2018 full of inspiring Southland stories
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.
Jayera Griffin, 15, appears before the Dolton Riverdale School District 148 Board of Education on Nov. 27.