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updated: 10/24/2012 5:26 PM

Naperville man overcomes physical challenges to join dad in shredding business

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  • Naperville's Luke Koupal atop a snow bank on Groundhog Day 2011.

    Naperville's Luke Koupal atop a snow bank on Groundhog Day 2011.
    Courtesy of Stephanie Penick


If you were around on Groundhog Day in 2011, you likely remember when nearly 20 inches of snow blew into town.

In the aftermath of the blizzard, huge mounds of the white stuff sat shoveled at the corners of intersections where many youngsters found a new height to conquer.

While out with my camera, I captured one of the neighbor kids, Luke Koupal, after he had climbed high atop one of the mounds. Luke's mother and his golden retriever had watched in awe, too.

I asked for a wave and Luke gave me one. Little did I know at the time the significance of his kind gesture.

What I did know is that Luke's been my neighbor his whole life. His parents, JoAnne and Matt Koupal, were among the first neighbors we met after our move here in 1993. Their two daughters, then 8 and 9, were just a little younger than our three children.

I'd been inspired by their passion to become foster parents for newborns, caring for infants for a few days between birth and adoption.

Then came Luke Michael, their third newborn foster baby, who would enter their lives after an extra three-day stay at Christ Hospital where his condition had been under observation.

Luke was born with many abnormalities, including blindness, deafness and epilepsy. At the time, the prognosis was disheartening and no one expected Luke ever to walk.

Unlike their other foster children, the Koupals set forth to adopt Luke, a tribulation that took more than a year. And then, as Matt reminded me recently, the miracles happened one after the other. Luke, also challenged by autism, gained his sight and learned to talk, walk and run.

Many times I encounter Luke and his folks during my walks in our neighborhood. The other day when I greeted Matt and Luke, Matt filled me in on some exciting developments for his son as he transitions into adulthood.

Luke, now 20, and his father are going forward with the document shredding business, Shred-i-Gator, they started nearly two years ago.

I made an appointment to see their operation and that's when I learned that Luke especially enjoys making outside sales calls and meeting business owners.

He also thrives on sharing his good nature, sarcasm and a joke with potential clients as he sells the shredding services of his business that give him the freedom "to buy the things he wants."

With the motto "Give Dignity … Get Peace of Mind …," Shred-i-Gator is named to represent Luke's love for alligators and shredding. The independently owned company provides a valuable service for small businesses while helping Luke earn his way in the world.

Luke doesn't drive, but with his dad's assistance, he'll deliver a Shred-i-Gator box to any local business. When the lockable box is full of documents to be shredded, customers simply call for pick up, micro-shredding and disposal -- all for $50 a box.

After the job is finished, Shred-i-Gator provides a certificate of destruction.

With two years under his belt, soft-spoken Luke includes plenty of humor when he talks about the joys of his sales experiences. He's mindful that every good sales call should "start with a joke and end with asking for the order."

He mentioned that Halloween is his favorite holiday and he told me one of his seasonal riddles.

"Why did the skeleton go to the library?" he asked.

"To bone up on a few things."

During our interview and tour of his workplace, Luke discovered that I am startled easily. With a few claps, his Halloween collection of creepy creatures appeared to come alive with moans and groans. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my skin.

Then almost before my very eyes, Luke donned his Dracula cape. What a picture!

That's when I learned Luke shies away from cameras.

And that's when I realized how lucky I'd been to catch Luke's wave on the day after the blizzard -- that coincidentally rhymes with lizard.

For information about Shred-i-Gator, visit or call (630) 717-0409.

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