By Steve Robinson | June 29, 2019 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite

Looking at the roster for the Prospect League version of the Normal CornBelters, you see guys whose hometowns stretch from West Columbia, S.C. east to two players who are from Castle Rock, Colo. the west, and as far north as Rapid City, S.D. to south being from Kearney, Neb. And because these players are still in college, the season at this point has just a little more than a month left.

That means I need to get you as many locals covered as I can in the short amount of time the season grants. So this week, I thought I would start by introducing you to CornBelters outfielder, Bloomington resident, and Tri-Valley High grad Jack Butler. Jack, son of John and Linda Butler of Bloomington, is in his junior year at Illinois State University, who helped his Redbirds team get as far as a regional final game of the NCAA Baseball playoffs this past season.

Jack Butler Is Majoring In Ag At ISU: Southpaw outfielder Jack Butler is one of a trio of players on the CornBelters roster who hail from the Twin Cities. The others are Butler’s ISU teammate, Jackson Bronke, a junior; and redshirt freshman infielder Billy Mote.

Living on a farm and a redshirt junior, Butler is majoring in agriculture at ISU. Butler said since he lives on a farm which produces corn and soybeans, he wanted to continue the family business. “I talked to Billy Mote after I found out he was going to the CornBelters, and after finding that out, I looked into the team because I wanted to stay here for the summer,” Butler explained.

Butler said being home and “all the stuff we deal with outside of baseball is so much easier because I’m in town,” Butler said. He adds that helps him concentrate on the task ahead of winning games. Last summer, he spent his summer playing time with the Muskegon Clippers of the Great Lakes Collegiate League.

Being in that league, Butler said, allowed him to see what the competition is that exists at the Division I level, and added to playing for ISU has helped him, he said, to know how to perform on the field to keep pace with guys on other teams. ISU got as far as and lost in the regional final to the University of Louisville at the end of the current season. ISU got to the NCAAs by being co-champions in the Missouri Valley Conference along with Dallas Baptist. Once ISU was done at NCAAs, Butler reported for duty to the CornBelters.

Statistically, before this week started, it looks as though the CornBelters have Butler’s undivided attention thus far. He has had 58 at-bats in 18 games, where he had 17 hits, including two doubles and 9 home runs knocking in 16 runs. He has walked 11 times, struck out 11 times, and all that adds up to a .293 batting average. His best game to date was against the Quincy Gems on June 26. That night at The Corn Crib, the CornBelters beat the Gems, 14-6, and Butler had two home runs driving in four runs, and walked once.

While 21-year-old Butler said the game is the main reason he’s here, he said he likes also seeing all the activity at the ball park surrounding the games and watching youngsters run the bases after games. And from his perspective, it sounds like he’s enjoying all aspects of being with the CornBelters this season. In turn, he has given the fans reason to enjoy the season, as well.

At the time I did the interviews last Friday, Butler had hit five home runs in the previous four games. “He’s hitting the ball well right now and playing good defense,” said CornBelters Manager Rick White. “His average is steadily climbing. He’s just a great kid all around.”

White explained he saw Butler play in both the MVC and NCAA tourneys. ISU’s coaching staff recommended Butler when White asked about players who would be considered a good fit for the team, he explained. “It’s nice to have local guys here where you play. That’s because fans know and have heard of them.”

Still Trying To Put “Right Lineup Together”: Going into this week, the CornBelters were in fourth place 7 ½ games out of first place Cape Girardeau in the Prospect League’s Western Division. White said that’s partly because the team is still playing different guys in different positions to see what works. “We’re getting ready to start putting out a more consistent lineup now, based on who we think is going to help us win that day,” he explained.

Schedule Has Home & Away Games Around The July 4 Holiday: By the time you read this, the CornBelters will have hosted the Hannibal Hoots Monday and played an away game at Cape Girardeau Tuesday before returning home to continue playing Cape Girardeau Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday being the fourth of July, the game starts at 6:30p.m. Friday, the Lafayette Aviators are in town for one game, and the West Virginia Miners visit The Corn Crib for two games on Saturday and Sunday, July 6 and 7. Games on July 5 and 6 start at 7:05p.m. The team gets two days off on July 8 and 9 before playing two home games against DuPage Wednesday

Bloomington, Illinois – June 22, 2019 – Relay For Life of McLean County wrapped up celebrating its 25th annual event at Bloomington High School’s Fred Carlton Field on Saturday, June 22, having had members of 40 teams of between 12-15 people each circle the track for what turned into a rain-shortened event. As a result, the event itself raised $165,000 by its untimely end on Friday night at 11p.m. Although the event was to run from 4:30p.m. Friday through 9a.m. Saturday, the threat of overnight rain forced organizers to conclude the event early.

