Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Taking a Paige out of Cal Ripken’s book

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

COLOR - Jeff  In December, 2008, Paige Stulginskis woke up one day feeling lousy.
  Like thousands of students throughout the country, she planned on staying home. She had her mother, Elizabeth, call Conrady Junior High School to tell the attendance office that she would not be coming to school that day.
  “I was crying because I didn’t want to miss school,” Paige said.
  So she took some “DayQuil or something” and started to feel better.
  When her father, Glen, woke up, Paige made a demand.
  “I said, ‘Dad! Take me to school!’ ’’ she said.
  So she went to school even though her mom was not crazy about the idea.
  So why all these years later is this a big deal?
  Stulginskis is now a senior at Stagg High School. She has not missed a day of school — ever.
  Not as a kindergartner or first-grader at Dorn Primary Center. Not as a second-, third-, fourth-grader at Glen Oaks Grade School.
  Not as a sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grader at Conrady.
  And not through three-plus years at Stagg.
  Stulginskis has been the student’s equivalent of baseball player Cal Ripken Jr., who played 2,131 straight games. She probably would take that as a compliment except she said last week that she never heard of the guy.
  She is proud of her streak but has not been seeking out attention for it.
  “Unless people ask me about it, people don’t really know about it,” Stulginskis said. “My friends and some of my teachers know. Other than that, nobody knows. It’s been in the newspaper before, but that was a long time ago.”
  Aside from that dreadful December day, she had no other close calls with being absent.
  “It seems like I get sick during Thanksgiving breakFRONT-COLOR-1-col-Page-3-2-col-with-JVCOLStagg’s Paige Stulginskis has never had an occasion to visit the attendance office during her career as a student. Photo by Jeff Vorva. and all of the breaks that we have,” Stulginskis said. “I never got sick during school.”
  Stulginskis has a twin sister, Tori, who has missed some time. A few years ago, North Palos School District public relations guru Jim Hook wrote a press release on the streak and quoted Tori as joking “She stole all my nutrients while we were in the womb.”
  Also in Hook’s mirth-filled release, Elizabeth had her own take on why the streak lasted so long.
  “It’s also probably because I don’t clean the house everyday so she perhaps built up an immunity to germs,” Elizabeth joked.
  Paige admits that she doesn’t like school a lot but doesn’t hate it either and has never been late. She wants to keep the streak alive even beyond her high school days. She is planning on going to Western Illinois University and study crime scene investigation.
  Usually colleges don’t keep attendance so it’s a goal that only she will be aware of.
  “I don’t want to miss any classes,” she said. “But it’s a long way away, so who knows?”

Jack-O pizza?
  My favorite excerpt from a press release this week comes from Papa Murphy’s pizza with a claim that Halloween is the “third busiest pizza night of the year — runner up only to Super Bowl Sunday and New Year’s Eve. Frightening but true, the week of Halloween is the busiest week of the entire year for local pizza chain, Papa Murphy’s!”
  The national chain offers something called a “Jack-O pizza” and during Halloween week, they use 5.3 million pounds of pizza dough made from scratch, 45 tons of red sauce, 86 tons of mozzarella cheese, 18 tons of cheddar & provolone topping cheese, 9.3 million pepperonis and more than half-a-million slices of olives.

A Flick of the tongue
  My second favorite excerpt from a press released this week comes from Hammond, Ind., where on Tuesday they unveiled a special statue:
  “The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority will be joined by Scott Schwartz, the actor who played Flick in the classic Christmas movie ‘A Christmas Story,’ for a press conference and the unveiling of the bronze Flick statue. The statue, developed in agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, will highlight the iconic ‘Triple Dog Dare’ scene in which Flick gets his tongue stuck to a flag pole. Additionally, information on the upcoming ‘A Christmas Story Comes Home’ exhibit will be discussed.’’
  I wouldn’t mind seeing a statue of that lamp that the old man won in a contest.

Numbers game
  Last year, the first Freedom Isn’t Free 5K run and Congressman Dan Lipinski finished 12th.
  On Sunday, he ran in the second Freedom Isn’t Free 5K race and finished 12th.


Shepard student faces felony charge for social media threat

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  A Shepard High School student faces a felony charge for using social media to threaten to kill another student, Cook County Sheriff’s Police said.

