Relay For LifeNORMAL – They were a stirring sight, whether you were on the grounds on and around Normal Community West High and Wildcat Stadium, or if you saw marchers on the track circling the football field there from noon Friday, June 26 to noon Saturday, June 27.

A total of 146 teams of between 12-15 people each, participated in the 15th annual Relay For Life of McLean County event with the goal of raising money to fight Cancer, as well as to fund research and advocacy for those afflicted with the disease.

By the time the Relay For Life of McLean County event ended at noon Saturday, it had honored 465 survivors and 285 caregivers, and raised $602,581.61. Relay For Life of McLean County had set a fundraising goal of $620,000 when plans for the 2009 event began last September.

Dana Pace, senior income development coordinator, based at the American Cancer Society’s Peoria office, said he looks at what it has meant for McLean County to have shared this experience for the past 15 years and raised nearly $5 million over that time to eliminate this disease.

In addition to McLean County celebrating 15 years of holding a Relay For Life event, the national Relay For Life organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, as well.

“This (area) has supported this event,” Pace said. “This is one of the few relays that has grown significantly almost every single year.”

Pace points to the 400-plus survivors who attended a dinner in their honor, on Friday night, inside Normal Community West High School. “Those are people who have gone through the fight and have been exposed to what we offer them, should they have continuing needs or should they know someone who is going down the same road they’ve been down.”

“Even though the economy is bad, (those who participate in this McLean County event) seem to be very giving and just very supportive of this relay,” said Sharon Kocher, who along with Pam Garrett, co-chaired the event.

Why They Relay: Mary Feit Webber, Cooksville, circled the track in the midday sun, walking as part of the team called “Rhianna’s Bananas,” honoring Rhianna Feit, who lost her battle with Cancer in 2007, at age 28. Rhianna Feit was married to Webber’s nephew, Andy Feit.

Webber said she knew nothing about Relay For Life in 2006, when Rhianna Feit asked her to join “Rhianna’s Bananas.” Webber said getting involved with Relay For Life is “easier to become involved in, (particularly) if you’ve lost a loved one.

“You know what your family has experienced (because of Cancer),” Webber said. “You’re so motivated to make a difference. You know what you’ve been through (and) what other people have been through. You want to help other families. You want to find a cure.

“In that respect, it’s easy to want to be part of the team,” Webber said.

Alice Feit, Chenoa, is another “Rhianna’s Bananas” member said attending Relay For Life is a bonding event for their team.

Sandy Brush, Hudson, is a three-year member of Krenn’s Krew, another team that, like “Rhianna’s Bananas,” has kept coming back to continue the fight against Cancer through this event.

Brush said she has had family that have passed away from the disease, and her husband is continuing to battle it, and is a 6-year survivor. “Thank goodness for the technology they have today, and things have just improved a lot,” she said.

“I think the more people who get involved with this event, the better,” said Patrick Krenn, team captain for Krenn’s Krew, who works at State Farm’s Systems Division. A number of Krenn’s team members are State Farm employees. Krenn’s family was touched by Cancer when his mother passed away from the disease in 1994.

Special Guests Throughout The Event: There were a number of special guests throughout the event. Normal Town Council member Sonja Reece, a Cancer survivor herself, welcomed Relay participants at the opening ceremony Friday and shared how her life had been touched by the disease.

On Friday, Relay participants also heard from Steve Derks, CEO, American Cancer Society’s Illinois Division, offering congratulations for reaching a milestone year. Derks said that research, which is paid for with some of the money raised at relays in the state has prevented 650,000 deaths from Cancer.

Also speaking to participants Friday prior to a “Survivors’ Walk” on the track were Lori Hamilton, and Norm Miller, who were selected as the 2009 Relay’s honorary survivors; and Mike & Mazie Arthofer, selected as the Relay’s honorary caregivers. The Arthofers’ daughter, Michelle, and her husband, Tom, each died from Cancer. Tom passed away in 1991, and Michelle died in June 2008.

Relay participants also heard from Barb Nathan, executive director of the Community Cancer Center, based in Normal.

