Lester: Sox's Abreu befriends special needs man from Schaumburg

Carole and Chester Brock of Schaumburg brought up their six children to love one another and baseball, so it only seemed natural for family members to attend a White Sox game in Detroit while on vacation together last August. The outing was, in part, a way to honor Chester, who'd died unexpectedly in summer 2015.

Youngest son Patrick, who is adopted and has special needs, stood up from his seat behind the White Sox dugout in the 7th inning and caught a ball tossed to him by Jose Abreu as the first baseman walked off the field.

Patrick was so delighted by the ball, eldest son Brian said, that the family decided to go to extra lengths to get it signed by the Cuban star. Brian and Patrick bought tickets for a May 28 home game and wrote a letter to White Sox officials, hoping Abreu might autograph the ball for them at batting practice.

What transpired was much more than that. Brian and Patrick were asked by the team to come to the Guaranteed Rate ballfield early the morning of the game.

Abreu, Brian said, walked onto the empty field with several boxes in his hands - containing a baseball bat, a pair of his cleats and batting gloves, all signed for 23-year-old Patrick.

<h3 class="leadin">Having an impact

Patrick Brock, 23, of Schaumburg, got the surprise of his lifetime in late May from Jose Abreu of the White Sox. Courtesy Brian Brock

"I really liked meeting Jose. It was awful nice of him to give me some gifts," said Patrick, a recent graduate of Harper College's Career Skills Institute who works at Clearbrook Center, participates in special needs theater productions and bowls for the Special Olympics.

Patrick, who'd never met anybody famous before, is marveling about "why he'd give me all this stuff," adding, "I'm not anybody special," though family members tell him quite the opposite.

"We try to explain that Jose works with special needs kids in Cuba, and was just real happy to meet him," says mom Carole, who describes her boy as "empathetic, gentle and loving."

Meanwhile, Abreu notes that beyond playing baseball, his life is about "having an impact."

Watch the video of Abreu's encounter with Patrick at

<h3 class="leadin">Promotion for Perryman

  Deb Perryman's love for the environment started at an early age and has become her life's passion. The Elgin High School teacher will be the coordinator for the 40,000 student district's science curriculum program. Brian Hill/

Congratulations to Elgin High School environmental science teacher Deb Perryman, a Kane County educator of the year who's taught at the school since 1994, on her promotion to district science coordinator, which involves rolling out a new science curriculum across Elgin Area School District U-46. Perryman describes being overcome with emotions as she turned off the lights in her classroom for the last time at the end of May. "This room, these kids, these colleagues have been my refuge and my challenge since 1994," she said. "I have grown in so many ways and in complete honesty ... (they) were often my savior."

<h3 class="leadin">Peterson prosecutor heads to statehouse

Drew Peterson Will County Sheriff

State Rep. Emily McCasey, a Lockport Democrat who resigned from her seat after her husband accepted a job out of state, will be replaced by a Will County assistant state's attorney who was part of the team that prosecuted former Bolingbrook Police Sgt. Drew Peterson. John Connor, also of Lockport, spearheaded a grand jury investigation into the disappearance of Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, and the murder of third wife Kathleen Savio. Connor worked under Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, who Peterson was convicted of plotting to kill after he was sentenced to prison for Savio's murder. County party officials are approved the selection in a weighted vote over the weekend.

<h3 class="leadin">Help with budgeting

A Carmel High School student has developed a smartphone app that helps students budget. Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn Vogel of Libertyville developed what she calls Curo Finance after learning coding in Chicago-based Brave Initiatives coding and design camp, noting that "college is expensive" and budgeting is "not something we're typically taught in school." The app allows users to set percentages of paychecks to go toward customizable categories. Users can also snap pictures of their receipts to categorize spending habits, allowing users up-to-date balances on all predetermined categories. Curo Finance is 128-bit encrypted to protect against hacking. Vogel says she plans to officially launch the app as part of a business with three friends later this summer.

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