Good News Sunday: How a Naperville-based nonprofit supports kids who want to dance

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

Greg Long of Naperville is amazed at how much his family's nonprofit organization DanceOn has grown from just one T-shirt.

Back in 2018, Long's son, Jimmy, was performing as part of a dance studio troupe at an end-of-year elementary school assembly. During their performance, some kids in the audience heckled the dancers and targeted homophobic slurs at the troupe's boys.

Long created a custom T-shirt to show solidarity for his son and other boys who choose dance over sports.

“I created a '#DanceOn' logo with the male symbol for the 'O' to show support for male dancers and posted the story on Facebook,” Long said.

Long's social media story spread like wildfire, and the family had to field hundreds of requests for DanceOn-branded T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts from around the world.

Long and his wife, Mary, decided to turn DanceOn into a nonprofit. Its initial mission was to counter bullying against male dancers and to provide financial assistance, when possible. But the Longs eventually expanded DanceOn's grants to go to any young dancer facing hardships in paying for dance classes.

“We basically try to empower kids to do what they want,” Long said. “We've given out over 70 scholarships in our three years.”

For the full story, click here.

Crafting group donates hats, blankets and other items to nonprofits

  A "lovey" (baby blanket) is one of the many items members of the Ela Township Charity Knit Crochet Quilt Group makes, which are donated to nonprofit and community organizations in the area and nationwide. Mark Welsh/

A group of women in Lake County has spent countless hours knitting, crocheting and, more recently, sewing and quilting to make thousands of handmade items - hats, scarves, blankets, quilts, mittens, wash cloths, headbands, toe warmers and even stuffed toys - to donate to nonprofits and community organizations.

The Ela Township Charity Knit Crochet Quilt Group has been meeting weekly for 16 years, with the added benefit of friendships forming along the way, its members said.

“You're bringing a little bit of joy and comfort to somebody else,” said member Lia Douglas of Deer Park.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the group mostly has met remotely on Zoom, with the exception of a few meetings - either outdoors or indoors with masks - last summer. Despite the inability to see each other face to face, the women last year crafted more than 1,650 items for students, clients of domestic violence shelters, oncology patients and others.

“It's a huge, huge contribution to us being able to provide our clients what they need,” said Demaris Lorta, chief development officer for A Safe Place, a Lake County nonprofit that provides services to domestic violence and human trafficking victims. The agency last year received 90 hats from the group.

For the full story, click here.

Barrington nonprofit's miniature horses bring a little comfort

Miniature horse Lunar of the SOUL Harbour Ranch Therapy Program visits with residents at an assisted living facility. Courtesy of SOUL Harbour Ranch

It's not unusual to see therapy dogs roam hospital hallways or visiting nursing home rooms. What may be a little more unusual is seeing sneaker-wearing miniature horses waiting their turn to offer up a little nuzzle.

The SOUL Harbour Ranch Therapy Program in Barrington brings miniature horses - as well as its trained dogs - to spread a little love to the elderly, people who are sick or those who just need a little comfort.

Jodie Diegel and her husband, Jerry, owners of SOUL Harbour Ranch, have grown the program to 50 volunteers with various therapy animals. Their hope is to continue to expand their offerings to keep spreading the joy these loving animals bring.

“Our animals visit and share their unconditional love with those in need at hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities, schools, libraries, veteran facilities, homes for the disabled, and more,” said Jodie Diegel.

The nonprofit does not charge for visits and is funded solely by donations, fundraising, sponsorships and grants.

“Our initiative for 2022 is to add more volunteers who would like to do therapy work with their own wonderful animal and then join us,” Jodie said.

For the full story, click here.

Black, white Wheaton churches to celebrate Black History Month

  The Rev. Ron Keith Beauchamp of Bethel New Life, right, and the Rev. Jay Moses of Hope Presbyterian will host a series of Black History Month programs at the Wheaton church, which their congregations share for services. Brian Hill/

Members of Hope Presbyterian Church and Bethel New Life Church, whose respective white and Black congregations share worship space in Wheaton, will celebrate Black History Month together with a series of programs in February.

The congregations came together to engage in conversations about racial healing prompted by vandalism of Black Lives Matter signage at Hope Church in the summer of 2020. It marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has led to a joint Juneteenth celebration, combined services and a renewed focus on building unity.

For Black History Month, leaders have created a “Famous African Americans” museum in the church's sanctuary. Programs will be held on Sundays throughout the month. The sessions are open to other congregations and community members.

For the full story, click here.

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