Lester: New Sox announcer gives hope to others with cerebral palsy
Lifelong White Sox fans Grace and Sam Brandon of Schaumburg had already warmed to Jason Benetti, the team's new home game announcer with the smooth baritone. Then the twins saw him at Sox Fest and discovered he has cerebral palsy, the neurological disorder that has affected both of them since they were born prematurely 24 years ago.
Sam is quadriplegic and needs around-the-clock care. Cerebral palsy affects the right side of Grace's body, which makes walking, climbing stairs and driving difficult. She graduated Saturday with a master's degree from Elmhurst College.
There are few public figures with cerebral palsy, and Benetti, 32, a native of Homewood, is Major League Baseball's first.
"I wish more professions were like that," says Grace. "Hiring people based on what they can bring, rather than looking at them for the disability."
Along with his job announcing alongside Steve Stone, Benetti volunteers with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Special Olympics, and is a regular visitor at children's hospitals.
"I tend to think that there's time, if you really care about it," says Benetti, who worked as a sports announcer for Syracuse University at the same time as he was obtaining a law degree from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The volunteer work, he says, is where he learns his best anecdotes. "Baseball announcement is life," he says. "Baseball is stories."
Benetti says he's uncomfortable being cast as a spokesman for others with disabilities, not knowing their challenges.
"It's not possible for me to get thrust into that role because I won't do it. If my work speaks to that, then so be it."
A fan of the game
Uncle to the Brandon twins is the Daily Herald's Cubs beat writer Bruce Miles, who, I was surprised to learn this week, grew up as a White Sox fan.
I was tipped that 177 Cook County workers who enforce child support agreements are expected to be laid off next month as yet another result of the state budget standoff.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's office reports the county has been shifting money from its general funds to keep the program afloat. But the state owes $12.4 million and the county is unable to keep the program going without those funds past June 30.
Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights is honoring two Civil War soldiers along with other veterans today in the Arlington Heights Memorial Day Parade.
James Haslam of Rolling Meadows contacted the funeral home, which, upon request, makes banners printed with the names of veterans and active duty service members. The veterans or other volunteers then carry the banners with Glueckert's parade entry.
Haslam says he asked them to honor his great grand-uncles Ed and Henry Haslam, who immigrated from Ireland, settled in Michigan and Indiana, respectively, and fought for the Union. James Haslam can't be at the parade, so volunteers will carry the banners in his place.
Funeral home owner Jackie Glueckert says about 150 banners have been requested this year.
Honor Flight Chicago co-founder Mary Pettinato says the program that flies local veterans to see the war memorials in Washington, D.C., has a new challenge since it expanded last month to serve Korean War veterans in addition to World War II veterans.
"These guys were runners," she laughed, noting it's a bit more difficult to keep track of younger, more mobile Korean War veterans, compared to the World War II veterans, many of whom are in their 90s. The next Honor Flight is scheduled for June 8.
Five men who live at Friendship Village in Schaumburg are scheduled to talk from 5 to 7 p.m. today about their military experiences during a special segment of Midwest Ballroom on WDCB 90.9 FM radio.
Host John Russell says the men -- Chuck Christensen, Allan Dalgleish, Bud Ostrand, Bill Powell and Chuck Schlott -- tell tales of combat, sadness over the injuries and deaths of fellow soldiers, and returning home and adapting to life postwar.
From Plainfield to 'People'
People Magazine features a Plainfield native on the cover of its May 27 issue dedicated to "American heroes."
Bridget D'Arcy Platt created "Daddy's Deployed" and "Mommy's Deployed" -- customized children's books about parents serving in the military. Platt, an English major from Purdue University, spent several years working at military child development centers on bases across the country after marrying her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Craig Platt. The Platt family lives in North Carolina where Capt. Platt instructs Marine Corps pilots.