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15 FASCINATING FACES OF 2012


The world is made up of fascinating people doing extraordinary things. We are fortunate to have many of them living right here in our community.

Eric Ferguson, Hinsdale

The Eric & Kathy Morning Show, 101.9 FM The MIX Chicago

He is one of Hinsdale’s newer residents yet is probably the most well-known guy on the block. Most of Chicago hears his voice every morning on the radio on The Eric & Kathy Morning Show on 101.9 FM, The Mix Chicago. Eric Ferguson grew up in Elburn, Illinois, so living in the suburbs in not a new thing for him. In fact, his fond childhood memories of riding his bike, hanging out with friends and spreading his wings is the very thing that brought him back with his wife and four children. “Hinsdale gives the Mayberry type feeling,” Ferguson shares. “It has a little town feel with all the amenities of city of life. It’s a great place for my kids.” He is thoroughly enjoying watching his kids grow into beautiful people. He attends all their sporting events and participates in as many of their activities as possible. Ferguson has been working for WTMX for 17 years as a part of the morning show and loves every minute of it. “I feel at home and alive in that radio booth, thrilled and excited,” he says. “It isn’t work for me and I’m getting paid to do exactly what I want to be doing every day!” He loves that each day is different and appreciates socializing, making jokes, and meeting celebrities, such as Oprah. “Even though she is local, she has such global appeal, and it’s been so great to get to know her over drinks and dinner,” he adds. “I also grew up listening to Jon Bon Jovi, so to exchange phone calls with him and have him know who I am is kind of gratifying.” To most, Ferguson appears a natural entertainer, but he is admittedly fairly quiet and introverted outside the radio booth. “Everybody jokes at the parties that I am the guy that does not talk very much,” he shares. “I very much enjoy the downtime, not having to carry the conversation. I enjoy listening.” He is a father, a popular radio host, a quiet man—and he loves his new home town. “There are a lot of successful people in Hinsdale, but through all that success it is a very neighborly, nice, humble community and I am just another guy that lives next door.”

Karen Soenen, Burr Ridge

Manager, Bill Rancic Productions

She has walked the red carpet at the Emmy’s and met the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Clinton, but most of her neighbors know her as just another mom on the block. Karen Soenen’s brother is Bill Rancic, Season 1 winner of Donald’s Trump’s The Apprentice, and she actively manages all engagements for Bill Rancic Productions. She also stays quite busy maintaining the appearances and tapings for Bill and his wife, Guiliana, anchor for E! News. “Returning all the calls and emails and staying on top of the job is difficult because I like to get back to everyone in a timely manner,” Soenen shares. She loves working with her brother and says they balance each other well, as he is all business, but she likes to keep things personable. “I get to meet and work with a lot of kind and interesting people and have developed some lasting relationships with people we have met over the years.” She is excited about the new season of Guiliana & Bill, airing on Style Network, which includes her new nephew, Duke. She says to get ready for a fun new series in January, Ready for Love on NBC, which will feature “B & G” as hosts to a Bachelor-like show. When she’s not working the Hollywood scene, Soenen most prefers to be in her flannels, listening to country music and enjoying some homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Matthew Friscia, Downers Grove

Station Manager, Radio Disney Chicago AM 1300

Matthew Friscia is married with two kids and he has always loved playing music, so his job as station manager at Radio Disney Chicago AM 1300 suits him very well. “One of my personal favorite things to do outside of work is play drums,” Friscia says. “I'm part of a Tom Petty/Johnny Cash cover band called Petty Cash (www.pettycashband.com), and we’ve opened for Kenny Rogers!” Between his personal and professional celebrity encounters, most of his neighbors’ kids probably think he is one of the luckiest guys around. “I get to work with all their favorite stars when they're in town,” he says. “We've had so many of today's biggest Disney Channel stars come through, like Debby Ryan, Bella Thorne, Zendaya, Ross Lynch, and Phineas and Ferb.” But the two most famous Disney stars he has met are Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse themselves! The best part of his job is that it changes every day and he is always working with great new clients and new promotions. “We are privileged to be a part of some really big events throughout Chicago. Seeing hundreds and thousands of families’ faces light up at those events make it so much fun to be a part of.”

