FEATURING RESIDENTS WHO INSPIRE THE COMMUNITY IN THEIR OWN UNIQUE WAY
Each year Glancer Magazine features a distinct group of every day residents who are doing extraordinary things, making a difference in the lives of others by giving them hope, guidance or inspiration. Each story will touch your heart and awaken your spirit. Here are Glancer Magazine's 15 Fascinating Faces of 2018.
1. Holly & Grace Ramsburg, Naperville
Learning that less than 20% of individuals with an intellectual disability are employed was not going to work for Holly. She wanted more for her daughter, Grace, who was born with Down syndrome. Following Gandhi’s mantra, you must be the change you wish to see in the world, Holly went full steam ahead, quite literally, and bought into Dreamers Merchants Coffee and opened ‘4 Coffee and Grace’ this past summer.With Grace as her partner, their online store www.4CoffeeandGrace.com offers three blends of beans, ground coffee, and K-Cups, plus tea and fun merchandise. Their products are sourced from an inclusive company that employs individuals of all abilities in delivery, production, sales and marketing. “Grace walks through life with a smile, encouragement, compliments, positivity and hugs,” Holly shares. “I feel extremely lucky to be a part of this tribe, have a voice for change, and be part of the change! That's pretty cool!” -KK
2. Jim Kolodziej, Downers Grove
Jim lives in Oak Lawn but has worked for Community High School District 99 in Downers Grove and Glenbard Township High School District 87 in Glen Ellyn for the past 22 years. His mission has remained consistent - to provide a building infrastructure that is safe, cost-effective, and conducive to student learning, ultimately making a difference for the kids.
He is currently spearheading the Master Facility Plan that will include flexible spaces designed to meet the academic requirements and social-emotional needs of students, as well as LED lighting to save on energy costs, air conditioning for comfort, and most importantly, safety elements, such as the Blue Point Alert System connecting directly to the Police Station.
As a father and grandfather, keeping the students safe is his highest priority. Jim feels grateful to be supported by a District that ensures students, parents, neighbors, and staff is involved at every decision level, allowing for positive change in his community. -KK
3. Michael Jansey, Batavia
A senior at Batavia High School, Michael started playing football in 1st grade for Batavia Youth Football (BYF) and then transferred over to Tri-Cities in 4th grade to play tackle football. He started off as a tight end and defensive end, but then after the first year, turned into a running back and linebacker.
He was nominated for Dream Fearlessly for the Under Armour All-American game providing the opportunity to be one of the final two players in the big game which is played in Orlando with some of the best athletes in the U.S. and broadcasted on ESPN.
Khalil Mack is Michael’s personal football hero because Khalil came out of high school with one offer to Buffalo and now he’s one of the best defensive players in the NFL proving anything is possible if you put in hard work and use your opportunities wisely. Michael will pursue his own goals at Northwestern University in 2019! -KK
4. Rowena Salas, Wayne/St. Charles
Rowena attended North Central College to receive a degree in Biochemistry/Natural Sciences before going to Rush University, College of Nursing. She is an active member of the Advisory Board to the Dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship at NCC; Co-Owner/General Manager of Hotel Baker; and a Board Director of the Greater St. Charles Conventions and Visitors Bureau.
As a Registered Nurse, she practiced in the Department of Endocrinology, Neurology/Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Her nursing background was essential in Human Resources' Talent Acquisition and in Philanthropy & Communications managing the Physician Referral Service, marketing 2,500 physicians.
Her philanthropic work is her pleasure with nonprofit organizations such as Fox Valley Hands of Hope, Living Well Cancer Resource Center and Generation Rescue. Rowena feels blessed that the hotel has allowed her family to give back to several organizations while pursuing her passion for creativity in various areas. -KK
5. Sofia Sanchez, Downers Grove
Ask and it shall be given, so 11 year old Sofia followed Canadian rapper and musician, Drake’s “God’s Plan” when she sent out a video of her doing the Kiki Challenge asking him to visit her at the Lurie Children’s Hospital when he was in town for his concert at the United Center.
