Cub pitches in to brighten spirits at Advocate Children’s Hospital

  • Written by Kelly White


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Photo by Kelly White

Chicago Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery, talks with avid baseball fan, Jackson Codair, 7, and his mother, Kohlby Codair, on Aug. 2 at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Jackson Codair is only 7 years old but he has undergone four heart surgeries.

Jackson has had heart surgeries for pulmonary atresia, heterotaxy syndrome, MAPCAs and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, with his first surgery when he was 10 days old and his last surgery just last month.

“We are expecting at least two more surgeries before a heart transplant in his late teens,” said his mother, Kohlby Codair, of Joliet.

Although he has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital, Jackson refuses to allow it affect his positive outlook on life, as he tries his best to be an average kid by dreaming of becoming a famous baseball player. His own physical condition prohibits him from playing sports, as his oxygen level is low, according to his mother, but that does not stop him from watching the Chicago Cubs on TV with his grandpa, Barry Nelson.

“My grandpa and I love the Cubs,” Jackson said.

Jackson was in awe on Aug. 2 as one of his favorite Chicago Cubs players, relief pitcher Mike Montgomery, visited Advocate Children's Hospital, 4440 W 95th St., Oak Lawn, to lift the spirits of pediatric patients. He was even able to get in a game of catch with Montgomery.

“This is a good experience to get out of the baseball world and take the time to talk to the kids,” Montgomery, 28, said. “It’s amazing just to see their faces. It means a lot to them, and it’s just as rewarding for me to meet them.”

Montgomery had his photo taken and signed baseball hats and balls for the patients. Jackson was even given an extra autographed Cubs hat to take home to his grandpa.

Advocate Children’s Hospital is part of Advocate Health Care, which is the official health care partner of the Chicago Cubs. The hospital usually has one to two visits from the Chicago Cubs players per season, this being Montgomery’s first visit.

“The player visits are very important to the children here,” said Cristina Enea, marketing coordinator at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “It’s such a nice experience to give to kids who are going through a lot. The smiles on the kids’ faces are everything, and not just for the kids, as the parents’ faces also light up when they see how happy their children are.”

Jackson’s mother agreed that the one-on-one visit really meant a lot to her son.

“He gets very excited when someone comes to visit him,” Kohlby said. “It makes him feel like he isn’t just a patient – he is somebody.”

Jackson was just one of 20 patients that Montgomery met with face-to-face, and all were just as happy to spent time with the pitcher that recorded the save in Game 7 of the Cubs' 2016 World Series championship.

“I love going to Cubs games and it’s amazing to see him in person,” said Emma Paris, 17, of Orland Park.

Paris was admitted into the hospital a week ago with a severe kidney infection and left on a high note, after dancing with Montgomery.

“I don’t dance but I love music and I play instruments,” Paris said. “I wanted to see his dance moves.”

Meeting Montgomery also brought a smile to the face of Skylar Lane, 16, of Riverdale. She was born with Sickle Cell Anemia but she says the disease has not brought her down, if anything it has inspired her.

“Living with Sickle Cell, I know I want to be able to help children one day who are going through something similar to me,” Lane said. “That is why I want to become a pediatrician.”

Lane said school, her family and the Chicago Cubs are three things that always put a smile on her face. Her grandmother, Johnnie Funches, and her cousins, Deja and Dakari Funches, all of Riverdale, also joined her to meet Montgomery.

“We are all really excited about this,” Johnnie Funches said. “We are all Cubs fans and we all watch baseball together as a family a lot. Montgomery is a great player.”


Mystery buyer for old Palos Hills racquetball club property

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

The site of the old Palos Olympic Health & Racquetball Club at 11050 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills is a fenced off. City officials learned last week that an unknown buyer had purchased the property.

Palos Hills attorney George Pappas anticipated delivering some promising news in regards to the long closed Palos Olympic Health & Racquetball Club.

Pappas expected to inform the Palos Hills City Council last Thursday night that the request to acquire the property that houses the old racquetball club, which is located on the backlot of 11050 S. Roberts Road, was acquired by the city through Cook County’s No Cash Bid Program.

But instead the attorney informed the surprised board members that someone or some entity has purchased the building.

“I don’t know who it is,” Pappas said. “But they probably don’t know the circumstances of this. Whoever bought it does not understand what they got into. It maybe to our advantage to see what the buyer is going to do with it. I was shocked that someone would buy this property. But they are going to have to come to us eventually for permits.”