Alyssa Paulsen, Latham, NY/Wheaton

USA Ambassador Miss 2012

Twenty-year-old Alyssa Paulsen is from Latham, NY, and is currently a junior at Wheaton College, majoring in applied health science and minoring in interpersonal communications. She was recently crowned USA Ambassador Miss 2012 in recognition of her extensive charity work. The USA. Ambassador Pageant is a charity-driven organization that promotes success through leadership, integrity, character and confidence in today’s young women. “My philosophy as a titleholder is to support and bring publicity to all charity events, and specifically to health-related charities, since that is my field of interest,” Paulsen says. “I have supported the American Diabetes Association, the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization, the Lyme Disease Awareness Foundation, Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation.” Her platform is “Inner Beauty and Positive Body Image,” and she has spent a lot of time speaking in high schools about not finding identity in appearance, but rather in who we are as people. “Appearance should not be what defines your self-worth and your self-esteem,” she adds. “Who you are as a person, what you live for, and your heart for others is what truly matters.” Paulsen finds her identity in her Christian faith and in whom God made her to be. “At the end of the day, no one cares how hot you looked at that Halloween party, but people will remember the legacy you leave behind. What do you want that to be?”

Traci Elizabeth Glon, Lisle

Presenter/Public Speaker, Climate Reality

Traci Elizabeth majored in broadcast journalism and art at Columbia College Chicago and has worked as a professional model and spokes model. Her writing credentials include AccessVegas, Rock Report Online, and blogs at www.travelyourdreamshere.blogspot.com. Her heart belongs in promoting a greener earth. Glon actively follows Climate Reality news and thinks the work they are doing is exceptional. She admires Al Gore as an innovative leader and participated in The Climate Reality Leadership Corps to receive her certificate of training. Empowered with information, she would like to see more for the residents who make this local community home. “We need homes made with all eco-friendly building materials, including solar,” Glon says. “I'd like to see solar/LED street lighting and a green museum that would teach everything environmental to the next generation.” She says that Reykjavic, Iceland, gets 100% of their energy from natural sources, and there is no reason why we cannot do the same. “Danada Forest Preserve has taken that step, as they just installed solar panels on their front barn and the info kiosk is now interactive LED,” Glon continues. “We have lots of open fields in DuPage County for windmills, wind farms, and solar arrays.” Her Climate Reality presentations, with local emphasis, help educate and empower the community to make choices toward a greener feature.

Sherry Healey, Naperville

President, Community Access Naperville

By day, Sherry Healey is a corporate employment consultant at Intersect for Ability, but by heart and spirit she is committed to helping her epileptic and autistic son, Michael, achieve greatness in life. The Healey’s lives were forever changed with Michael’s epilepsy diagnosis, “Epilepsy can be, and has been for us, a devastating disorder,” she says. Sherry and her husband, John, are active volunteers with Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy. “Michael has very limited communication skills and operates at the level of a 3 to 4 year old,” Healey shares. “But, he thrives in an environment that is predictable and challenging at his level and has an amazingly positive outlook on life.” When Michael turned 16, the Healey’s realized how fast time was moving and that soon he would be finished with school. “I started touring various adult programs and was unable to find one that seemed to be a match for his needs and interests,” she says. They brainstormed ways to make this happen for their son, and Community Access Naperville (CAN) was born with the help of an amazing group of parents, fantastic life skills instructors, and a committed group of high school and college-aged peers. Community Access Naperville empowers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to work in, contribute to, and enjoy their community. “Everyone, given the proper supports and environment, can work and contribute to society,” Sherry says. “Everyone feels a sense of pride and value when they are involved in activities that have meaning.”

Jean Gaines, Geneva

President, Geneva Chamber of Commerce

The Gaines and their two children made Geneva their home many years ago. For Jean, what began as a means to occupy her time as her son and daughter grew older has turned into a passionate commitment serving as president of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. “At first, it was the fun of meeting new people and learning about the community,” Jean says. “Then it was a determination to help Geneva maintain its community flavor and still grow enough to help businesses flourish.” Jean has certainly lent a hand in Geneva becoming a current and relevant city while maintaining its history and charm. “Geneva reminds many people of the towns of their youth, and they come for the theatre and a chance to make a memory with their family,” she adds. “They can shop, take a walk along the river, ride bikes, or even fish or kayak.” One of her favorite parts of the job is the festivals that draw thousands of visitors to their small community: Swedish Days, the Fine Art Show, Festival of the Vine, and the Christmas Walk. “My most treasured awards are the engraved stone on the city sidewalk recognizing my years of work, given to me by the city, and the bench along the river donated by the Chamber’s Board of Directors,” she shares. “My grandsons love sitting on my bench.” Jean’s commitment is personal, its professional, and its making her community her home.