After being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy this past summer, Sofia was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital to await a heart transplant.
The video captured Drake’s attention and he surprised her on her birthday at the hospital.
“It really cheered me up and made me feel even more positive,” Sofia said.
The two took tons of selfies and have remained in contact. Now that Sofia has received her new heart, she plans on attending an upcoming concert. She can’t wait until her immune system is stronger and she can get back to cheerleading, softball, and hanging with her friends. -KK
6. Jesse Labreck, Naperville
For three seasons, Jesse Labreck has competed on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior and qualified for the Las Vegas Finals each year. “I applied for the show because a friend of mine did, and I thought it looked like an awesome challenge,” says Jesse, a former fourth grade teacher and former care-giver for a young woman with Cerebral Palsey.
Now she has taken her passion for competing physically to the gym as Co-Owner and General Manager of Ultimate Ninjas gym in Naperville. The gym has many obstacles from the show for participants to try themselves. There are classes for adults and kids to come in, set goals and become a ninja. Open gym hours are great for just checking it out.
“My favorite part of my job is working with the kids,” says Jesse. “Some of our kids go on to compete on American Ninja Warrior Junior!” -MK
7. Luke Pennings, Willowbrook
Watching his friend, Janie Bawel, struggle to fight cancer and pay the immense out of pocket expenses that were not covered by insurance, Luke Pennings was moved to make a difference for her and her family. He is one of the original founders and Executive Director of Ride Janie Ride Foundation which was formed in 2006 and has, over the years, been able to help multiple families with their medical financial struggles.
The biggest event they produce is the Ride Janie Ride Motorcycle Parade that is held every year on the first Sunday of May. It is a fully escorted parade with the route blocked to traffic that draws anywhere from 1200-1500 riders. “Our first event will always be my favorite,” says Luke.
“The route went directly in front of Janie’s house where she sat in a wheelchair waving at all the bikes going by. That day forever changed a lot of people.” -MK
8. Maren Carr, Montgomery
Eight months ago, Lindsey Carr’s six-year-old daughter, Maren, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Lindsey explained that removing a child’s shirt to clean and access their medical port is an emotional and physical struggle for many children. Maren asked her mother, who has been sewing for years, to make her a dress that she could wear to her clinic appointments without it needing to be removed.
“The dress I made for her had ruffly purple bows at the shoulders,” says Lindsey. “After the first dress, Maren stated, ‘Now make one for every kid with cancer, Mom’ and so the Brave Beauty Project was born.” Together, Lindsey and Maren design dresses and tops that appeal to children and allows easy access to the child’s port.
They have delivered over 300 dresses and tops to date through Maren’s treatment hospital and just recently, by mail to non-local Brave Beauties. They are hoping to attract more sewing volunteers to help them expand to other clinics. -MK
9. Karen Borow, Winfield
In 2001, Karen Borow was home-schooling her seven children with her oldest four playing in St. Michael’s (grade school) and St. Francis’s (high school) bands. However, with both bands having several rehearsals a week, transportation and keeping their home-school schedule on track became more difficult. This inspired Karen to create a band just for families with home-schoolers and thus, the West Suburban Home School Band was born.
They were blessed with a home at Resurrection Church where they have gathered and rehearsed for the past 18 seasons. Without a doubt, her favorite part of the band is Thursday nights when all the groups (218 members) come together for the four consecutive ensemble rehearsals that are divided by experience.
“The community of home-schooled families this band has drawn is amazing,” says Karen. “Kids that met in band are now married, and many alumni come back to play and assist. I think that’s great.” -MK
10. Tessa Kucharski, Naperville
This Junior at Neuqua Valley High School does not spend her time in the stands cheering her football team on, instead the people in the stands cheer her on as she plays with the team! Tessa Kucharski took to the field this past fall as Neuqua Valley’s first female football player wearing jersey #33 and playing Free Safety.
