Community rallies around beaten South Elgin boy

  • Henry Sembdner

    Henry Sembdner Courtesy of Scott Johnson

Updated 2/6/2017 7:51 AM

The South Elgin community is rallying around a 12-year-old boy who spent much of the weekend in an induced coma recovering from brain and skull injuries suffered when he was severely beaten Friday by a middle school classmate.

About $19,000 had been raised on two GoFundMe accounts as of Sunday afternoon to help the family of Henry Sembdner, a seventh-grader at Kenyon Woods Middle School who has been hospitalized at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge since shortly after the assault.


Another online page set up by Henry's family to update supporters of his condition reported Sunday afternoon that "He's awake!"

"They just removed the intubation! And guess what he said -- 'I'm hungry!'" his mother, Karen DeWilde Sembdner, wrote.

According to a communication from Kenyon Woods Principal Lisa Olsem, the assault occurred just before noon Friday in the school hallway and took "a matter of seconds."

"This occurred during passing period," she wrote. "Initial reports indicated this incident was not related to bullying but please be assured that we are working with our entire KWMS team, our School Resource Officer, local police and the (Elgin Area School District U-46) administration to fully investigate this incident."

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The student suspected of assaulting Henry was taken into police custody, officials said. South Elgin Police Chief Jerry Krawczyk said the investigation is ongoing and the department will work with the Kane County State's Attorney's office to determine how to proceed.

U-46 will have counselors and extra teachers available for the students Monday, he added.

On Saturday, about 200 people gathered at Fox Meadow Park in South Elgin for a candlelight vigil.

"It was the community coming together as one," said John Ceasario, a parent of a Kenyon Woods student.

Vigil organizer Nikki Plaza-Altman, the mother of an 8th-grader at Kenyon Woods, said the gathering included children from the elementary, middle and high schools, a local pastor and village representatives.

"We were just trying to figure out ways that we could help and be a strong community and make sure Henry has all the prayers he can have," she said. "I also didn't want our community to have this black eye, because we are better than that."


Scott Johnson, whose 12-year-old son played youth baseball with Henry, established one of the two GoFundMe accounts to raise money for the injured boy.

"It was a very tight team, a band-of-brothers type of thing," he said of the baseball squad.

The other account was set up by Henry's aunt, Crystal Sembdner Mims. On the page, she wrote that Henry was slammed to the ground Friday after he bumped into someone in the school hallway.

"A wonderful child is in the hospital for no reason," she wrote.

In addition to the GoFundMe accounts, other donations have been arriving, including a local pizza pub that has committed to donating a meal a week to the family throughout the school year to ease the family of the burden of cooking.

In her message to parents on Saturday, Olsem said, the school will set aside a room on Monday to talk to anyone who has concerns or questions.

"Please continue to keep the lines of communication open and reassure your children that our school is a safe place and we will work together to continue to keep it that way," she wrote.

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