John Lamb, Naperville/St. Charles

Environmental Services Manager, City of St. Charles

John Lamb became enthused about the outdoors and the environment in high school, when he took a trip to Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. “It is a wilderness area where you can canoe and camp,” he says. He discovered the field of water and wastewater management through classes at Joliet Junior College and found it interesting, which lead to his career as the environmental services manager for the city of St. Charles. A resident of Naperville for 30 years, married with children, Lamb has always had passion for his natural surroundings, protecting the rivers and providing safe drinking water. He is a true environmentalist. He believes in thinking globally and acting locally and would like to see continual improvement to the city’s recycling program, energy saving measures in city water and wastewater projects, and more public education. He is also a member of the Fox River Study Group, which assesses the water quality of the Fox River watershed and how storm events and sources impact the it in order to provide input on future regulations. He loves his community and respects the rivers not only professionally but also recreationally. “I am an avid canoeist and do a lot of it locally,” Lamb says. “The Fox, DuPage and Kankakee Rivers and AuSable and Mazon Creeks are all beautiful, natural prime spots and close by.”

Dr. Michael Schmidt, Glen Ellyn

Interventional Cardiologist, DuPage Medical Group/Ironman Finisher

Dr. Michael Schmidt walks the talk as an interventional cardiologist for DuPage Medical Group and recent Ironman Triathlon finisher. He knows the secret to a healthy heart is diet and exercise, and nothing speaks louder than swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles in a day’s race. In 2007 he was interested in losing weight and getting in shape, which lead to running. Schmidt started with local 5Ks and progressively worked his way to marathons by 2008. Since then, he has completed 10 marathons, 2 half Ironman triathlons, and one full Ironman triathlon. He offers his professional advice as well as his personal advice. “Exercise is excellent for your health, but you must be careful not to exceed the limitations of your body,” he shares. “Start with small events and work your way up gradually.” Since completely the Ironman this past year, he hopes to continue to exercise and stay healthy. His three children help keep him moving as an assistant basketball coach and a Cub Scout leader, and he is actively involved in the Glen Ellyn community, where he has lived for the past 35 years.

Julie Folger, Naperville

RN, BSN/Co-Leader Naperville Lupus Support Group

As a nurse, Julie Folger has worked with patients experiencing many different illnesses, but she continues to be amazed that a disease that affects more people than cerebral palsy, MS, cystic fibrosis and leukemia—lupus—has had only one drug released in the last 53 years to treat it. Folger knows all too well about lupus, as she herself was diagnosed in 2007. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs. “Through awareness I believe we can become more compassionate and less judgmental of others,” Julie shares. “I simply do not look sick, but there is more beyond my surface. Unless you take the time to know me and understand what I fight against daily, you will not see my true strength or have compassion.” She shows support for others as co-leader of the Naperville Lupus Support Group, sponsored by the Lupus Foundation of America Illinois Chapter. “Knowledge is power,” she says. “If you have lupus, read, learn, and talk to others with the disease, because you will find that the best thing you can do for yourself is to become your own best advocate.” Folger, though, is not defined by lupus. She enjoys various crafts and cooking when she is able, and friends lovingly refer to her as “Martha Junior.” She also loves volunteering for her daughter’s Daisy troop and church’s religious education program and hopes to return to work very soon.

Bob and Francine Popeck, Batavia

Batavia Event Organizers, International Windmillers’ Trade Fair

Bob and Francine Popeck have deep respect and appreciation for the history of the City of Batavia. They have immersed themselves into the community through employment, volunteerism, and preservation of local history. Bob was employed by the City of Batavia for 48 years as a fireman, policeman, chief of police (1970–80), and as administrative assistant to the mayor. The Popecks are actively involved with the Batavia Historical Society, which shares Batavia's windmill history. The Popeck's were instrumental in bringing windmill enthusiasts from around the world to the International Windmillers' Trade Fair, which Batavia hosted in both 1996 and 2012, the 24th year of this event. Bob notes, “Batavia proudly displays seventeen Batavia windmills throughout town on both public and private property. As windmill history buffs, we are big collectors. We have three Batavia windmills in our own yard, along with smaller windmills and windmill antiques and collectibles in our home that we enjoy sharing with others.” The Popecks also had an influential role in rallying for the City of Batavia to be granted historic landmark status by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which recently issued a proclamation that Batavia is "The Windmill Capital of the World." With a smile, Bob says, "The community's love for Batavia and its generosity in making donations to bring examples of its windmill manufacturing history back for all to appreciate once more gives Francine and I the pleasure to say we are very proud to be from Batavia.”

