Schaumburg honored its unsung heroes Tuesday at its annual Volunteer of the Year Luncheon, whose attendees also heard some life lessons from Cubs Hall of Famer Ferguson "Fergie" Jenkins.
The event's three award categories demonstrated how different members of the community look after one another.
The winners included an 86-year-old retirement community resident who compiled a virtual "walk in the woods" for his neighbors unable to take their own, a group of developmentally disabled young adults who volunteer at that same retirement community, and a junior high student who works with classmates with disabilities.
Herb Demmel was the winner of the adult individual award for his work with the land stewardship committee of Friendship Village retirement community. Among his accomplishments was the creation of a 200-photo slideshow tour of the woods of Friendship Village and nearby Sarah's Woods at http://knowvation.stdl.org in the document "Sarah's Grove Histories."
"The whole idea was to put something together for the people who can't walk in the woods," Demmel said. "I've been doing restoration work for the past 30 years."
Former high school students in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211's Adult Transition Program for young people with mild and moderate cognitive impairments won the Volunteer Organization of the Year award for their assistance of residents and staff at Friendship Village.
"It's about giving back to the community," said Patrick Abraham, District 211's coordinator of transition services. "The community has been so good to our students."
Frost Junior High student Calandra Bessemer won the youth individual award for her work helping to educate and motivate students with disabilities -- including writing songs and skits for them to enjoy.
Bessemer said her motivation was her dad's work with disabled kids and how rewarding she saw it was.
"He works with them," Bessemer said of her dad. "I like what he does."
Jenkins -- referencing Dorothy Turcotte's biography of him, "The Game is Easy, Life is Hard -- told the volunteers the many parallels he'd come to recognize between sports and life in general.
The only Canadian player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Jenkins told of how his first love was hockey until his mother became upset by the injuries it was causing him.
"Out of respect, I decided to play a little more baseball," he laughed. "Pitching didn't really come easy. But night after night, I got a little better."
And after many such nights, Major League scouts began to come around -- leading to his being recruited by the Philadelphia Phillies organization for $6,000 and a plane ticket.
"You've got to make a positive out of things," Jenkins said. "Good things will happen if you do the right things and are patient. The game will come to you if you don't rush it."
But baseball is no different from anything else in that it's a lesson in ups and downs, he added.
"Sports can humble you," Jenkins said. "It's just like life."
Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson, marking 30 years in office this spring, had the final word about the event he's overseen all that time.
"I'd like to thank you all for the work you've done," he told all the nominated volunteers. "Schaumburg would not be Schaumburg without volunteers. What you do is to mold the minds of young people to aspire to greatness."