At this time, Pappas said he does not know the identity of the buyer or buyers. The attorney said he would know within two weeks.

Mayor Gerald Bennett was also initially stunned at the news that the property was purchased, especially since it has been vacant for over 10 years. But the mayor indicated that the property will most likely end up back in the city’s possession.

“The buyer is going to have to bring the building down,” Bennett said. “It could cost him at least $100,000.”

Ald. Martin Kleefisch (1sst Ward) wondered how long all this could take.

“How long can he sit on that property and do nothing with it? (How long) can he not pay taxes?

Both Bennett and Pappas responded that it could be as long as two years. But the mayor said that the threat of condemnation that would require him to have it torn down may give the owner second thoughts.

The board earlier this year directed Pappas to file the necessary documents with the county in an attempt to acquire the racquetball club property through the No Cash program, an economic development tool designed to assist municipalities in acquiring delinquent property to reuse. The property could become part of a private development project.

Besides the costs of demolition, the property has back taxes that amount to $300,000, according to Pappas. The city has said if were able to purchase the property they would raze the old racquetball club building for $100,000 and then leave the land open for some time. The city would consider offers from developers, Bennett has previously said.

If the city was able to acquire the property through the No Cash Bid program, they would not be responsible for the taxes. Despite the setback, both Bennett and Pappas were certain that the city will eventually end up with the property. And Pappas reminded board members that hold a lien on the property.

In other news, Ald. Mary Ann Schultz (3rd Ward) asked for the approval of Carousel Checks Inc. to move to the city, which had already been approved by the city’s Plan Commission. Andrew Crim, president of Carousel Checks Inc., has asked the board for approval to move his company from Bridgeview to the building that has been occupied by Weller Truck Parts at 11152 Southwest Highway. The board approved the measure.

Crim is a former Palos Hills resident. The company was founded in 2004 and has 86 employees, with about 20 more to be added with the move to Palos Hills, according to Crim. Bennett has spoken previously that he wanted to see Carousel Checks relocated to Palos Hills.

Schultz also asked the board to approve the Law Enforcement Security Training Center, 9800 S. Roberts Road, which received the approval of the Plan Commission. The board approved and granted the petitioner request for special use for police training and for concealed carry instruction.

Several board members applauded the efforts of the organizers of the National Night Out event that was held Aug. 1 at Town Square Park. Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th Ward) also said the evening was a success but would like more publicity provided for the event before next year’s National Night Out. Bennett agreed that more will be done next year to publicize the event.

Marotta also mentioned that maybe one or a couple of Concerts in the Park could be held at Town Square Park in 2018.

“I think this would be a great place for a concert and would be great for the community,” Marrotta said.

Bennett said that this could be a good idea will be looked into before next summer.

The mayor also mentioned that a Fajita’s Mexican Restaurant will open later this month at 10296 S. 78th Ave.

Palos Hills could get soaked by Oak Lawn’s water distribution cost overruns and larger bills

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Palos Hills Board discussed in length the subject of water and the larger monthly bills they will have to pay during the committee-of-the-whole meeting last Thursday night.

The cost to modernize the regional water network supplied by Oak Lawn has become more expensive than originally planned. Oak Lawn buys water from Chicago and sells it to 12 south suburbs, including Palos Hills. Other local municipalities that purchase water through Oak Lawn are Chicago Ridge, Orland Park, Palos Park and Tinley Park.

With Oak Lawn’s distribution system turning 50 years old a few years back, an upgrade became necessary and the communities receiving water from the village agreed to pay for it. The cost of the project was supposed to be $171 million but has since been revised, according to CDM Smith, the Oak Lawn firm that is overseeing the project.

The work was originally supposed to be completed in 2018 but has since been delayed until 2021, according to CDM.

The current figure for the completion of the project is $221 million, according to Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett. The mayor said that will mean a rise in monthly water bills from $9.97 to $12.92.

“We don’t have any choice,” said Bennett. “It’s either that or we don’t have water. Oak Lawn’s initial estimates were way off. We are monitoring the situation but there is not much we can do about it.”

Bennett said that fortunately the city had established a capital fund that could help them cope with unexpected rising costs. However, with the water bill increase, barely enough will be available for future road or other infrastructure repairs next year, said Bennett.

The mayor pointed out that the upgrades to the water treatment center in Oak Lawn were necessary. The majority of communities will benefit from the improvements. However, some communities will benefit more than others, Bennett said.

“It’s Oak Lawn’s system and they can pick the engineers,” Bennett added. “Lemont, Mokena, Tinley – they are growing so they will see the benefits.”