As a result of the early conclusion, Relay For Life of McLean County expects to hold a “mini Relay” event sometime in July, which will include activities which did not take place at but were planned for this year’s event, such as silent auction, a final “Bank Day” event, and T-shirt pickup for both survivors and others who did not pick up their T-shirts prior to the scheduled event. Planning for the mini-Relay event is currently being worked out and Relay teams and media will be notified shortly on the date, time, and location for that event. All dollars raised from both Friday’s event and the scheduled mini-Relay will be counted toward dollars raised in Fiscal Year 2019 which ends on August 31.

Our targeted goal for money raised at this event is $275,000. “That means we still have time to reach our goal by the end of the fiscal year despite the shortened event,” explained Dede Verplaetse (Ver-PLATES), co-chair of this year’s Relay For Life of McLean County campaign.

As part of this year’s Silver anniversary, Relay For Life of McLean County honored and thanked those companies who have been supportive of our cause from the start in 1994. Those companies and individuals include: WJBC Radio AM 1230/WBNQ Radio FM 101.5/WBWN FM 104.1; Country Financial; Culligan Water; Growing Grounds Gardening Center; Palace Events; Hill Radio; and Paul Swiech, health reporter, Bloomington Pantagraph

We also wish to give special thanks to Avanti’s Italian Restaurant for their continuing support by providing the delicious dinner our Survivors and Caregivers enjoyed prior to the start of Friday’s opening ceremonies.

RELAY 2019 NUMBERS: Relay For Life of McLean County had 40 teams involving 405 registered team members, 200 survivors and 100 caregivers at their annual Relay event. We also had 400 Luminarias honoring those who have survived or lost their courageous battles with cancer. There were also hundreds of additional community members who visited the event. These folks circled the track, heard a moving and inspirational speech from our Honored Survivor, Pattie Taylor of Normal, and celebrated a quarter-century of raising money for this worthy cause.

SINCE WE BEGAN 25 YEARS AGO…: Since it began in McLean County in 1994, and including this year’s event-end amount, Relay For Life of McLean County has raised over $8.5 Million to fight cancer.

Of this year’s event, Verplaetse added, “The rainy weather on Friday hampered our efforts to hold a complete Relay event. But we held what parts of the event we could and our spirits were high throughout.”

More information may be obtained by contacting either Dede Verplaetse at 309-261-5521 or Steve Robinson at 309-242-7838.

NORMAL – At their June 17 meeting, members of Normal Town Council members called for an explanation of a decision by Connect Transit to eliminate one route that goes through Normal and a scheduled rate increase from $1 per ride to $1.25 per ride scheduled to take effect Oct. 1. Ahead of that, however, the transit company has proposed ending the Olive Route, which, in part, serves residents on low incomes. That route is slated to cease running July 1.

Prior to the transit officials’ presentation, Council members heard from members of the community concerning the affect an increase in fares, among other concerns, had on their minds.

“To change routes and fares will negatively impact our community,” Angie Rich, Bloomington, told Council members. Her disabled son, a Normal resident, uses Connect Transit, she told Board members. She then added her concern about Connect Transit’s plan to eliminate the Olive route entirely. “To eliminate the Olive route, I believe, will negatively impact our community,” she said. The Olive route extends from across north Normal from OSF PromptCare on Fort Jesse Road to Walmart to Shelbourne Drive and Linden Street to the Orlando Northbrook neighborhood. She added that many disabled riders who use the Connect Mobility service, which takes those riders from door-to-door pay $65 for a pass for that service, and that many are on fixed incomes.

Mary Wuhrmann told Council members she has asked Connect Transit board members, among other things, what had the transit service done to try to increase Olive route ridership. She pointed out that there are 37,000 riders who depend on using that route, and she asked Council members, “What is your solution to help those riders?” Rich and Wuhrmann were among five citizens who stated similar remarks to Council members.

