, but hopes to continue her business. “I just want to keep selling, keep making jewelry,” she said. “I just enjoy it. I created the company a year and a half ago and made jewelry for four months before I decided to sell.” Linda Hoffman can be reached at


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Mt Vernon Now - June 2013  

Serving Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County, Illinois. A special publication of the Mt. Vernon