Oak Lawn officials have said that getting a new water line along ComEd and Cook County Forest Preserve District property has created delays and higher costs. The village had to get the approval of ComEd and the county. Construction of a new water line has yet to begin.

Despite these setbacks, Bennett remains optimistic and points to the value of having a capital fund.

“If we didn’t have that capital fund, we would have to eat $8 million,” the mayor said. “But we have no debt. We are a debt free system and that is an oddity in itself.”

Ald. Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward) wonders if some conversations should take place with Oak Lawn officials.

“Is there any talk of any recourse with the other towns that Oak Lawn could pay some of these costs? I’m wondering if something could be done,” Kleefisch said.

Bennett smiled at Kleefisch’s suggestion.

“That was my argument in the beginning,” Bennett said. “We met with 10 towns and talked about that. If there were any overruns, Oak Lawn had to come back to us, I felt. ”

Unless some further negotiations can be arranged in the future, the project will cost Palos Hills about $8 million over 20 years. Other municipalities will see larger increases.

But Bennett reminded everyone that the water distribution system will be more efficient.

“It’s Lake Michigan water coming to us,” Bennett said. “”We are getting good, clean water coming to Palos Hills.”

Mother's tight budget might have cost her daughter a big break in Hollywood

  • Written by Staff Reports


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Submitted photo

Evergreen Park resident Donae Parker, 9, performs during an Actors, Models and Talent for Christ (AMTC) competition last month in Orlando.

Claudia Parker, of Evergreen Park, said she wasn’t so sure she wanted her 9-year-old daughter, Donae Parker, going anywhere but into fourth grade at Northeast Elementary School.

“I was completely comfortable with her acting in community theater and church plays,” said Parker. “But the thought of her actually working in the acting industry makes me nervous, so I’ve been ignoring her pleas to find her an agent.”

Parker said she softened to the idea last summer after she and Donae attended an open audition for Actors, Models and Talent for Christ (AMTC). It’s a non-profit training ministry preparing performers for film, fashion, music and theater. They can be found at Some might find it comparable to The Second City Training Center, but with an emphasis geared toward people of faith.

“I signed Donae up for AMTC’s training program because they addressed every area of my concern,” said Parker. “I wanted Donae to get more than talent development. I wanted instructors invested in helping us to navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry.”

Parker also said AMTC sets itself apart from other training centers with their culminating event for graduates. “They host an international week-long conference with performers from Orlando, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta and South Africa. This year it was July 4-9 at the ritzy Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla. The conference is optional and entry for AMTC performers is included in the tuition, but transportation to Florida, lodging at the Gaylord and meals for the week are not.

Parker’s husband, Don, said he wanted Donae to attend the conference because of the unique opportunity it would provide for her to acquire a reputable agent, so they worked it into the budget by making it their family’s summer vacation. However, Claudia pulled back the reins on anything that warranted additional spending.

“AMTC had invited over 50 agents, managers and casting directors to the conference whom they call their VIP guests,” said Parker.

They’re present to watch performers showcase their talent. The conference is called SHINE because performers are being given the chance to shine before industry professionals that may lead to their big break.

Three showcase performances are included in the tuition. Those wanting to appear before the VIPs more than that can, but for an additional fee.

“There were over 420 children and adult performers showcasing various talents before the VIPs. Of course, every mom thinks their kid is the best, but if I’m being honest, there were at least 10 African American little girls about the same age, with similar talent and equally as adorable as my precious Donae,” recalled Parker. “Among that much competition I could see the validity in piling on additional showcases for a fighting chance to be noticed. Nonetheless, my wallet told Donae, ‘Girl, you better make your three shots count!’”

Each performer is given up to 20 seconds per showcase. Performances are broken into categories throughout the week. VIPs give each performance a score, which is calculated for an overall scoring determinate for the top 10-15 percent, which are selected to perform in the talent and acting finale.

One of the finale’s masters of ceremonies was Ser’Darius Blain. He was in the 2011 remake “Footloose,” “Star Trek: Into the Darkness,” “Maybe Someday,” “Camp X-Ray,” and he was the lead in “When the Game Stands Tall.” This December, Blain will star alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black in the highly anticipated “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. “  

The AMTC performer packet reads, “We do not select a certain number of children, teens, songwriters, dancers or any particular age group or style; only readiness, show diversity and star potential are considered.”

Of the mere three showcases that Donae performed, she was selected to perform two of them in the finale.