Nathan spoke from a stage area, in front of which 600 tiny flags had been placed. She said the 600 flags represented the total number of people in McLean County who had been diagnosed with Cancer in 2008.

After speaking to roughly 30 people sitting in front of the stage area at the event on Saturday, Nathan said events like Relay helps to raise money for continuing research to continue to fight Cancer.

She said events like Relay also helps raise awareness of the disease and how people can get involved in trying to eradicate it. “This is a whole community that comes together this weekend, who stops to remember those that they’ve lost, to celebrate those that are on the battle, and also to help the people here realize that they have to make differences in their own lives so that they can decrease their chances of developing Cancer.”

Nathan said Americans are winning the battle over the disease. “The numbers of survivors from Cancer are growing tremendously,” Nathan said. “More than 60 percent of people now survive a Cancer diagnosis. That’s a huge improvement from what it was in years past. We have more and more effective treatments (and) more and more ways to help people along the way in their journey so that the treatments themselves aren’t so difficult.”

Friends, Loved Ones Remembered: As team members rounded the track encircling the football field, they found the track area lined with white bags with candles inside them. Each bag had written on it the name of a person who had either survived or passed away from Cancer. These people were being remembered by friends and loved ones. Relay For Life calls these Luminaria bags and each relay holds a touching Luminaria ceremony shortly after dark.

Some relays read aloud over a public address system the name of each person remembered. But McLean County Relay organizers had over 2,000 Luminaria bags sold, Kocher said. Some people were remembered more than once with Luminaria purchases.

The names of those remembered were projected onto a wide screen at one end of the stadium. As relay participants walked the track during the ceremony, they passed the screen, some stopping to pause if they spotted a familiar name, some stopping at a luminaria with a loved one’s name, as the glow of the candle inside shown brightly in the darkness.

Upcoming Donation Deadlines: Although the 2009 event is over, there are still ways for people to make donations to the event. One way is for team members to turn in money at a Bank Day event, scheduled for Tuesday, July 7 at Central Catholic High School, starting at 5:30p.m.

The other way is through online donations. Pace advised potential donors to make contributions to specific teams by visiting www.relayforlifemclean.com through Aug. 31.

By Steve Robinson | June 15, 2009 - 10:29 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members have tabled until their second meeting in July a resolution granting a waiver to an Uptown bar and restaurant whose owners are wanting to add signage that would require a variance from the Town because of the signs’ total size.

The owners of Maggie Miley’s, 126 E. Beaufort St., plan to add a deck to the rear building façade, allowing outside dining. As part of the deck, the restaurant’s owners want to add signs to the building’s rear façade.

Because the building is 55 feet wide, the restaurant’s owners are entitled to 55 sq. ft. of signage at the rear of the building.

An illustration of what Maggie Miley’s owners want to put on the building shows the name of the establishment, each individual letter surrounded by a shield, as well as a sign advertising a couple brands of beer sold at the establishment.

The total size of the signs is 139.25 sq. ft., where Town Code allows for up to 55 sq. ft.

Representatives from the restaurant and the sign manufacturer appeared at a hearing before the Uptown Design Review Commission on June 8 about their request. Commissioners unanimously approved the size waiver.

Council member Jeff Fritzen voiced an objection to the plan for the signs as they have been drawn up. He didn’t want to approve a sign of that size. He said he wanted to see a revised sign plan.

Zoning Text Amendment Withdrawn: Council members unanimously passed an omnibus item concerning a controversial Form Based Code for the Town, that was introduced to residents and business leaders in December.

Council members unanimously approved a motion to withdraw the proposed zoning text amendment related to the Form-Based Code.

The form-based code was drafted after over two years of planning along the Main Street Corridor. Both the Council and the Bloomington City Council approved the Main Street Plan that would govern the corridor, but in recent months, both business owners and residents living along Main St. brought concerns about the Form-Based Code.

Council member Adam Nielsen asked Mayor Chris Koos what would be next if the amendment were withdrawn. Koos said a task force would be set up to study the Form-Based Code further before it is brought back to the Council.

Nielsen said he hoped there would be public forums scheduled so that there could be further discussions about the code.

Koos reassured Nielsen that such discussions would be public in nature because they “have to be (done in) a public process.”