  Thomas Braasch of Worth was arrested Oct. 24 after posting the threat on Facebook the previous day. He later told police he had planned to kill the student for a year.
  Braasch threatened to kill the 16-year-old student at the school with a gun, police said. He did not have the weapon when he was arrested, officers said.
  Sheriff’s police were contacted Oct. 24 by Shepard administrators after staff at the Palos Heights school saw the threat. Braasch was taken into custody later that day. Court records indicate Braasch also lives in Alsip.
  He was charged with disorderly conduct — transmitting or causing a threat of destruction of a school building or school, or a threat of violence, death, or bodily harm directed against persons at a school, school function or school event, whether or not the school is in session.
  Bond was set at $150,000.

Mr. Fix It radio remote highlights food drive at Stacked

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Tom Demacopoulos is accustomed to front-color-two-col-louLou Manfredini will appear at Stacked in Oak Lawn Saturday morning. Photo courtesy of feeding people.
  The Oak Lawn restaurateur handles big breakfast and lunch crowds seven days a week at Stacked, the eatery he opened nearly two years ago at 5273 W. 95th St.
  But on Saturday morning, Demacopoulos’ restaurant will be the location for a Thanksgiving food drive as well as a remote radio broadcast hosted by WGN’s Mr. Fix It, Lou Manfredini.
  Plans for the food drive have been in the works for some time, as members of the Cobras Hockey Club, of which Demacopoulos’s son is a member, decided to use the restaurant as a base for their charity initiative.
  The food drive will benefit the food pantry at Together We Cope, the Tinley Park-based organization that provides food, housing and other essentials to individuals experiencing a crisis.
  WGN Radio called Demacopoulos later on asking if he’d like to host On the Road With Lou, the bi-monthly remote broadcast hosted Manfredini. The broadcast at Stacked is the last remote for 2013.
  The show will be broadcast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., but the food drive continues until 2 p.m.
  Demacopoulos said WGN Radio was aware of his restaurant because of recognition in local media and because it was a favorite of John Williams, a former WGN radio host. Williams, who now hosts an afternoon show in Minneapolis, is expected to call into Saturday’s show, Demacopoulos said.
  WGN will set up a large tent for the remote broadcast on 53rd Avenue, which will be shut down near the restaurant during the food drive. The show has promoted the event for a few weeks, and Demacopoulos is expected hundreds of people to stop by.
  In fact, he’s called all his cooks and servers to be on hand hours before the event to prepare. WGN Radio technicians are expected to arrive at 3 a.m. to begin setup, he said.
  The Cobras Hockey Club is a high school team made up of students from Andrew, Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Oak Lawn, Shepard, Stagg, Richards and Evergreen Park high schools.
  Approximately 40 members of the team’s varsity and junior varsity squads will be on hand to collect non-perishable food, turkeys and monetary donations, which will be loaded onto a truck and taken to Together We Cope.
  “It’s going to be a huge event,” he said. “Anybody is welcome to come by.”
  Demacopoulos said the food drive is way for him and member of the Cobras to give back to the community.
  High school hockey is an expensive sport and players are fortunate to have parents who can afford equipment and other related expenses, Demacopoulos said. Meanwhile, other families worry about giving their children a hot meal, he said.
  “They need to understand the importance of how fortunate they are,” he said. “It’s huge. We are so fortunate. It’s going to give me a great feeling.”
  Demacopoulos, a Hickory Hills resident, operated Stacked at 143rd Street and LaGrange in Orland Park for seven years until development forced him out.
  He said he’s experienced considerable success in Oak Lawn.
  “Oak Lawn has been an amazing transformation for me and my family,” he said.
  For more information on the food drive or to make a donation, visit

It’s Mustang mania

  • Written by Bob Rakow

FRONT-COLOR-4-col-EPThe 2013 Evergreen Park football team notched a perfect 9-0 mark in the regular season and is hoping for a long postseason run.

 It’s been 15 years since Tom Schillo donned the FRONT-COLOR-1-col-EP-Mascotgreen and gray uniform of the Evergreen Park High School football team.

