Gift wrap guru: St. Charles East teacher's invention makes wrapping a snap

At this point in the holiday season, this invention comes across as possibly the greatest ever concocted.

It's probably safe to say that St. Charles East High School teacher Mike Fields never had much time to wrap gifts when he was a football coach at Geneva High School and later at East.

Plus, he's a guy. And how bad are we at wrapping presents? Yes, folks, we're entering that "heavy wrapping" part of the holiday season that makes many of us shudder.

Fields is probably best known as the assistant football coach at Geneva when Rob Wicinski took over the program 17 years ago, and later as the head coach at St. Charles East for five seasons.

Now he's looking to make a name for himself in the gift-wrapping world. Fields has created a patent pending gift-wrap called Max Wrap, named after his son Max.

Fields, who left the gridiron but remains a health instructor at East, has a simple pitch for his product.

"It is the easiest way to wrap a gift box ever," he said. Both men and women would have to love that concept.

He might be right. The pre-cut Max Wrap with adhesive strips, designed to fit a typical retail box for men's shirts or women's apparel, allows a person to wrap a gift in less than a half minute. Best of all, there's no measuring, no scissors and no tape.

"I came up with the invention after my wife told me on Christmas Eve last year that we had to wrap about 50 gifts," Fields said. "I just said there has to be a better way to do this."

Chicago-area Walgreens stores have agreed to test sales of the product this year. If that goes well, Fields hopes to spread it nationally next year. This year, Max Wrap comes in a shrink-wrapped box in the seasonal aisle at Walgreens as a product called "Grab & Go Giftwrap Kit." It comes in only one size this year, but Fields said the goal is to add more designs and more box sizes in the future.

"It's been a great journey so far," said Fields, noting he has had a lot of help along the way. "Not the same as on the gridiron, but exciting nonetheless."

<h3 class="leadin">Jeffery's great run</h3>

It was fun some six or seven years ago when Leslie Hunt of St. Charles was on American Idol for a few weeks. But St. Charles North graduate Jeffery Austin has many locals in a voting frenzy now as he has reached the finals of "The Voice."

This young man can really belt out the songs, and he'll have to wow the nation again Monday night. He's up against some monstrous competition, but here's to hoping he's the toast of the town in a couple of days.

<h3 class="leadin">Pets at work</h3>

If a business allows animals on the premises for a short visit, Anderson Animal Shelter has a stress reliever idea to consider.

The shelter says if a business or organization donates $100, it will bring various pets from the shelter to visit at a business for an hour during the holidays.

It sounds like a great stress reliever for employees at a business, and a way for people to see some animals that need to be adopted.

<h3 class="leadin">Exxon and Wasco</h3>

I thought I had somehow missed this TV commercial, but it finally popped up the other day.

The Wasco Girls Fastpitch Softball league has understandably been excited about this TV commercial the past few weeks.

It all started when a Los Angeles talent agency looked nationwide for a softball field to feature in an Exxon commercial, and ended up choosing Verhaeghe field No. 2 in Wasco around mid-October.

On top of that, league President Sue Sobieski was asked to be the coach in the commercial and to get together a group of players to represent a high school team.

Exxon broadcast the "Lights Across America" commercial, starting just after Thanksgiving. The local girls and their own field of dreams are featured for about 12 seconds, so you can watch for it on TV or check it out under that title on YouTube.

<h3 class="leadin">Liked the idea</h3>

Apparently, a few readers support my concept about turning Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles into a "man's mall."

They weren't sure about what they would call it, but they liked the notion that the mall could possibly house a sports bar, hardware store, auto parts store, outdoor gear and equipment store, an electronics store and an indoor golf site in addition to keeping the movie theaters in place.

"We think it is a great idea," said Shirley Anderson, who added that her 89-year-old husband mentioned he'd enjoying going to a place like that. "We live at Carriage Oaks and I assume most of the men here would enjoy a bus trip there."

Larry Schnitker chimed in, saying a paint ball court might be a good addition to a man's mall concept, but mostly he hopes developers somehow improve the place no matter what.

Phil Kessler shared that he just read a book called "Mantiques," a "manly guide to cool stuff," and he suggests it might be good reading if the concept somehow takes hold.

In short, the man's mall concept has to get past the initial stage of just appearing in a column written by a man.

  Batavia resident Mike Fields, frustrated with the difficulty of wrapping gifts, invented a product called Max Wrap. It is being sold at Walgreens. John Starks/
  MaxWrap is being test-marketed at Chicago-area Walgreens stores this holiday season. John Starks/
  St. Charles East High School teacher Mike Fields has invented MaxWrap, a product designed to make gift wrapping easier. John Starks/
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