Breaking News Bar
updated: 7/2/2011 5:31 PM

Goodbye to leader in caring for underprivileged kids

Success - Article sent! close
  • Tony Danhelka and children attending the Riverwoods Family Campus during a recent summer.

    Tony Danhelka and children attending the Riverwoods Family Campus during a recent summer.
    Photo Courtesy of the Fox Valley Christian Organiz

  • Tony Danhelka and his wife, Donna

    Tony Danhelka and his wife, Donna
    Photo Courtesy of the Fox Valley Christian Organiz


Tony Danhelka and his wife, Donna, left the St. Charles area last week to make a new home -- and take advantage of the milder winters -- in Fairfield Glade, Tenn.

Danhelka touched many lives in the Fox Valley as one of the co-founders, along with Champ Boutwell and Paul Johannaber, of the Riverwoods Christian Center summer camp along the Fox River in St. Charles Township.

Riverwoods was created in 1977 and has been a haven for young, underprivileged kids seeking to learn Christian values and gain life skills that will help them succeed in high school, college and beyond. Danhelka served as the CEO of the organization, which has expanded and changed dramatically in 35 years.

Jay Curtis, who started as a Riverwoods staff member in 1988 and is currently president and CEO of what is now called Fox Valley Christian Action, has benefited greatly from Danhelka's leadership.

Thirteen years after Curtis was hired, Danhelka recommended the board appoint him executive director. Eight years later, he recommended Curtis as his successor as president and CEO.

"It has been an amazing 23-year journey with Tony," Curtis said. "I have learned a tremendous amount about ministry and people, and I am very grateful to Tony."

Danhelka will remain involved with Fox Valley Christian Action and visit what is now called Riverwoods Family Campus when he is in the area.

It's a good time to thank him for his vision and commitment to an amazing program. What started as an 86-acre camping ministry has expanded into an outreach called Riverworks for various housing communities, while Riverwoods Family Campus continues to grow with an activities center and several new cottages for the kids.

Dial 911 on dangerous drivers:

It's not that the Fourth of July weekend brings more drinking and driving than other holidays, but it does symbolize that the summer driving and vacation season is in high gear. So you'd like to see those around you driving sensibly.

With more ways for people to get distracted while driving -- drinking, texting, eating, talking on the phone, watching video, listening to music through headphones -- it did not surprise me that some readers have asked if 911 is the best option to call if they see someone behind the wheel driving erratically. Or should they have a certain phone number from each area police station logged in on their cellphones?

In checking with a few police stations, it appears that 911 in the Tri-Cities area is definitely the best option because, unlike Chicago, it is not strictly an emergency number.

It is the fastest way to call if you see someone bobbing and weaving through traffic because of a few too many glasses of wine, or a few too many text messages.

We should police our own actions as well, because very few us can fight off the temptation to make or take a call while driving. And not enough people can turn down that alcoholic beverage at a local tavern or during a party.

The best role many of us could play would be as a diligent set of eyes and ears, letting police know when dangerous maneuvers are taking place on the road.

Whitewash the bank:

It's probably what Tom Sawyer's fence looked like.

A piece of Batavia history needed a good whitewashing and the Batavia Park District figured it was a good time to do it.

The Coffin Bank building, Batavia's first bank in 1865, sits right next to the Depot Museum. Over the years, the white paint peels away and the wood erodes on this tiny piece of Batavia history. About six years ago, a group of Boy Scouts painted it, but it needed some heavier woodwork and painting this time.

It was good to see park district work crews last week working on the building, which could really be called a shed, as a new coat of paint and some new boards will give it a nice look for the upcoming Windmill City Festival.

A worldly cause:

I recently mentioned how much my wife and I enjoyed "Around the World in 80 Days" by the Fox Valley Repertory at Pheasant Run, and now this local production has a cause.

Fox Valley Repertory is helping the two St. Charles Rotary Clubs collect donations to fight polio across the world. Patrons have the chance to make contributions to this cause after each performance, as the play runs through July 31.

Because it is not a major issue in the public eye in this country anymore, it is great that a play about the entire world and the Rotary's effort to ease suffering in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, brings a focus back on this need.

For river beauty:

The St. Charles River Corridor Foundation has every right to say that the backdrop of the Fox River provides "one of the most impressionable features of downtown St. Charles."

And the foundation has surely puts its signature on that aspect of the city, particularly with its creation of the Bob Leonard Walkway in honor of one of their founding members and most avid supporters before his death.

The foundation will be at it again on Aug. 6, with the fifth annual Bob Leonard 5K Run and Walkathon to raise more money for the cause of keeping the river banks beautiful.

Runners will take to the Fox River Trail and city streets, while walkers will go through town and into Mount St. Mary Park, where they can take in the art sculptures and some of the new riverbank work and outlook points created in the past year.

Throw in the fact that there is a nice party at the Pottawatomie Pavilion after the events, and this promises to be a fun day. Registration forms can be downloaded at