The Transit Board has seven members on it, 4 from Bloomington and 3 from Normal, but Normal’s panel has a vacancy as one member has left. Mayor Chris Koos said he is looking to hear from interested individuals who would like to fill the slot. In her public comment to Council members, Deborah Hutchins said, “I’m available.”

During the presentation to Council members, Isaac Thorne, Connect Transit’s general manager, said, “We are not a perfect transit system. We are a good transit system and we are always seeking to become better.”

Glaze told Council members Connect Transit did surveys to determine where riders wanted to get to. He said the transit company continues to hear from riders seeking improvements such as more frequent buses, better on-time performance, and extended hours of operation.

Hile told Council members the transit system “is a living and breathing system” which is seeking a “concept plan for a community-wide transit system. We begin with our ridership. The more riders we have, the more stable we will be.”

Among comments from Council members following Connect’s presentation, Council Member Karyn Smith sought support to negate the amount of funding the Town provides the transit provider before July 1, but did not find any assistance with that suggestion.

Council Member Chemberly Cummings addressed the gathering, asking those who spoke to be patient with the Town as it tries to find ways to help them.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy said he was encouraged a solution could be found for those who addressed the Council regarding their concerns. “I’m nothing but encouraged that people came and shared and told us what concerned them. We need to continue to address disability access.” He encouraged other municipal entities to look into how to raise funding for the transit operator.

But the transit system is also facing an end to Federal funding it receives. Thorne explained Connect Transit faces running out of Federal funding by 2024, adding it uses 65 percent of what funding it gets from the government on operating expenses. “Our funding is leveling out and our expenses are increasing. Therefore, we will be out of Federal funding by 2024,” he explained.

He said the company has been using its local reserve fund to offset the costs that Federal funds would pay for. “You can only do that for so many years,” he said.

Addressing the need to fill the vacancy on the Transit Board, Koos said following the session there is a link on the Town’s website which will guide people to information for those persons interested in applying to become a Board member.

Easterseals Honored With Proclamation: Prior to the start of Monday’s Council session, the Town issued a proclamation honoring Easterseals on the organization’s 100th anniversary. Locally, Easterseals does work with children with disabilities, including at its camp located at Camp Heffernan on Lake Bloomington, which began in 1948. Along with a few of the youngsters who benefit from Easterseals’ work, Cathy Oloffson, vice president for development for the organization in its Bloomington office, accepted the plaque on Easterseals’ behalf.

Harmon Arts Grants Distributed: Also prior to the start of the meeting, organizations who applied for Harmon Arts Grants received their checks. As former Mayor Paul Harmon introduced each organization which was receiving money, current Mayor Chris Koos handed each check to a representative from the group receiving money.

Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a motion to approve recommended Harmon Arts Grant Awards at their June 3 meeting. A total of $25,000 in grants were awarded to local groups, the money for the grants earmarked from the Town’s general fund. A total of 28 groups applied for grants from the program, with the projects seeking money totaling $71,827. That amount of money to be distributed is down from the $74,000 in grants distributed last year. The maximum amount a group could receive is $5,000, and the programs or projects receiving the money would need to take place between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

Winners, and their grant dollar amounts awarded, are: Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois Symphony Orchestra, $2,000; Illinois Prairie Theatre, $2,000; ISU – Gelli Printing at Sugar Creek, $1,565; Twin City Ballet, $1,500; USA Ballet, $1,500; McLean County Arts Center, $1,500; ISU’s University Galleries Field Trip Program, $1,500; Shakespeare Festival at ISU, $1,500; Further Jazz, $1,500; Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University, $1,400; Heartland Theatre Company, $1,200; ISU for 2019 Concerts On The Quad, $1,200; Brass Band of Central Illinois, $1,100; ISU-PUB.UNUT Presents Aditi Machado, $1,000; Crossroads Area Student Theatre. $875; Share The Music, $660; McLean County India Association, $500; and Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra, $500.

The grant program is named for former Normal Mayor Paul Harmon and his dedication to the arts and was created in 1993 to help promote various art forms in the community. Among the criteria used to determine which applicants are awarded are: Programs takes place in the Town of Normal; Programs are administered by non-profit groups; and programs are administered by organizations with a stated purpose to promote the arts.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held June 3, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 12, 2019.

• A resolution approving an amended final development plan for Constitution Trail Centre PUD – Jiffy Lube.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat for the eighth addition to Constitution Trail Centre Subdivision – Jiffy Lube.

