As Christmas Day approaches, we can't help but think of the many ways people in the suburban area have demonstrated the spirit of the holidays all year long. This edition of Saturday Soapbox celebrates some of them.
The best of us:
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Disasters can bring out the worst in people but also the best. Within a day of the tornado that struck downstate Washington, looters swept through the neighborhood and suspect fundraising efforts popped up. But we also know that plenty of suburbanites took up collections and drove three hours to help out -- dispensing supplies, cleaning up yards, providing comfort -- many of them with no plan, no connections, but a burning desire to be of use.
Help for the hungry:
Despite the signs of an improving economy, poverty continues in the suburbs. It often strikes at the very core of human existence -- food. Just ask volunteers at Lake Zurich-based Emmaus House. Since 1999, they have gathered on Sundays to help 150 to 200 people by providing a weekly community dinner and bag of groceries to take home. Also available is money for rent, utilities and child care. They offer companionship. They offer hope.
Goodness that lives on:
Two people whose lives ended last spring showed it is possible to spread goodwill despite immense physical challenges. Chicago film critic Roger Ebert kept a spirit of optimism and kindness through years of cancer treatment. And Rob Komosa, who never sought sympathy after he was paralyzed in football accident in Rolling Meadows 13 years ago, offered inspiration to many.
Learning to care:
The Hoffman Estates High School "Freezin' For a Reason" polar plunge team fielded an event-high 40 people to brave icy waters in Palatine last winter, raising more than $14,000 for Special Olympics. Special education teacher Amy Longmore credited the school's SOAR program -- Show respect, Own your actions, Accept differences and Realize your potential -- with helping fuel the team.
As much as we try to keep the spirit of the holidays with us all year, it's not always easy. The Blackhawks, under owner Rocky Wirtz, take giving to another level in pro sports. From chartering a plane so players' families could witness the Cup-clinching win in Boston to donating $200,000 to tornado victims, they raise the bar on giving back.
Turning grief into action:
In the waning days of the Stanley Cup series, Burt Constable chronicled a family remembering their son, an avid Chicago Blackhawks fan. Jeff Pride of Barrington was only 7 when he died of leukemia in 2000 and was buried in his Blackhawks jersey. His legacy lives on, however, in the Jeffrey Pride Foundation, which has donated about $1.3 million to fund pediatric cancer research and sponsor drug trials.
Running to help:
Naperville's first marathon brought out the best in everyone: volunteers who braved the November cold and the nurses from Edward and Delnor hospitals and another runner who stopped to help save the life of a runner from Geneva who had collapsed. There also was the forest preserve cop who guided a lost runner to the finish line, after the course was dismantled.
In good hands:
We've chronicled so much good done by young people from the suburbs it's hard to know where to begin. Suburban standouts fight drug addiction in their communities and battle poverty in Haiti. Members of our Leadership Teams tutor special needs kids, raise money for dozens of causes and volunteer endlessly. It's obvious our future is safe with them.