South Cottage Village Development Approved: Council members unanimously passed a resolution conditionally and partially approving an amended preliminary development plan for the South Cottage Village planned unit development.

The development was approved as a Multi-Use Office Park Planned Unit Development so that it could provide housing and services to the elderly.

Visitors Bureau Executive Director Addresses Council: Council members heard a presentation from Crystal Howard, director of the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, concerning the group’s progress over the past year in promoting the area to prospective tourists and other groups wishing to visit here.

Howard said that, based on rooms booked through her group, every dollar Normal invests in tourism brings back $7.40 to the Town.

Although the new Marriott Hotel and Convention Center is not slated to open until late Summer or early Fall, Howard said there are now future bookings for 11 conventions and 2,500 rooms for the facility.

Liquor Commission Issues Reprimands: In a meeting of the Normal Liquor Commission prior to the Council session, Commissioners unanimously voted to reprimand two bars for failing to pay their Food & Beverages to the Town by the due date.

The two establishments receiving reprimands were: Skar Enterprises, doing business as NV UltraLounge, 107 E. Beaufort St., and Foul Shots One, Inc., doing business as Foul Shots, 706 ½ W. Beaufort St.

The Town will issue a letter of reprimand for untimely payment of food and beverage taxes to the Town.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the reconvened public hearing of June 1, 2009.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of June 10, 2009.

• A resolution approving the waiver of the formal bidding process and acceptance of a proposal from Diebold, Inc. in the amount of $10,190 for drive-up equipment for the new modular banking facility at 104 Broadway and authorizing staff to execute a Memorandum of Understanding.

• A resolution renewing a supply agreement with Phoenix Paper Products for the processing of recycled paper products.

• A resolution renewing a supply agreement with Chicago Ridge-based Resource Management LLC for the processing of recycled container products.

• A resolution for Town Water Director to sign application forms and documents for the Illinois Public Water Supply Loan Program for the Clearwell Piping, Baffles, and Pumps Project.

• A resolution for Town Water Director to sign application forms and documents for the Well Replacement, Transmission Main and Water Main Replacement Project.

• An ordinance authorizing the Town of Normal to borrow funds from the Illinois Public Water Supply Loan Program for Well Replacement, Transmission Main and Water Main Replacement Project.

• An ordinance authorizing the Town of Normal to borrow funds from the Illinois Public Water Supply Loan Program for the Clearwell Piping, Baffles, and Pumps Project.

• An ordinance approving a franchise agreement with Sprint Communications Co. L.P. and amending Division 6 of Chapter 26 of the Municipal Code.

• An ordinance establishing prevailing wage rates.

Special OlympicsNORMAL – Being a good athlete means learning to accept some disappointments with grace, as well as to cherish a good win.

That turned out to be the lesson learned by a pair of area teams whose attempts to reach for gold in their events ended in mixed results at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games here Saturday and Sunday.

For the all-girls relay team from Pekin Park District’s Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association, Sunday was a learning experience.

The team has placed first in the 4×100 meter relay the last five years prior to Sunday’s event. But a series of events Sunday before the starting gun to IRVSRA’s race was even fired changed all that.

First, head coach Steve Grys and his relay team – Abby Grys, Judith Rich-Smith, Jessica Pribble, and Kayla Mortensen – arrived 15 minutes late, nearly missing being able to run at all.

Then, race judges and IRVSRA coaches ironed out a snafu over the order of the runners for Grys’ team. Because of the paperwork issue, the runners ran in an order they were not accustomed. As a result, IRVSRA placed third in their race, ending five years of consecutive gold medal finishes in this event.

“(Getting) third place means they did well, for all of that confusion and mishaps,” Grys said. “These things happen. It’s nobody’s fault. Considering everything, third place is not a bad place to be.

“Sometimes, in any sporting event, you get beat…,” Grys said, explaining that he will be reinforcing the lesson of this day with the team. Grys said life sometimes requires people “to be a gracious loser, as well as a gracious winner. Hopefully, this is a life lesson that they’ll learn and we’ll talk about it (with the team) when track season starts next year.”

