2018 full of in­spir­ing Southland sto­ries

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - Ted Slowik

A Le­mont woman who hiked the Ap­palachian Trail, a Riverdale girl de­voted to help­ing oth­ers and a Pa­los Hills cross­ing guard hit by a car are among peo­ple in­tro­duced to read­ers of this col­umn in 2018.

In April, Sue Mur­phy shared her story about plan­ning to hike the 2,190-mile length of the Ap­palachian Trail. The 50-year-old day trader in­spired read­ers with her tale of fac­ing fear and over­com­ing ad­ver­sity.

When she re­counted her ad­ven­ture in Novem­ber, read­ers learned a knee in­jury forced Mur­phy to sus­pend her jour­ney for a cou­ple months. Then flood­ing froma hurricane drove her off the trail again.

She per­se­vered and com­pleted 1,529 miles over 105 days. In an in­ter­view, she ex­pressed grat­i­tude for the op­por­tu­nity to meet peo­ple dur­ing the trek and howthey helped her along the­way.

“This is about some­thing much big­ger than mak­ing miles,” she said. “It’s about the fragility of life and be­ing grate­ful for what we have.”

Mur­phy plans to re­turn to the trail in 2019 and com­plete her hike.

An­other sub­ject who in­spired read­ers in 2018was Jay­era Griffin, 15, of Riverdale. She raised nearly $1,000 in do­na­tions to hold a “free wash day” in April for cus­tomers at Mama’s Coin Laun­dry in Riverdale.

Pa­trons ap­pre­ci­ated the ges­ture. It can be tough for some to scrape to­gether change to wash clothes af­ter pay­ing for rent, food, medicine and other es­sen­tials. Jay­era said she wanted to help out class­mates in Dolton-Riverdale School Dis­trict 148who came to school wear­ing dirty clothes.

Jay­era talked aboutwhy she helps oth­ers.

“It’s a feel­ing I get about giv­ing back to theworld,” she said.

She made news again in De­cem­ber af­ter she raised an­other $1,000 to buy school sup­plies that were do­nated to stu­dents in Dis­trict 148.

“The­way she gives back to the com­mu­nity in­spires so many oth­ers,” Su­per­in­ten­dent Kevin No­helty said.

In Novem­ber, cross­ing guard Mary Ann Anifer, 75, of Pa­los Hills, shared her story about re­turn­ing to work af­ter be­ing struck by a car while help­ing chil­dren cross a street in April.

“Ared car came around the cor­ner, hit me and I flew in the air,” she said.

Anifer’s story was an im­por­tant re­minder for all driv­ers to slow­down and pay at­ten­tion, es­pe­cially in school zones. She re­lated her ex­pe­ri­ence aweek af­ter a dozen chil­dren were killed or in­jured af­ter be­ing struck while get­ting on or off stopped school buses in other states.

“My con­cern has al­ways been the kids,” she said. “I’ve told them, ‘Iwill take the hit for you.’ ”

In June, Rich Cen­tral High School Dis­trict 227 hon­ored Michelle Lonie, 59, an in­struc­tional as­sis­tant at Rich Cen­tral in Olympia Fields. Lonie raised money sell­ing candy and snacks to stu­dents af­ter school. Stu­dents helped Lonie reach her goal of rais­ing $10,000 to build a home for a fam­ily in Hon­duras.

Lonie spoke about her de­sire to help oth­ers af­ter she sur­vived a bout with cancer.

“I don’t be­lieve the Lord spared my life for me just towork and die,” she said. “Iwant to do all I can while I can by as many means as I can for as many peo­ple as I can.”

In Au­gust, read­ers were in­tro­duced to four men who meet reg­u­larly in a pavil­ion at Vollmer Road Grove, a For­est Pre­serve Dis­trict of Cook County fa­cil­ity in Floss­moor. A story about how­peo­ple walk, run and bike along trails for fit­ness and to en­joy na­ture also was a tale of ca­ma­raderie.

“We’re out here al­most ev­ery day, even in­win­ter,” said re­tired NBA player and for­mer col­lege basketball coach Jimmy Collins, 70, of Floss­moor. “We like the fresh air and mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion.”

Collinswas hang­ing out with Dave Ma­son, 63, of Olympia Fields, and Floss­moor res­i­dents Eu­gene Jones, 71, and Willie El­lis, 69. They said they get to­gether most days and talk about their fam­i­lies and life

singing com­pe­ti­tion at 115 Bour­bon Street in Mer­rionette Park in­tro­duced read­ers to the tal­ented Nikki Gi­b­lin, 32, of Frank­fort. Judges and fans voted Gi­b­lin the Sea­son 8win­ner of “The One” in Au­gust.

Gi­b­lin talked about the hours spent choos­ing songs, re­hears­ing for per­for­mances and lob­by­ing fam­ily and friends to turn out and sup­port her dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

“I didn’t re­al­ize how much work it­was go­ing to be,” she said.

Gi­b­lin’s fi­ance, Steve Haberichter, was the sub­ject of an­other mu­sic­the med col­umn in 2018. In April, Haberichter talked about cel­e­brat­ing the 10year an­niver­sary of Down Hom eGuitars, a store he co-founded in Frank­fort.

Haberichter sells acous­tic in­stru­ments at the shop in the his­toric Trol­ley Barn. He’s also one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual Frank­fort Blue­grass Fes­ti­val, which the In­ter­na­tional Blue­grass Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion named the 2018 “Event of the Year” in Septem­ber.

Haberichter spoke about the re­ward­ing work of cre­at­ing mu­sic and teach­ing lessons to stu­dents.

“You could make cogs for a liv­ing, but mu­sic is about per­sonal growth,” he said.

The life’s work of Don Se­bek, 75, of Tin­ley Park, was the topic of sev­eral columns through­out the year. For more than 40 years, Se­bek has been ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Bre­men Youth Ser­vices, a non­profit agency that pro­vides coun­sel­ing to young peo­ple.

The agency has ex­hausted its fund­ing re­serves and is on the brink of be­ing evicted fromits of­fices in a build­ing owned by Bre­men Town­ship. The town­ship cut off fund­ing to the agency in 2016.

“For 43 years I never looked upon this as a job. It was a la­bor of love,” Se­bek said in Oc­to­ber. “The last three years have been hellish.”

Read­ers learned about the com­mu­nity ac­tivism of Mark Kuehner, a co-founder of the group Cit­i­zens in Ac­tion Serv­ing All Blue Is­land.

Elmhurst-based Cit­i­zen Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter hon­ored CASA Blue Is­land with a 2018 Cit­i­zen Ini­tia­tive Award.

Kuehner and other CASA mem­bers have fought to pro­tect free speech and First Amend­ment rights as the city of Blue Is­land con­sid­ers rules for pub­lic com­ment dur­ing City Coun­cil meet­ings.

“The whole point of pub­lic com­ment is to deepen and ex­pand our democ­racy, not put a muz­zle on it,” Kuehner said in Novem­ber.

Their sto­ries were among many that in­spired read­ers dur­ing 2018.

SCHOOL DIS­TRICT 148

Jay­era Griffin, 15, ap­pears be­fore the Dolton Riverdale School Dis­trict 148 Board of Ed­u­ca­tion on Nov. 27.

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