The recipients of the Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence awards all share similar feelings of modesty.
They aren't the heroes, they say. Rather, the victims they work to bring a voice to, and new lives to, are.
"It does not take courage to write about domestic violence," Daily Herald sports columnist Barry Rozner, one of five individuals honored by the group, said at a breakfast Friday at Harper College in Palatine. "It takes courage to stand up and say no, to walk out of an abusive relationship, to walk out of a house and be homeless and penniless."
But Rozner's inbox, some weeks, would tell you a different story. Rozner says he often hears from readers and viewers infuriated by his criticism of professional sports teams for blaming victims and for standing behind players who are accused of abuse or assault without showing public concern for victims.
Along with Rozner, those honored as Friends of the Alliance include:
• Jamie Kephart of Chicago, who worked to change state law to tighten restrictions on domestic violence offenders. Her mother, Diane Kephart, was ambushed and killed by a former boyfriend in 2013 outside Diane's parents' house near Antioch, where she had moved from Vernon Hills in an attempt to avoid the man. Diane's Law took effect this year and, among other things, allows electronic monitoring of people accused of abuse.
• Victor Pacini, of Algonquin, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, was honored for his development of a sexual abuse, empowerment and prevention program.
• Katharine Ortloff, who has worked in the Cook County sheriff's office for more than 20 years, has consistently gone above and beyond the duties of her job in assisting victims of domestic violence and supporting police departments and victim advocates who work on cases, said state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine, chair of the Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence.
• Former Harper College Police Chief Michael Alsup, of DeKalb, received the Wendell Jones Award for what Murphy described as a "steadfast journey to help educate the community on the importance of domestic violence prevention. Alsup, who retired in 2014, focused on domestic violence on campus and recently also led research into how domestic violence complaints are handled by police, Murphy said.
Alsup's award and the Wendell Jones Awards Breakfast are named for the late state senator from Palatine, who founded the Northwest Suburban Alliance on Domestic Violence more than 10 years ago. Jones was instrumental in securing funding for a Palatine-based domestic violence safe house for the WINGS Program and establishing the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council for the 3rd Municipal Court District in Rolling Meadows, Murphy said.
Wendell Jones' wife, Jane Jones of Fort Myers, Fla., and daughter, Julie Healy of Volo, attended the breakfast.
After nine years as chair, Murphy announced he will step down this year and be replaced by Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg.
Mussman said she has already asked those involved with the group for ways to address the issue of domestic violence in the coming year.