Pekin Y Relay Teams Go 1-For-2: At Horton Pool, of two relay teams from Pekin YWCA competing Saturday, one team earned gold while the other was disqualified for a rule infraction. The team known as the SeaHorses – Lindsey Scranton, Tate McArdy, Jessica Sanders, and Josh Holford – earned medals for their efforts.

But, members of the Penguins team — Nate Thies, Tammy Denning, John DeFord, and Kris Lillie – were disqualified, which had head coach Carol Wells reinforcing rules with some of her team members.

Morton 709 Relay Team Gets First Gold: Morton School District 709 and Washington School District 50 were two teams looking for a revival of each of their individual Special Olympics programs that would end in coming to State. Both teams made it and exited with medals and ribbons to prove it.

On Sunday, Morton 709’s lone relay team earned its first gold medal at a State event since restarting. It was a very happy occasion, thanks to runners Courtney Konieczny, Kyla Pray, Benaiah Schoenbein, and Kathy Riddle, under the guidance of head coach Amanda Cross and assistant coach Erin Day.

Danielle Pray, Groveland, mother of Kayla Pray, was proud of her daughter and of the effort the coaches put forth so that her 11-year-old could win her first State Gold medal on her first try.

“The whole team has been awesome, and her coaches have been wonderful throughout,” Danielle Pray said. “They’ve encouraged them and the kids have had so much fun.”

“It was really exciting to see (our athletes) get medals,” Cross said. “I was really proud of our athletes for executing and putting together all the skills that they learned.”

Powerlifters’ Triumph: The Powerlifting team from Pekin-based Tri-County Independents carried away medals from their competitions over the weekend. Aaron Schaumleffel earned a silver medal for deadlifting 145 pounds and a gold medal for powerlifting 360 pounds.

Rick Fryman earned gold for benching 200 pounds and a gold medal for lifting 120 pounds. Fryman also came away with 4th place overall for lifting a total of 320 pounds.

Bill Hopkins came away with three gold medals on the day – one for benching 260 pounds, one for deadlifting 400 pounds, and a gold for lifting a combination from those two numbers, 660 pounds.

Washington Relay Team Places 2nd: Late Friday, Washington Special Olympics, under head coach Scott Deathrage, brought five athletes to the event, which included one relay team to the Summer Games. Athletes Hayden Davis, Thomas Christ, Kellen Ehrenhardt, and Jeremy Aldag finished second in their heat of the 4×400 relay, coming in with a time of 5:53, just 18 seconds behind race winner Rockford Special Olympics.

District 50 Runner Places 4th: Sean Woods will be an eighth grader at Beverly Manor in the fall, and was one of two Track and Field athletes Washington District 50 brought to State. On Saturday, Sean, son of Scott and Barb, Washington, finished fourth in the 100 meter run.

By The Numbers: Eight teams from the Times-area, numbering nearly 60 athletes, were part of the 3,700 athletes total from around the state competing in six sports at this 41st annual event – Aquatics, Athletics (track & field), Bocce, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, and Soccer.

They have been joined by 1,700 coaches, assisted by 2,500 volunteers, surrounded and cheered on by 2,000 family members and countless well-wishers, will be involved in the three-day event.

With Morton District 709 and Washington District 50 having brought new athletes to State Games in their first shot at Special Olympics was really exciting, explained Katie Herriott, area director for Area 6 Heartland Special Olympics, which includes Morton, Pekin, Washington, and Tazewell and McLean Counties.

With eight agencies from the Times-area involved in State Games this year, Herriott said that “it’s great to have those counties represented, and represented well – by the athletes, (and) by the families who will be supporting their athletes this weekend, and by the coaches.(Coaches) are the ones who put it all together and make it happen.”

Special OlympicsNORMAL – Regardless of how long an athlete has been practicing their sport, to have their efforts pay off with cheering crowds during the event and at a medals ceremony always seems worth the effort.

For the eight Times-area teams at the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games, which began Friday, two area athletes received their due in the form of medals won, but seemed, too, to have earned something more

For Daniel Schoedel, 26, Morton, the payoff on Friday at this three-day event was winning a bronze medal in the 25 meter backstroke while his parents, Tom and Debby Schoedel, watched and cheered him on.