Rebekah Hagberg, a 2018 graduate of Normal Community West High School, said that, since she was almost to junior high, she became interested being a hairdresser and working in the beauty industry. Come mid-July, she will take the world stage in Russia to show her skills.

That’s because Rebekah, 18, will compete as a member of the WorldSkills USA team, selected and trained by SkillsUSA in the category of Hairdressing at the biennial WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia. The 45th international event will be held Aug. 22-27. At WorldSkills, Rebekah will be with 39 other contestants vying for the top prize in her vocation’s competition.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators, public policymakers, employers, teachers, trainers, technical experts and government officials from around the world will attend this competition.

This wasn’t just some notion of a job she was curious about, either. With an aunt who owned a salon, Rebekah’s interest started early, as she was able to get a jump on learning about the business.

Through Normal West, Rebekah became involved with Bloomington Area Career Center (BACC), which has a chapter of SkillsUSA, giving students an opportunity to learn a skill which will help them become productive members of the community. They hold national and international competitions in a variety of vocations. Rebekah has become fluent in competitions having done so at State level last summer finishing first, and getting as far as nationals at Louisville, Ky. in 2017, where she finished third.

Her finishing third at that time, she explained, left her thinking she was through with competitions. But then over Christmas that year, she received a letter asking her to submit an entry for the international event. She had to submit an entry because there were, she said, “about 15 people” applying to be on the hairdressing competition team. Needless to say, she applied.

That application led to a phone interview with applicants, Rebekah said. In spring of 2018, the applicants then were given a series of test projects to complete and turn in photographic evidence of their completion, which would be judged to see which contestants complied with instructions given to see if they would advance further. Advancing further turned out to take place on a national stage at Louisville.

Concerning Rebekah’s turn at Nationals last year, she wasn’t the only contestant from the Twin Cities to finish high when the competition ended. Laura Coronel, then a student at Bloomington High School, was also trying to win that event, and finished second behind Rebekah.

Keep in mind Rebekah was doing these test projects all while still going through her senior year of high school. “It was a lot of commitment,” Rebekah said of the time she needed to devote to trying to complete the projects given while still going to class at Normal West and fulfill any family obligations, as well. In addition to that, during her junior and senior year at Normal West, she was taking night classes in cosmetology to turn her dream of working toward being a working member in that field into a reality.

“After the test projects were turned in, it was a little bit of a waiting game,” Rebekah said. Finding out she finished as one of the two finalists who would be going to Russia to compete at the WorldSkills Competition came in an email.

The entire WorldSkills team met in Leesburg, Va. last year to get to know each other, she said. Rebekah’s coach is Michigan resident Linda Ward. Locally, Rebekah’s boss at the salon she works at, Bloomington-based Station 710 Salon, Megan Jenkins-Anderson, has been mentoring and monitoring her protégé’s progress. Rebekah said Jenkins-Anderson has sent her to the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Chicago and even to Finland with Jenkins-Anderson to another beauty academy to extend her training.

Of the experience, Rebekah, daughter of Dan and Jody Hagberg, Bloomington, said, “It was definitely worth it because it was something I really wanted to do, so I put in all the effort I could.”

For Rebekah, if she wins the World title, “It will be a huge honor and very exciting.” She said there is no trophy or trinkets winners receive if they take first. But rather, winners receive the honor of being able to add the title to their resumes, and share the pride of accomplishment on the world stage.

She said the past year has been a “jump start” on her career and she has learned a great deal about herself through the experience. When this experience is completed, regardless of where she places, Rebekah said she will resume her education in cosmetology and continuing on to get her barbering license. Next spring, she said, she plans to take some business classes at Heartland Community College. “That will help me in case I get the opportunity to own a salon in the future,” she explained.

“The BACC, as a whole is very proud of Rebekah, for all of her work, effort, and time she has put in for this event,” stated Tom Frazer, BACC Director. “She has had tremendous support from her family and employer, and from her instructors at Hairmasters.” He said there are only 25 students going from America, and Frazier said he thinks she is the only one going from Illinois. “She is a very dedicated and intelligent young lady.” He added participating in this event “is a huge win” for her as she pursues her future career goals.

“I’m very excited for this to happen,” Rebekah said. “I’m excited and nervous, both equally. It’s healthy to have a little bit of nerves because that keeps you on your ‘A” game. But I’m very excited because this whole year has been leading up to this. I’m ready for this.”

