Friends of Alex Kintz will never forget he left his place among them way too soon.
When the student at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia first learned he had developed cancer in his femur during the holidays in 2007, his friends could never have imagined he would be gone less than two years later.
So they've kept his spirit alive with Alex's Army, a large group of supporters who raise money and participate each year in the Relay For Life.
But life has gone on for those friends, and they will graduate from Batavia High School in the spring. It means their lives will start to head in different directions -- and they know it.
The 2013 Relay For Life on June 21-22 at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva will be the last for Alex's Army as his friends know it.
"When the boys were in seventh grade, Susan Arch, a Rotolo guidance counselor, suggested they might form a relay team to inspire their friend who had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his femur," Alex's mother, Melinda Kintz, said.
"It also served as a place to focus their energy and compassion, as 25 boys quickly formed the Alex's Army team," she added.
Now more than 3½ years after their friend lost his battle, they are raising funds for their final organized relay, which takes place just after their high school graduation, Melinda said.
Alex's Army will enter its sixth relay composed of Alex's friends, a brother and a cousin. The team is close to breaking the $100,000 mark in funds raised, Melinda said.
"In addition to planned bake sales, carwashes and other activities, Alex's Army approached Baird & Warner with the idea of hosting a tour of the Dunham Castle which is, at a minimum, a local curiosity -- and for sale," she added.
Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity ReStore will provide antiques and furnishings for the castle tour, resulting in a fundraiser that supports two worthy charities, Melinda said.
Information about the tour and a link for tickets is available at dunhamcastletour.com.
Many more smiles: With the tension of the Geneva teacher negotiations behind them, it was all smiles and glad-handing for school board members, administrators and teachers at last week's annual Community Leadership Breakfast at Geneva High School.
Student council members from the district's schools spoke to those in attendance about the events and efforts their schools undertake to help the community. It was a good reminder that behind the smoke and fire of contract negotiations, thousands of students are eager to learn.
The schools also welcomed the Geneva Academic Foundation's annual donation, this year a $44,608 check. Since 1987, the foundation has raised $1.1 million for the schools.
Closing its doors: It was a beautiful store, no doubt about it. But beauty doesn't count for as much as it did in a more stable economy. Kathleen Newhouse, owner of Park Place Interiors in Geneva, announced last week the furnishings and design store in Dodson Place will soon close its doors.
Newhouse was hoping she could somehow manage to keep the location open, but she's now looking to operate a design business out of her home.
Kathleen loved her time in Geneva the past few years, and she was optimistic and supportive of everything that went on along Third Street and throughout downtown.
Great gesture: Once again, Tom Wangler and his staff at Confident Aire in Batavia are seeking a family worthy of the "Ultimate Energy Transformation."
For the past five years, Wangler has provided a new energy-efficient furnace and other energy-saving home improvements to a family in need. His company will take nominations from area churches and nonprofits for families in need of such a gift.
Mayor Jeff Schielke will draw the winning name from eligible entries on Dec. 28.
Time to Smuzi: Get ready for Smuzi. That's an odd name, unless it's describing an organic juice bar.
Smuzi is coming to Geneva soon in the small storefront on Third Street that housed Kernel's Gourmet Popcorn before it moved to State Street.
At this point, there is no way of knowing what sort of business hours Smuzi will keep, but I suspect some potential exists for attracting commuters who may like a juice drink, rather than coffee, on the train.
Empty again: Has any retail market taken a harder hit than the restaurant industry during the rough economy? With Bistro One West in St. Charles closing its doors, we're left to wonder again what it will take for someone to finally make a go of it in the Illinois Street location that was, for a long time, Erik and Me.
Berries worth consuming: It's apparent turkey will capture our hearts on Thanksgiving, but let's not forget to give cranberries their due. The Kane County Farm Bureau reveals that Americans consume 400 million pounds of cranberries a year, with close to 80 million of those pounds during Thanksgiving week.
World War II veterans surely remember cranberries, as the troops required about 1 million pounds of dehydrated cranberries a year.
In addition, doctors say cranberries offer protection from tooth decay, urinary tract infections and inflammatory diseases. Plus, their antioxidants may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Getting his umbrella?: The Rain Man sculpture has been removed from his spot in the Third Street public plaza near the Geneva train station, and this must mean the city's public works department is trying to put the missing umbrella back in his hand.
The umbrella was damaged last summer, but it wasn't going to be an easy fix. The public works department had to determine a way to reattach a fixed umbrella.
We'll eagerly await Rain Man's return.