By Steve Robinson | May 31, 2018 - 10:28 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Two heavy rain downpours May 30 may have forced a change of location for the Illinois High School Association Class 4A baseball Sectional between Normal Community West and Bradley Bourbonnais, but the change didn’t seem to faze the Wildcats, who won the contest, blanking the Boilermakers in five innings, 12-0. As a result of the victory, the Wildcats would face O’Fallon on June 2 at for Jack Horenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus. That game’s first pitch is slated for 11a.m.

With the field moved and the game time pushed back from 6p.m. to 7:15p.m., West winning pitcher McCade Brown sat down the Boilermakers’ firs three batters to open the top of the first inning. That was followed by Wildcats leadoff man Austin Collinson being walked and being followed by a Brandon Roth single to right field. Ben Smith followed with a single which scored both runners, giving West a quick 2-0 lead.

West (24-14) would add four more runs in their half of the second inning when Roth smacked triple scoring Sean Shook, Jeremy Fischer, and Collinson, all three who had been walked by losing pitcher Alec Weedon. Roth would also cross the plate on a fielding error, which in completing the play, delighted the crowd of roughly 500 fans, mostly West supporters. That gave West a 6-0 lead. West senior Jake Marti and sophomore Will Kafer singled and doubled, respectfully, and were driven home by a single by catcher Cody Hardt for two more runs in the innings for an 8-0 advantage.

Fischer doubling and Smith hitting a single brought in two more runs in the home half of the third inning, upping West’s lead, 10-0. The Wildcats’ last two runs came in the fourth inning, the result of a Hardt double which scored Kafer who singled, and Hardt scoring on a Collinson single.

Brown threw 54 pitches in his three innings of work, six short of what would keep him from being able to pitch in the Sectional Championship on Saturday per IHSA rules. “He knew he could throw less pitches if he could use our defense a little bit,” explained West head coach Chris Hawkins of his pitcher who increased his record on the season to 8-1.

Bradley Bourbonnais’ loss went to Weedon, and the Boilermakers season ends with an 18-14 mark. Boilermakers head coach Alec Robinson said the two-run first inning by Normal West ”was no big deal, but the big deal was the six runs in the second inning. Give them credit, Brown did a good job mixing it up. We couldn’t really pull anything together to get runs across.”

The Corn Crib Was A Last Option To Host Contest: The contest, originally slated for Horenberger Field, was moved because the field there was too waterlogged for the scheduled 6p.m. start. Quick thinking on the part of Normal West Athletic Director Stan Lewis prompted him to call Normal CornBelters President and General Manager Steve Malliet to see if it would be possible to play there. The CornBelters were out of town in the midst of a 9-day road trip, allowing the game to go forward with a 7:15p.m.start, thus preventing IHSA from declaring the game postponed.

Hawkins said maneuvering to find a location to play didn’t really rattle his players, who hadn’t played since May 26. He added, “Our guys were just hungry to play today. If someone had offered them a blacktop to play on, they’d have played on it if that had to happen.”

Malliet said The Corn Crib was “the last option” in terms of a location for the contest because even Duffy Bass Field on Illinois State University’s campus would not have been an option because of its grass outfield. “Thankfully, we had turf and we were able to help out,” he said.

Bloomington, Illinois – MAY 31, 2018 – Preparing to take a family selfie in October 2017 led to Normal Community West High School student Austin Waller needing treatment for cancer. As the Wallers – mom Amy, dad Scott, daughter Alicia, and son Austin, who will be a junior this fall, closed in for the photo, Scott felt a bump on Austin’s collar bone as he proceeded to hug him. That prompted the Wallers to go to their family Nurse Practitioner the next day.

Upon seeing the bump and taking scans of it, the Nurse Practitioner told the Wallers, “It’s cancer.” A lymphoma more specifically, and ordered Austin and the family who went with him for the initial exam to go immediately to St. Jude Cancer Research Hospital in Peoria for further tests.

After tests were done, doctors at St. Jude admitted Austin for additional tests and blood work. Another couple days went by at which point the physicians wanted to begin chemotherapy. Their diagnosis: Austin had Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his chest around his breathing muscles and heart. Chemotherapy needed to begin right away, the doctors said.

Austin’s chemotherapy took place for seven days a month for the next two months. Then, for the next two months after that, he had chemo for four days each month. That was followed by a month of radiation treatments in the Chicago area. Austin and the Wallers are currently awaiting his next appointment at St. Jude next month to see where the treatment goes from here.

The treatments he received caused Austin to miss time at school, Amy Waller said. She added the family is appreciative and thankful for the support it received from Normal Community West High School helping him stay current with his studies during his illness.