“I’ve wanted to play football since 7th grade,” says Tessa, who credits her success to her dad’s love of playing ball with her, her health teacher’s encouragement and her mom’s belief that Tessa could handle whatever was thrown at her. For Tessa, tackling opponents was exhilarating, and the day she got her first interception, she says, was the best feeling she ever had. Her advice to other girls- “Don’t let society stop you from following your dreams. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.” -MK
11. Ava Blaser, Wheaton
She has been featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show, is a model for Five Dance Wear Company, and a national spokesperson for Dance Hope Cure and The Truth 365, which are initiatives of Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation. Ava is only 11 years old and has lived with Stage 5 Bilateral Wilms, a form of kidney cancer, for the past 7 years; but has continued to pursue her love of dancing with The Dynasty in Aurora.
“I hope it inspires (people) to work through difficult times and continue to follow their passion to the best of their abilities,” Ava says. “Kids with cancer just want to be kids like they always were, and not be defined by their illness.”
Pediatric cancer currently only receives 4% of cancer funding for research, so Ava is trying to help spread awareness while proving you can dance gracefully and passionately in continued hope for a cure. -KK
12. Renata Musial, St. Charles
After becoming a mom, Renata Musial struggled with her identity and finding a sense of purpose. She left a career in law and felt disconnected with who she was as a woman and an individual. “I found that when I attended workshops and retreats, I always returned refreshed and renewed,” says Renata.
“However, I found that these types of events, especially for moms, were few and far between, so I wanted to create them.” Her new business, Renewing Mom, focuses on creating a social community of events and workshops that leave moms feeling empowered and inspired.
Her favorite memory was of her last event, Gather, at Buttermilk Restaurant in Geneva, where a group of over 100 women enjoyed presentations by motivating speakers and unique local businesses. “It was such a positive group of women,” says Renata, “and the energy was infectious. It really motivates me to continue to develop this as a resource for moms.” -MK
13. Rich Anderson, St. Charles
For over thirty years, Rich Anderson has run and captained the St. Charles Paddlewheel Riverboats that run up and down the Fox River, a business that has been in his family since 1945. During the season, their double-deck sightseeing boats take passengers daily for tours and host private charter trips for special events. This year, Rich is retiring to spend more time with his family and to enjoy his hobbies of traveling, swimming and biking. “
My greatest memory,” says Rich, “is all the wonderful people I have met over the years.” The many trips up the same river route was never boring, he says, as the passengers, weather and wildlife made it different every time. No fear, though, you have not missed out, the St. Charles Park District will be taking over operations next year while Rich finally takes some over-due summer vacations. -MK
14. Dave Weaver, Sugar Grove
Dave’s public safety related experience includes shooting recruitment, training, and community awareness videos for suburban and City of Chicago departments including CPD and CFD. He worked eight years as the emergency dispatch center communications supervisor during the annual Burning Man event in the Nevada desert, and has worked as a freelance television news cameraman for the past 32 years. He is Radioman911.com.
Dave grew up on Aurora's West Side, moved to Chicago in 1988, and back to Kane County in 2014 where he currently owns and operates Radioman911.com to provide an organized method of reporting on over 5,000 incidents annually that affect the daily lives of the citizens within the region and its public safety providers.
Covering more than 33 counties, he feels fortunate to have formed a large dedicated group of savvy volunteer dispatchers who are always monitoring the airwaves and then sharing that information via his website or via YouTube via RADIOMAN911TV. -KK
15. Jeanne Beard, Wheaton
Local Autism advocate Jeanne Beard (founder of National Autism Academy) is the mother of two sons with special needs and she is making national headlines for her inspirational contribution to the book Simply Amazing, which was just released October. 2018. Her story shows the resilience of humanity and how people can to transform their struggles into public benefit.
Jeanne Beard's expertise in Autism grew out of necessity. As the mother of two sons with special needs (one diagnosed with Asperger’s, one with ADHD,) she was determined to help her son find strategies for success despite the limited parenting resources available. Beard created the National Autism Academy to support other parents and equip them with the information and tools for success that were not provided to her. Today, the National Autism Academy is a nationally-recognized parent and professional training organization that supports thousands of people who live, love, and work with those on the Autism Spectrum.
Special thanks to each of these extraordinary residents for sharing their unique stories.
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