  But Schillo still has Mustang pride and he’s thrilled about the success the 2013 team has experienced.
  “They score a lot of points. They’re fast. They move the ball,” Schillo said.
  The Mustangs also win games—all of them, in fact. The Mustangs were undefeated this year—the fourth time in school history they achieved that lofty goal.
  The last three years have been amazing,” Schillo said.
  Indeed they have. The team made the state playoffs the past two years, reaching the quarterfinals in 2011 and the semifinals last year. This year’s team has a No. 1 seed in the Class 4A pairings and some big expectations as they get set to host Richmond-Burton in the first round at 5 p.m. Saturday.
  Schillo’s brother, Luke, who was a running back for Evergreen Park about a decade ago, said an undefeated record is no easy achievement.
  “It’s hard work,” he said. “A lot of those games were won Monday through Thursday.”
  Like his brother, Luke played football for St. Xavier University. Luke had played one season at the Air Force Academy before coming home to play for the Cougars. He no longer lives in the village, but plans to attend playoff games.
  So will most of school’s 800 students, who’ve supported the team since the season began in August on new synthetic turf installed over the summer.
  “The kids are genuinely excited,” said EP Principal Bill Sanderson. “There’s a buzz throughout the building.”
  Sanderson credits head coach Dan Hartman for much of the team’s success.
  “He has a great rapport with the kids,” Sanderson said.
  Additionally, Hartman has worked diligently to involve the student body, alums and the community in the team’s success while also stressing the importance of academic accomplishments, Sanderson said.
  The school has stricter eligibility for its athletes than required by the IHSA, Sanderson said.
  The team’s success has helped build the program for the long-term achievement, Sanderson said.
  The small school has long watched Evergreen Park athletes choose to play for private high schools with extensive reputations as football powerhouses.
  “We lose kids from the village,” said Tom Schillo, who’s hosting a party at his Evergreen Park home before the first-round game.
  But the team’s winning tradition coupled with the relationships it’s built with the Evergreen Stallions youth football program and area Catholic grade school teams has helped turned things around, Sanderson said.
  The success even has the village’s boss impressed.
  Mayor James Sexton, who has been seen sitting in a chair on the sidelines and cheering the troops on, praised the team’s achievements and said that winning is contagious.
  “People want to be around winners,” Sexton said. “You want to form a tradition. I think it’s tremendously exciting.”
  He added that the team’s success is good for business, as more people attend games. “People come back and see the neighborhood.”
  Despite a 9-0 mark, the Mustangs have given their fans a rollercoaster ride several times this year.
  After winning a forfeit game against Little Village to open the season, the team had to scramble to beat Phillips, 35-32. Phillips could be a second-round opponent for the Mustangs.

  The Mustangs beat Oak Lawn 21-10 but were trailing 10-0 at halftime. They narrowly beat Tinley Park 24-22 in week 4 when Matt Schulte booted a 22-year field goal in the closing seconds.
  In what some would consider the signature victory of the year, EP beat Richards 35-34 in Oak Lawn. Star player Jacquet McClendon’s interception with three seconds to go at the end of the game helped preserve the win in Week 5. Quarterback Jonathan O’Brien suffered an injury and Sean Ryan took over.
  The nailbiting trend continued the following week in Summit when the Mustangs pulled off a wild 45-44 victory over Argo. Linebacker Don Oresky stripped the ball from an Argo player and ran 30 yards for a TD for what turned out to be the winning score in the final eight minutes.
  They beat Eisenhower 21-13 in weed 7 with McClendon making another game-saving interception in the final minute of the contest.

Putting on the dog — Palos Hills pets dress up for Halloween

  • Written by Kelly White

   It’s not just children who get topage-4-3-col-spookyRoxy won the spookiest costume honor at the Halloween Pet Parade Oct. 12 in Palos Hills. Photos by Kelly White. dress up in costumes for Halloween.
  The Riviera townhome complex in Palos Hills held its first Halloween Pet Parade Oct. 12, where over 20 well-dressed dogs and their owners paraded around the town.
  Costumes some of the pooches and pets wore included a shark, a bumblebee, a hotdog, a princess and a pumpkin.
  The dogs and their owners met at the Riviera Business Office where together they sung — or, in some cases — barked the Star Spangled Banner, before taking off single-file down the street. The dogs were led to the Riviera Park where pumpkin water bowls were waiting for them before the judging began for the best costumes. Donuts, water and apple cider were also available for the dogs’ owners to enjoy while mingling with neighbors.
  Dressed as a shark, Roxy, a three-year-old Shar-Pei/Beagle, took home the award for the Most Spooky Costume. Roxy was dressed with a shark around the body and it gave the appearance that the dog was being eaten by the shark.
Resized SuzySuzy-Q was more interested in earning a goody bag filled with treats rather than winning an award at the first Pet Parade in Palos Hills.  “A lot of people were commenting on how much they liked her costume as we were walking up to the parade,” Roxy’s owner, Roger Schweikert, 30, of Palos Hills said. “I kind of had a feeling she was going to win.”
  Judging was done by some of the Riviera residents who did not participate in the parade. Each dog who participated in the parade was given a goody bag filled with bones and rawhide treats before leaving for the day. For four-year-old shih-tzu, Suzy-Q, dressed as a bumblebee, is seemed as if the goody bag was better than winning an actual award.

  The parade was organized by Riviera and Palos Improvement and officials are planning to continue the event again next year.