In addition, Austin also missed out on social activities, as well – namely half of his bowling season. He is in a recreational bowling league at Pheasant Lanes in Bloomington which takes place on Saturday mornings. But once doctors gave him approval to resume normal activities and his chemotherapy sessions were scheduled — including a Saturday –, Austin asked doctors if he could have the Saturday session at 4a.m. That would give him time to get to bowl at 9a.m. The doctors granted his request.

“That’s how much he likes to bowl, and he’d been bowling with the same group for quite a few years,” Amy Waller said about her son.

The Wallers have had a history with Relay For Life of McLean County dating back to when Amy was carrying both her children – she marched as part of a Relay team
headed by Deb O’Connell, Deb’s Mardi Gras Marchers. O’Connell lost her battle with the disease in 2009.

“We are happy to have Austin represent us as our Honorary Youth Survivor,” said Catina Struble, Event Lead for Relay For Life of McLean County. “He showed both courage and poise in his dealing with the disease. His desire to continue normal activities even while going through treatment is a sign of his resiliency – something we believe all those affected by this disease show every day.”

RELAY 2018 START TIME MOVES TO 2P. M. FRIDAY: In addition to a new location, the start time for this year’s Relay has been moved up to Friday afternoon at 2p.m. which will include a “soft” opening at that time where team members can begin circling the course at that time, Wright explained. She said a formal opening ceremony will take place sometime after working hours that day – something else that is a change from previous Relay For Life of McLean County events. The Survivor Walk, which honors current cancer survivors, will follow the formal opening ceremony.

YOUTH ACTIVITIES TO TAKE PLACE BOTH DAYS: This year, Relay For Life of McLean County will “have youth activities for kids to enjoy on both Friday and Saturday,” Wright added.

RELAY 2017 NUMBERS: Relay For Life of McLean County wrapped up it 23rd annual event raising $300,786.47 at the conclusion of the 2017 event and had 70 teams comprised of 657 participants, and 220 survivors and caregivers at their annual Relay event, held from 4p.m.June 23 to 4p.m. June 254, 2017, at Normal Community High School.

Since it began in McLean County in 1994, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $8.3 Million to fight cancer.

LEARN MORE ABOUT RELAY 2018: Find out more about getting involved with Relay For Life of McLean County. You can find a link to our Relay by visiting

More information may be obtained by contacting either Catina Struble 309-706-5367 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2018 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Regular readers of this column may recall a column I wrote a couple of years ago concerning Courtney Dyson, mother of Normal Community West High School softball player Jaxynn Dyson, who as the Wildcats were going through their run at an Illinois High School Association Class 4A championship, was trying to achieve a victory of her own over cancer.

Having her daughter’s games to attend helped Courtney, serving as a necessary distraction from going through treatment. Normal West making it to the Class 4A State Championship game against Oak Park-River Forest made that distraction more enjoyable, it appeared.

Courtney’s cancer was first diagnosed in January 2016, before the season made it to the finals, providing a goal for Jaxynn to help her stay focused and providing a needed respite for Courtney from medical matters.

At that time, Jaxynn was a freshman when Normal West came in second at State Softball, with Courtney present as the Wildcats hugged, cried, and celebrated their second place finish following a 10-inning loss to OP-RF at the end of the season at the Eastside Centre in East Peoria.

Fast forward to the current season, and Courtney, sadly, is still doing battle with Stage 4 Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer. But Jaxynn, the younger of her two children, was on the Wildcats’ girls’ basketball team as well as on the Softball team, providing a double dose of the right kind of distraction from her mother’s medical concerns.

That type of cancer has no cure, Courtney reports, “So I keep going and do what I can do to keep going.” “To keep going” for Courtney means showing up at Jaxynn’s basketball games as she did all last season and again next season, and at Normal West Softball contests for as long as their season plays on.

When Courtney’s cancer was first diagnosed, “she wanted me to have softball as a release,” Jaxynn said. “Her watching me play was kind of a release, so it helped both of us.” Considering the circumstances, Jaxynn added, “The situation seemed kind of normal. We’ve gotten used to it.”

During Jaxynn’s freshman year, Normal West Softball had a “Breast Cancer Awareness” game against Bloomington High and sold T-shirts to raise money. Jaxynn credits her coach, Wildcats head coach April Schermann, with making that event possible. The money that event raised was donated to the Dysons to help pay medical expenses they incurred at that time, Jaxynn explained.

But more than that, Jaxynn said, “Coach Schermann just being there for me” was also a help to a young woman who was in need of such help. “She’s just a great person.”