“I was so happy I cried,” said Donae. “I didn’t want anyone to see so I buried my head into my mom’s chest.

“I was shocked,” said Parker. “I was a little skeptical at first. I had thoughts like, ‘Hmmm, are these VIPs legitimate people from the industry? And if so, what’s the true likelihood that they’ll notice my kid?’”

Parker said her doubts were put at ease after reading the bios of several of the VIPs and learning more about them during various seminars they conducted throughout the week.

Erica Cruz, of Lily’s Talent Agency, and Mike Theisen, of Gray Talent Group, were two of the VIPs present from Chicago. Both have very strong reputations.

“I can say without a doubt, AMTC is legit. Attending the SHINE conference really made me a believer. After Donae performed in the acting finale, which also streamed live over the internet for thousands to see, Donae got callbacks from two VIPs, DebraLynn Findon, of Discover Management, and Penny Middlemiss, of Mavrick Artists Agency, which are both in the heart of Los Angeles.”

Unfortunately, Parker said the family had chosen to leave the SHINE conference one day early to save $500 on the cost of their flight back to Chicago, so Donae wasn’t able to meet with the VIPs that expressed interest in her.

“I felt bad about it after that fact,” said Parker. “I suppose I should have had more faith in the SHINE process and trusted in Donae’s abilities over my budget. I guess I didn’t expect anything would really come of her performances.”

Parker said she’s learned a priceless lesson and she’s now moving forward in seeking Donae acting representation here in the Chicago area.

Interested in watching Donae’s 20 second performances? AMTC’s Leo Marshall Creative provided a professional reel. Residents can have a look at


Local communities celebrate ‘night out’ with police, neighbors

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The origin of National Night Out dates back to 1984 as police-community partnerships were developed in an effort to better relate to the neighborhoods they patrol.

Southwest suburban communities have since joined in an effort to develop a better relationship between police and residents. National Night Out is always held the first Tuesday of August and recognized and celebrated in different ways in communities across the country.

Organizers in Hickory Hills, Palos Hills and Worth recognized National Night Out in similar but different ways Tuesday night.

The Jake Gill Band performed at Kasey Meadow Park, 8047 W. 91st Place, in Hickory Hills. The event was a celebration as free pop and popcorn were distributed to visitors to the park. Plenty of games and fun was available for kids at the Kasey Meadow Park playground.

“We have a lot of things going on,” said Jennifer Fullerton, the executive director of the Hickory Hills Park District. “We have the free pop and popcorn. Everyone has a good time. The kids have a good time.”

The Hickory Hills Police Department and the Roberts Park Fire Department Protection District were also on hand at the National Night Out, interacting with kids and adults. First Midwest Bank was the chief sponsor.

The first National Night Out involved over two millions neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states, according to organizers. The original events were more solemn gatherings as residents were encouraged to turn on their porch lights and come out to greet the police and meet their neighbors. Even if they remained in their homes, neighbors were encouraged to put their porch lights on as a sign of unity and camaraderie with the police and community.

But since the first events were held 33 years ago, National Night Out has become more festive. At Kasey Meadow Park, for instance, children were playing in the splash pad. Adults were taking a stroll along the new walking and jogging path around the park.

Southwest suburban communities, like cities and towns across the nation, began to host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and safety demonstrations. The majority of these events include visits from emergency personnel. Many children have the opportunity to meet first responders and take tours of emergency vehicles.

National Night Out has taken place at the Town Square Park, 8500 W. 103rd St., in Palos Hills, the past couple of years. The event keeps getting bigger in that community. The staff from nearby Green Hills Library drops by to interact with kids. First responders also allow kids to tour their vehicles.

Bonnie Price, the longtime village clerk in Worth, said National Night Out activities are now in its fifth year for the village. Like other southwest suburban communities, the celebration drew a large crowd.

“This is like a festival atmosphere,” Price said. “The kids have a great time and they get to talk to the police. They get to know each other.”

The National Night Out event held at Peaks Park at 107th and Oak Park Avenue had a DJ, games, inflatables, balloons, face painting and ice cream for kids and adults. The North Palos Fire Protection District was also on hand. Hot dogs were also served.

Price said that the National Night Out in Worth has been positive for the community and the kids have responded well to it.

“Just the other day some kids came in asking if Officer (Mike) Cozzi (the school resource officer) was going to be at the National Night Out,” recalled Price. “When they heard he was, they were so excited and said they would be there. The kids want to go to talk to the police. That means it is working.”