Here’s hoping Rebekah comes back with a finish among the competitors she will be proud of. But the truth is, it sounds like we can all be proud of her now, and wish her the best in her future.

NORMAL – Everyone knows teachers do not do their job for the money, although many people believe they should be paid more for what they do for kids every day. And they certainly do not do it for any type of glory or recognition. Yet, at the regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board members held June 12 at District headquarters, one teacher from Colene Hoose Elementary, was recognized for an honor he received from Illinois Education Association.

Colene Hoose Elementary School teacher Shawn Mann received the Bob Haisman Teacher of the Year Award. Mann has been a special education teacher at Hoose for four years. IEA award recipients were nominated and chosen for their awards by their peers. Shawn’s nomination came from UFEA President Lindsey Dickinson. Mann is part of the school’s Behavioral Emotion Support Team, or BEST. BEST provides intensive behavioral and emotional support for students who have such difficulties.

The school sought recently to expand the building at its eastern end to accommodate students and concentrate services toward one end of the building. That expansion of the building, including an additional driveway leading to the area where BEST students are educated, was completed last fall.

Hearing On Approving Amended 2018-19 Budget Held: By a unanimous vote, Board members approved adopting amending the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2018-19. Marty Hickman, business manager for the district, said the Board does this annually, reviewing the remaining budget in May and approving in June. In addition, following the meeting, Hickman said it was his understanding the state legislature has added more money for Pre-K through 12th grade education going into the next school year. However, Hickman said, the extra money “will help our budget going into next year, but the new funds will not move the needle on what is our structural deficit in our education fund.”

The structural deficit the district faces is roughly $6.4 million. The district will use working cash bonds to cover some of the deficit for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, Hickman added. He said the district has received three categorical payments from the State for the current fiscal year with one still due to the district for the current fiscal year. “We’re not sure if the last categorical payment will come before the fiscal year ends at the end of June,” Hickman said.

Infinite Campus Coming In July: In his “Superintendent Comments” section of the meeting, Dr. Mark Daniel reminded that the district will be transitioning from Skyward information system to the Infinite Campus information system. Parents will be able to use Infinite Campus in July to register their children for the fall doing so online.

Enrollment For 2018-19 Broken Down: Dr. Ray Epperson, assistant superintendent, presented a breakdown of students per grade level throughout the district to Board members. As of the end of school year 2018-19, the district had 13,034 students attending classes in Pre-K through 12th grade. Board Member Mike Trask, after looking over the graphic showing class sizes, said he could only find one class size of 30 students and asked the district to continue to find ways to continue to keep class sizes low.

“We want to keep these sizes low, and we’re at a very good spot where we’re at, but I want to keep them there,” he said. “But it’s a conversation we’ll have to continue to have to impact what we do going forward.”

Trask brought forward his concern that the district needs to keep an eye on incoming numbers of students going from junior high school to high school, stating the district just graduated 834 students but that Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School will be seeing incoming freshmen numbering 975 students. Trask added those numbers don’t moderate much in coming years.

“I would call this a tsunami effect,” Trask said when looking at the numbers. “We just have to keep monitoring our population and keep an eye on it.” Such high numbers will have an effect on facilities, Trask added.

Epperson said school principals are already monitoring numbers in terms of incoming kindergarten students because the numbers of those students are “already at the top range of where we want them to be.”

Update On Dual Credit For Students Given: A discussion about dual credit classes for students followed. Dan Lamboley, director of secondary education, introduced Board members to Alauna Akins, associate director of secondary education partnerships at Heartland Community College.

Akins said HCC’s goal is to provide early access to college for high school students within the education district of the state HCC serves, District 540. HCC took its first steps to become part of District 540 in the early 1990s.

Akins said the dual credit program has four primary goals for serving high schools: Increase access to college; Develop pathways to completing college; enhance partnerships and faculty connections; and increase curricular alignment.

Lamboley said Unit 5 high schools entry in dual credit classes is based on work done by national initiative launched by the National School Superintendents Association to introduce new benchmarks to more appropriately assess that students are prepared for college and careers.

Next Board Meeting Scheduled For July 10: There will be no second meeting of the Board in June. The next scheduled Board meeting will be on Wednesday, July 10 at district headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., starting at 7p.m.