Jaxynn still has her senior year at West to go through next year, and the release she and her mother get from her being involved in sports will continue once she gets to college, too. That’s because Jaxynn has verbally committed to attend and play Softball for Illinois State University. Jaxynn said once her college studies are done, she’s considering working in the field of criminal justice.

Originally, Jaxynn was considering going into medicine, which would add four years of med school and interning to the schooling she has had up to now. Add to that four years of college before that. As Courtney pointed out with a chuckle, in the end, her daughter did want to do medicine, but she said she changed her mind about that because she didn’t want to do that much school.”

Courtney’s advice to folks facing continual medical challenges is “You have to keep going…You just have to keep going. I’m still going, and just gotta keep going.”

By Steve Robinson | May 23, 2018 - 10:06 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

In February, he announced his intentions to resign from Normal-based Unit 5 School Board due to a job transfer through his employer, State Farm Insurance. At that governing body’s meeting May 23 at district headquarters, Jim Hayek, who had been a Board member for three years, formally announced he was stepping down at the end of the evening. The Board held a closed door one-hour session, followed by the public meeting which lasted 45-minutes, followed by another closed door session.

“I’ve learned a lot from you and I just want to wish you the best,” said Board Member Taunia Leffler. Board Member Joe Cleary told Hayek he was envious because he was moving to a constantly warmer climate in Arizona.

“I’ll just always remember you for having a strategic mind and a general calmness that you brought to the table,” said Board President Barry Hitchins. “We had heated meetings over the three years here. You just always seemed calm, cool, and collected.”

“You moved us forward with our strategic plan,” Board Member Mike Trask said in beginning his tribute. Calling Hayek “a great mentor,” Trask added, “I’ve enjoyed conversations with you, and although we haven’t always agreed with each other, we’ve respected each other’s opinions.”

“Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your mentoring,” District Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel extended to Hayek. “I think I’ve learned many things from you, and I know Phoenix is going to be a better place because you and your family are going to be there.”

Hayek’s resignation becomes effective May 30. Under State law, Unit 5 will have 45 days from that date to appoint a successor. That person, after taking office, will have to formally run for the seat in the primary elections next spring.

In addition to Hayek’s departure, the Board will need a new clerk due to LaNell Greenberg, who has held the job for four years, moving on to become assistant to Nikki Maurer, associate principal at Normal Community High School. Greenberg has held numerous positions throughout the district during a14-year career with the district.

Normal Community High’s “Good News”: On May 10, the Normal Community High School’s Chapter of Best Buddies was named the Illinois Chapter of the Year by the national organization. Currently, more than 100 Best Buddies chapters in the State of Illinois. Earlier this semester, NCHS’ chapter named the Regional Chapter of the Year at the Annual Best Buddies Walk.

Best Buddies is an organization founded in 1989 with a mission to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. NCHS’ has grown over the years, with about 50 general education students and 25 students with disabilities who are paired through the program to bond at school during classroom and other weekly activities. This occurs by simply spending time together at school or out in the community. The teachers who serve as sponsors for the Best Buddies program at NCHS are Erin Sanders, Angie Cardiff, Brandy Sherrick and Amy Veselak.

NCHS assistant principal Natalie Shumaker and Addie Smith, an NCHS junior who has served as the president of the group this year, addressed Board members. “Our club has changed so many lives,” Smith told Board members. “It has changed my life, as well. We’re causing a ripple affect and we look forward to having a better year next year.”

In an emotional response to the presentation, Trask said his daughter has been “a beneficiary” of being part of the group. “I can’t tell you what its done for her.”

Parkside Elementary’s “Good News”: Team building was the goal of a program which took place in May at Parkside Elementary School. Assistant Principal Beth Goken explained Principal Ryan Weichman had team building in mind, and each day for a week earlier this month, seven teams competed in a unique team building event. Among the personal aspects of this were committing acts of kindness and showing team spirit among other challenges. Parkside students were included in many of the activities the program involved.

District’s “Good News”: Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, brought to the attention of those attending the meeting news about the Tales of English Language Learners, or TELL exhibit. This exhibit, which was created collaboratively by Illinois State University students enrolled in School of Teaching and Learning, and School of Art Graphic Design courses, features stories of English Language Learners in Bloomington-Normal schools and at ISU.

TELL displays the journeys of students through their stories, cultural traditions, challenges, and dreams for the future. The exhibit seeks to reduce misconceptions and prejudice about the faces and voices of English Language Learners, or ELLs, in our community, and aspires to raise public awareness and create positive dialogue.