Michael Simon, Geneva

Owner, The Little Traveler

Having lived in Geneva his entire life with his wife, Nancy, and two sons, Michael Simon lives and breathes in the heart of town. His passion for Geneva goes back to his wonderful and positive experiences growing up in the small and caring community. His family purchased The Little Traveler in 1971, and one of his father’s original partners is still involved. Though the boutique is known for its wonderful treasures and ever-changing collection of one-of-a-kind pieces for your home, the spirit of the store comes from Simon’s desire to give back to the community he loves so much. “Recently we partnered with the Geneva Community Chest, which benefits over 20 charities that help people throughout the community,” he shares. “A couple of years ago, during Festival of the Vine, we were told that we must charge our guests for sampling wine, which we had always done for free. So we decided to give all the money from these sampling fees to the Community Chest. In recent months, we were able to give them a check for $5,000.” He appreciates that just about every business in the downtown area is owned and run by a family, and that the money spent in downtown Geneva allows each of them to give back to the local schools, churches, and charity fundraisers.

Janelle Gilbert, Aurora/Chicago

Singer/Song-Writer, Janelle JA

Throughout her grammar and high school years at West Aurora High School, Janelle Gilbert had a learning disability and took special education classes. “There is a misconception that a person will never advance or be successful when diagnosed with a learning disability,” Janelle says. “My grandma, Laura, was my biggest inspiration.” Having someone believe in her abilities and encourage her to pursue her dreams has helped her succeed as a performer. Her first brush with success occurred when she recorded “Playing with my Emotions,” which was featured on the B96 late night mix set. While attending West Aurora High School, Janelle joined the girl group Vanesse, and their music was featured on 107.5fm WGCI Chicago. “My proudest moment was a recent performance at the Apollo Awards Ceremony, which featured celebrities from HGTV,” she adds. “Someone came up to me afterwards and said, ‘What a wonderful performance’; I was almost in tears.” Janelle loves all musical genres. “If the music sounds good, if it has a good message behind the tunes, I am all ears,” she says. She is in the process of completing her second album and hopes to have her music heard all over the world one day, but her personal goals are always second to prayer and the gift of giving back. Janelle has partnered with Amani Children’s Home, an orphanage in Tanzania, to help buy school uniforms and books. “Humbleness and humility—these helped shape me to be the person I am today.”

Renee Hicks and Sonoma, Naperville

Volunteers, Naperville Humane Society and Our Children’s Homestead

Having left her 17-year career at United Airlines to be home with her daughter and Labradors, Renee Hicks decided to combine her love for children and animals into a volunteer opportunity with the Naperville Humane Society and Our Children’s Homestead. Hicks and her AKC “Canine Good Citizen” dog, Sonoma, help build children’s reading abilities through a program called Paws for Tales offered through The Naperville Area Humane Society. “I knew my yellow lab, Sonoma, was the perfect candidate for the program. She is 9 years old and extremely gentle and patient with children,” Hicks says. “I saw the joy and excitement of the students when we arrived and saw the growth and development of the students’ reading abilities build with each visit.” Her interest in helping others grew when Anderson’s Bookstore promoted World Book Night this past year. “World Book Night is a nonprofit organization that spreads the love and power of reading person to person through the giving of books every April 23,” she adds. “Immediately, I thought of Our Children's Homestead in Naperville.” Hicks submitted an essay for an opportunity to be selected as one of the many volunteers throughout the United States to distribute the books, and she won! She chose the book Because of Winn-Dixie, and with Sonoma’s help, distributed 20 copies to Our Children’s Homestead. “I find such joy reaching out to children and giving them something that we all take for granted.”

Valerie Lorimer, Naperville/Wheaton

Artist/Graphic Designer, Valerie Lorimer/Wheaton Park District

Valerie Lorimer is fortunate to be able to combine her love of art into her daily work as a graphic designer for the Wheaton Park District and through her own studio, Valerie Lorimer. “As a young child, I always wanted to create. I didn’t realize at the time that this would be a lifelong calling,” she says. “I have to create each day. It’s like breathing for me!” Throughout the years, Lorimer has followed several artistic paths, including composing music and working as a pianist/accompanist for Chicago Opera Theater and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, but she discovered her true passion while taking classes at the DuPage Art League. Since winning an award at their monthly art show, Lorimer has also exhibited pieces at the Naperville Art and DuPage Art Leagues, Naperville’s Java Juice, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, Gibby’s Wine Den, Carol Stream Library, Roselle Public Library, Naperville Cultural Center and Whole Foods in Naperville and Wheaton. Her work is also featured at Fortunate Discoveries in Chicago and Universal Spirit Yoga and Two Doors East in Naperville. “Probably the most exciting commission I received was for the pieces that are in the Naperville Marriott,” she says. “The whole process was very rewarding, and I love seeing my pieces at such a large scale, since I usually work in a smaller format.” Her commissions have ranged from regular wall art to a large mural to a Ketubah. “You can never go wrong if you’re passionate about your journey!”

#RadioDisney #TheLittleTraveler #NapervilleHumaneSociety #WheatonParkDistrict

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