On Saturday, Daniel improved his position at these games by winning a gold medal in the 25 meter freestyle.

But this was not strictly a family occasion, because Daniel’s friend from his church, Ruthanna Webb, Tremont, was attending her very first Special Olympics event, adding to the encouragement.

Like many Special Olympics athletes, Daniel has a treasure trove of medals from his years of competition and, in a way, Webb wanted to experience for herself what it was like to witness such an event.

“I wanted to see the kinds…the types of swimming that (Daniel does),” Webb said.

While Webb was witnessing her friend’s athleticism for the first time, Jacob Marsh, 14, representing Washington District 50, led the field of six runners in the 400 meter Walk at the ISU track.

Jacob, son of Jarrod and Carey Marsh, Sunnyland, was representing Washington District 50, came in first, earning a gold medal, for rounding the track in a steady stride, as his mother and grandmother, Charlene Carbentier, Sunnyland, and a cousin, cheered him on.

Also cheering was Marsh’s coach, Suzanne Arterburn, who took up the coaching duties for Washington District 50 at the beginning of the year. Arterburn held a digital stopwatch, her eyes moving between the numbers turning on the device as her youthful charge turned corners on the track.

Arterburn said she wanted to see if Jacob could beat his own time in this event that he set in Spring Games – two minutes, 38 seconds — and coming in first then got him here Friday.

Jacob beat his Spring Games timing, which made Arterburn smile. Jacob’s time for the 400 meter walk Friday: Two minutes, 35 seconds – shaving three seconds off the previous time.

This was not Jacob’s first time at State Games. Under a different Dist. 50 coach, when Jacob was in fourth grade, he earned medals then, too.

But Carey Marsh said her son showed a little more determination in wanting to get back to State Games.

The difference this time, Carey Marsh said, was that “He is starting to realize that he is actually competing for something,” as opposed to when running at State Games was just something fun to do in fourth grade.

Carey Marsh said her son took the training seriously, walking between 3-4 miles – daily – to prepare for competition.

Carbentier said her grandson takes “such giant steps. I have to take three steps to just one of his to keep up with him.”

Giant steps, in a way, are a gift athletes seem to get from participating in Special Olympics. Carey Marsh said being in the Dist. 50 program has given her son the tools “to have a lot more confidence in himself, and that’s a good thing.”

Marsh’s teammate, Sean Woods, will be on the run, too, Saturday morning, in the age 12-15 bracket of the 100 meter Run. Pekin YWCA and Washington Dist. #50 are just two of eight teams from the Times-area, numbering nearly 60 athletes are part of the 3,700 athletes total from around the state competing in six sports at this 41st annual event – Aquatics, Athletics (track & field), Bocce, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, and Soccer.

They have been joined by 1,700 coaches, assisted by 2,500 volunteers, surrounded and cheered on by 2,000 family members and countless well-wishers, will be involved in the three-day event.

The six other Times-area teams competing at this year’s event are: Pekin Park District’s Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association; Tri-County Independents (Pekin); Apostolic Christian Home/Timber Ridge (Morton); Fon du Lac Park District, East Peoria; Morton School District #709; and Washington Special Olympics.

Competition started at noon on Friday, running through noon Sunday. All events are free and open to the public.

“It means a lot that (for family and friends to come out),” said Carol Wells, head coach of the Pekin YWCA Swim Team, Schoedel’s coach.”(For friends and family to come out) means a lot to the swimmers and it means a lot to the team.

Wells said that when friends come out to support athletes, it shows that not only is one athlete being supported, but the entire team can feel supported.

Having coaches like Arterburn, her assistant, Summer Ummel, and YWCA’s Wells is something Special Olympians and their families are happy to acknowledge in helping bring out the talents of these athletes.

“(Arterburn and Ummel) are doing awesome work,” Carey Marsh said of Dist. 50’s coaching staff. “I’m excited that (these ladies) are coaching. They stepped up and this is exciting.”

By Steve Robinson | June 11, 2009 - 10:51 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Members of Normal’s Unit 5 School Board were introduced to the new principal at Oakdale Elementary School during the Board’s regular meeting at district headquarters on May 10.