Each ELL story is a combination of determination, hope, and challenges. It is more important than ever to share the stories of ELLs through which we can understand better and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.

Dr. Rabia Hos has been instrumental in forging a partnership between ISU and Unit 5 English Learners Programs.

NORMAL – By a 6-1 count at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, Normal Town Council members approved amending two sections of the Town Code which would help pave the way for an Uptown business to have outdoor seating in an on-the-street parking space.

The request was made by owners of Stave, a beer and wine establishment at 111 W. North St. To permit sales and consumption of food and alcoholic beverages in an on-street parking space, amendments needed to be made to the Town Public Code concerning liquor and public ways.

Town Staff researched to discover what other communities had to see if it would even be possible to allow this in Normal. The on-street cafes are referred to as parklets. What Town Staff discovered is that parklets are becoming very popular and common in central business districts nationally. The Town’s research found them in Iowa City, Iowa, and in Illinois in Urbana and Yorkville.

The Town has drafted an ordinance which would allow for a pilot program for parklets to be allowed in Normal. Among the pilot program’s stipulations: It would only be in effect for 2018, expiring Oct. 15, would only apply to Stave, and the Town’s public works director would have to approve the seating layout.

Also, the seating would need to be on a platform, and the platform could not interfere with the flow of vehicle traffic. Also under the conditions of the program, the Town also retains the right to discontinue the program at any time, including for temporary circumstances.

“More communities are doing this all the time,” Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members, adding the move amounted to an investment in infrastructure for the establishment.

But Council Member Jeff Fritzen said he had concerns about vehicles coming around the round-about off of Beaufort St., saying that turn “is fairly tight.”

“I have a safety concern with this,” Fritzen added. “Once you do a pilot program, others want it and I would rather see where this winds up” before making a determination whether it should be continued.

Fritzen said parking in Uptown also plays a role. Davison said parking blocks at one end of the outdoor café for safety are part of the plan. She said a block of that type is there already. Before the vote was taken, Council Member Kevin McCarthy expressed the opinion the Town should at least give it a try.

Children’s Discovery Museum, Normal Theater Named “Two Greatest Places” In Illinois: Before the 45-minute meeting closed, City Manager Pam Reece announced Children’s Discovery Museum and Normal Theater had been named two of “Illinois’ 200 Great Places” by American Institute of Architects, honoring what the organization calls “built environments.”

AIA Illinois will present both locations with individual plaques to recognize the honor, Reece told Council members. All 200 locations AIA Illinois honored are featured on a website,

Planned Unit Development Gets Conditional Approval: Council members unanimously approved a resolution which conditionally approved a preliminary planned unit development east of 201 McKnight, to become known as “The Park.”

The property owner plans to develop the land east of the Starplex Cinemas on 4.76 acres of land. The plan includes construction of 13 buildings which will house 85 units which will allow for 294 beds. Townhomes on the property will be 2 ½ stories with varying exteriors and porch styles. The complex will meet Town Code by making sure it has 170 spaces.

The development received unanimous approval by a 7-0 vote of the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. That vote followed a public hearing on May 10.

Proclamation Honors Local Students: Prior to the start of the meeting, two local high school students were honored with a proclamation for successfully completing an innovation award program which is co-sponsored by Millikin University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Pontiac Township High School.

Normal Community High School student Lexi Showalter and Normal Community West High School student Becca Nalley were honored with a proclamation read by Normal Mayor Chris Koos honoring them for receiving an innovators award from the universities and the high school for their creating what they call Cybercitizens, a program where senior citizens learn how to use a smartphone during a face-to-face class. So far, the girls say, they have taught older folks at Bible study classes with the seniors wanting to learn about the new technology.

Retiring Town Engineer Attends Final Council Meeting: Gene Brown wrapped up 33 years with the Town of Normal when the Council session ended. Brown retires as Town Engineer. He, too, received a proclamation from the Town, read by Koos, surrounded by Council members.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of May 7, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 16, 2018.

• A resolution approving the final plat of the Normal Main Street Fire Station subdivision (606 S. Main St.) by expedited process and initiating a zoning map amendment from B-1 General Business to S-2 Public Lands & Institutions.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving a final plat within one and one-half miles of corporate limits by expedited process – A. Ziebarth (south of 19203 N. 1500 East Rd.).

• An ordinance vacating a portion of an alley in the subdivision of Block 6 in the 9th addition to Normal (Off of Fell St. between Mulberry St. and Locust St.). A public hearing was held on this matter prior to the start of the Council session. No one addressed Council members at the hearing.