The veterans of Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 took time this weekend to thank and honor local heroes making a difference in Naperville and the schools serving the community.
The Kendall Honors recipients, honored at a banquet Saturday, March 6, were selected by post members from among more than 60 people nominated in various categories through the post's Web site. The event also recognized the winners of the Voice of Democracy speech competition and Patriot Pen essay contest.
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Awards were given to the police officer of the year, the firefighter of the year, and the educators of the year at the elementary, middle and high school levels in Naperville Unit District 203, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and at Benet Academy.
Here's a look at the award winners:
Police Officer Kevin O'Connell
"Kevin is the school resource officer at Naperville North High School. He is involved and visible, visits classrooms, does staff presentations, assists in behavioral investigations and even goes on a student field trip or two," Jeffrey Farson said in his nomination.
Firefighter Dave Szablewski
"Dave has a high respect for anyone that served their country and he inspired me to become a member of the VFW. His contributions to this community go beyond his willingness to face the dangers of fighting fires and other crisis. His dedication to the safety of this town and its citizens is second to none. And he gives the Marines a good name!"said Scott Holley and Chuck Wehrli, who nominated Szablewski.
David Cleveland, Elmwood Elementary School, District 203
"What Dave Cleveland does best is make kids want to come to school every day because learning is fun. He is the guy who lines the sidewalk with dozens of small American flags on Veterans Day. - I can't imagine a better honoree and example of citizenship, honor, patriotism and volunteerism than Mr. David Cleveland," Wendy Wagner said in her nomination.
Art Schlumpf, Kennedy Junior High School, District 203
"Art, along with members of the VFW, have established a model business partnership between Kennedy and the VFW. This partnership enabled countless students to perform various service projects at the VFW and to engage in conversations with veterans that lead to a deeper appreciation of the importance and value of our nation's veterans. Through his gifted and inspired teaching of U.S. history, he has always instilled in his students a respect for those who wear the uniform of our country and a deep and lasting commitment to the values and ideas of our nation," reads the nomination submitted by Bob Rechenmacher, Kelly Weiland, Creighton Getting, Kevin Meehan, Malee Ruth, Sarah Rogers, David Hollander, Phil and Sonja Cappelleri.
Mike Bochenski, Naperville Central High School, District 203
"Mike has consistently shown a high level of support and encouragement for our young men and women considering military life. Mike actively participates in OSOTIL's (Operation Support Our Troops Illinois') efforts to provide education and resources to the community specifically to his community of high school students," said nominator Deb Rickert.
Rosanna Swenson, McCarty Elementary School, District 204
"Mother of four children, Rosanna's husband is serving active duty as a combat search and rescue pilot in the Air Force. She has led her Brownie troop in raising funds to send cookies and care packages to the troops. Her classroom students have written letters to the soldiers thanking them for their service. Her class always honors those who have served. She does all this while raising their four children alone as her husband continues to serve his country," Susan Zajak wrote in her nomination.
Emily Binder, Gregory Middle School, District 204
"Before beginning their first marching band rehearsal in preparation for the annual Memorial Day parade, Emily has a serious chat with the 20-plus members of the band about who they are marching for. She tells them that the parade honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. While we can never repay the public service of policemen, firemen and soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, she assures her students that their participation in this event honors their memory. She helps students understand the importance of placing a high value on citizenship, honor and patriotism," reads the nomination by Charles Staley.
Tracey Cook, Neuqua Valley High School, District 204
"Tracey has been an integral part of the Honor Flight Program and takes great pride in getting students to appreciate the groundwork laid by our greatest generation. She has been instrumental in coordinating veterans to come speak to our American studies classes during our WWII unit and our Vietnam Conflict period. She has been an important link between Cantigny and Neuqua and helps us gain trunks to use while we are studying a war in our history," Tom Trayser and Lisa Ryder said in their nomination.
Lisa DiMarco, Benet Academy
"Mrs. DiMarco has worked with me personally on my Voice of Democracy speeches for the VFW and encouraged me to pursue my dreams every step of the way," Alex Senetar's nomination says.
The Spirit of Judd Award-Don Perry, Kennedy Junior High School, District 203
Perry's support of veterans and their causes was influential in the development of a partnership between the school and the post more than 20 years ago. The partnership continues to flourish, according to the nomination.
Robert Prazak, first place
Cara LaBelle, second place
Bianca Donato, third place
Voice of Democracy
Alex Senetar, first place
Andrew Myrna, second place
Marlena May, third place