Darrin Cooper, currently associate principal at Parkside Junior High School, was introduced to Board members by District Superintendent Gary Niehaus.

Cooper succeeds Marlys Bennington, who was named the new principal at Benjamin Elementary, which is scheduled to open in fall of 2010.

Cooper is a 12-year veteran of Unit 5, with previous experience coming from being at Northpoint Elementary and Chiddix Junior High School before arriving at PJHS.

Cooper earned both a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Illinois State University. Cooper is married and the father of a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son.

Construction Update: Board members heard from Richard Ach with Turner Construction, who conducted a brief slide presentation showing Board members the progress that construction workers have made at the sites where three new schools were made possible by a $96.7 million referendum vote in February 2008 — Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Benjamin Elementary School, and George L. Evans Junior High School.

Ach said construction crews have been affected by recent stormy weather, including damage to construction trailers at the Benjamin School site on June 2 and 3.

Ach said parameter footings which show the outline of a building have been placed at Cedar Ridge Elementary. He said foundation walls for the Benjamin Elementary School building have also been set up.

The referendum included money for repairs to existing schools in the district. Board members unanimously approved a bid for installation of flooring, carpet, and ceramic tile at George L. Evans Junior High to Urbana-based Commercial Floor Covering, who submitted a bid of $930,715.

Board members unanimously approved a bid by Bloomington-based Stark Excavating Inc. of $181,964.50 for removal of the existing single lane wide bus lane and sidewalk at the front of Chiddix Junior High School, and replacing it with a new two lane wide bus lane. The project also includes replacing the necessary curb, gutter, and sidewalks.

Board members also unanimously approved a bid by Bloomington-based McLean County Asphalt Co. for improvements to the parking lot at Northpoint Elementary School.

The improvements at Northpoint Elementary include patching and a two-inch asphalt overlay for the existing parking lot and bus lanes, adding an additional drop-off/pick-up area at the rear of the school, replacing some deteriorating sidewalk, and replacing all ADA-required sidewalk ramps with ramps that meet current ADA standards.

Building three new schools will increase insurance rates for the district, with the district now needing to cover $27 million worth of disaster insurance, versus the current level of $15 million.

Unit 5 mapInsurance Renewal Approved: Board members unanimously approved paying for renewing a number of insurance policies it must carry, including property and general liability insurance, school board liability insurance, workman’s compensation, automobile, and group medical.

The district will be paying more for its insurance this year. To not do so, Unit 5’s insurance consult, explained, would result in an increase of premiums for the district.

Board members were informed by Steve Bushue, the district’s insurance consultant, that unless Unit 5 increased its coverage, the district’s costs for insurance would have jumped by 1 percent. The additional coverage the district agreed to comes with a $599,417 price tag, an increase of $51,194, or 9.34 percent.

Normal’s Van Gundy Insurance oversees the coverage for the district and includes coverage from Cincinnati/American Alternative, Everest National, Starr Indemnity and AIG.

Final 2008-09 Enrollment Report: John Pye, assistant superintendent for human resources, gave Board members the final same-day enrollment figures for the 2008-09 school year.

There were 12,523 students accounted for in the district’s 15 elementary schools, three junior highs, and two high schools when the one-day stats were taken on May 29. That is an increase of 116 students, or less than one percent, from when 12,407 were reported in the same-day enrollment report for May 30, 2008.

Elementary schools saw an attendance growth of just over one percent, with 6,325 students in class in 2009 versus 6,257 students on May 30, 2008.

Normal’s two high schools saw a jump of 1.57 percent in same day attendance over last year’s figures. There were 3,359 students at Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High on May 29, as opposed to 3,307 students in class at the high schools on May 30, 2008.

Junior high school attendance was the only area where the district saw a decline. Attendance at CJHS, Parkside Junior High, and Kingsley Junior High dropped a collective.14 percent, with a total of 2,839 students in class, as opposed to 2,843 students the same day last year.

Next Meeting:

There will be no Board meeting on June 24. The next Board meeting will be on Wednesday, July 8 at district headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., starting at 7p.m.