Each day for the past 40 years, The Education Center has been dedicated to its vision of helping children discover their own strengths and dreams and pursuing those dreams against all odds. Through the efforts of the organization's founder and executive director, Dr. Michael Litow, the center has helped students learn the skills "to succeed in school as well as in life."
The center's 40-year record of achievement will be celebrated at the Kids' Best Friend Awards Benefit in October. Many inspirational success stories will be shared by former students and grateful parents.
The Education Center will also honor two individuals who have led efforts to enhance the lives of children and families. Michael Vickery, director of the Institute for Community, will receive the Kids' Best Friend Award, and Nicki Anderson, president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, will be honored with the Making a Difference Award.
"As we celebrate 40 years of working with students throughout the area, we are pleased to honor these two individuals who have devoted their lives to serving children and families, enriching lives and making communities stronger," said Litow. "They exemplify the positive leadership that is vital to the success of our youth."
Kids´ Best Friend Award
|Michael Vickery, winner of the Kids' Best Friend Award, has served for 20 years as the director of Institute for Community. This non-profit organization partners with other groups to provide educational and enrichment services for children and families. Vickery has created and directed programs that impact the lives of thousands of kids in the western suburbs, including summer camps, after-school care, academic enrichment, and youth leadership training programs. The institute also offers a free lunch program in partnership with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, serving over 5,000 free lunches every summer. Vickery's work ensures that families living in diverse and multi-family housing communities have access to opportunities that promote faith, friendship, and quality of life.|
Making a Difference Award
|Nicki Anderson, the Making a Difference Award winner, is the first woman to serve as the president & CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has been called a true "servant leader" for the vast amount of work she has done with organizations in Naperville and beyond. She has served on several not-for-profit boards including 360 Youth Services, SamaraCare, IDEA Health and Fitness, and Loaves and Fishes Community Services. Anderson fosters business and community relationships that enhance the quality of life for all families. She shares her values of family, service and innovation to make our community the best place to live and work. Prior to her role as CEO, Anderson founded Reality Fitness in 1993, which was one of the first in-home personal training businesses in the region. Reality Fitness went from a one-woman operation to a staff of 12 with the addition of a brick and mortar facility. She traveled throughout the world educating small and large health clubs about customer service, marketing and innovation.|
Kids´ Best Friend Award
Tom and Tim Belgio
Tim and Tom Belgio are well known to anyone in Naperville who has hung out at "the Beach," purchased a snack at the Riverwalk Eatery, or attended a Friday fish fry at the VFW.
The brothers, owners of Belgio's Catering, got their start working in a variety of positions with the Naperville Park District at Centennial Beach in the 1980s and '90s. According to Tim Belgio, "The food piece at the Beach was the most intriguing. There would be long periods of time when no one would be in line to purchase food - until the swim break. Then the lines filled! We did our best to provide good service and provide the best experience for everyone. That gave us our foundation for service, accountability." For many years, they worked at the Beach seasonally. At the same time, they did some special events and catering on their own at Ribfest, the Last Fling, and Eyes to the Skies. Ultimately, they signed a contract as a third-party vendor for the park district and in 2001 began running the food service as Belgio's Catering at the Riverwalk Eatery, the Beach, and several parks. They also provided food service for numerous homeowner pools. As their catering business grew, they also catered Boy Scout and Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinners, school district banquets, sporting event dinners, and church events.
The desire to give back to the community was always one of the brothers' core values. "There were a lot of business owners who were always setting the tone for us when we were young," Tim explained. "We asked ourselves, 'How do we make an impact on those who impacted us?' It doesn't always need to be money that helps others. It can be your time, materials, resources, staffing." With those thoughts in mind, Belgio's Catering began to sponsor events for nonprofit groups and eventually became sponsors of major events, such as Ribfest and the Last Fling, that raise funds to help children and families.
Another group that the Belgios wanted to support was the veterans. According to Tim, "We were concerned as we saw the population of the VFW aging. We talked with them about how we could help them continue their tradition of the Lenten fish fry while reducing their workload." Together, Tim and Tom worked with the VFW to form a very successful partnership that has lasted for 15 years. Belgio's Catering does all the ordering, cooking, and staffing. Members of the VFW find service clubs who can help with the other aspects of the weekly Lenten event. The veterans now do less of the labor-intensive work and have more time to talk with and share their experiences with guests. Belgio's and the VFW share the net profits of each dinner, and there are more people who attend now than ever before.
Tim and Tom come from a large family, and kids are very important to everyone at Belgio's Catering. When they provided food service at local pools, they employed many teens who continued to work for them when returning home from college during the summers. Tom spent many years on the board of KidsMatter and is currently part of the District 203 Business Partnership Program. Tim is active with the Naperville Sunrise Rotary and is a past president. He is a committee member for St. Patty's 5K Run fundraiser and is also currently serving on the YMCA board.
Belgio's Catering has received recognition for its work on behalf of the community, including: the District 203 Exemplary Partnership Award, the Exchange Club Spirit of Naperville Award, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award, the Naperville Jaycees Distinguished Service Award, and the 360 Youth Services Business Leadership Award.
When asked what advice he would give to other businesses who want to give back to the community, Tim suggested, "Find things that are near and dear to your heart and support them. Get involved where you want and do as much as you can to help."
Making a Difference Award
The Exchange Club of Naperville
The Exchange Club of Naperville has been making a difference in the lives of children and families in this community for many years, especially in the area of child-abuse prevention.
Chartered in 1987, the Exchange Club of Naperville held the first of what would become its signature fundraising event, Ribfest, in 1988, in partnership with the Naperville Park District and the City of Naperville. Since that time, the club has distributed more than $16 million to provide financial support for agencies in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Cook counties that are committed to eliminating child abuse and domestic violence, strengthening families, and promoting Americanism.
Understanding the challenges of parenting, in 1992 members of the Exchange Club established Project HELP as a non-profit organization to help parents achieve better parenting skills. Project HELP, accredited by the National Exchange Club, now serves as a model for a national network of Exchange Club Centers in 28 states. As part of its mission, the organization provides home-based parent mentoring services and parent education workshops. The Parent Mentor Program helps parents improve their understanding of child development, improve their ability to identify and manage situational stress, strengthen their social support networks, and increase their ability to find and access services to meet their family's basic needs. The Parent Education Program helps parents develop more appropriate expectations for their children, how to respond to their child's behavior, and how to provide opportunities for children to grow through mistakes.
Many facets of the Exchange Club of Naperville's Americanism projects are familiar to local residents. These projects are designed to promote pride in our country, respect for the flag, and appreciation of our freedoms. The Freedom Shrine, on display on the outside wall of the Naperville Municipal Center along the Riverwalk, displays reproductions of documents of our nation's founding and history. The Exchange Club has also placed Freedom Shrines in many local schools and public places. Club members distribute thousands of American flags each year during the Last Fling Parade as part of their Give a Kid a Flag to Wave project. The Exchange Club of Naperville also hosts the annual One Nation under God Breakfast and the annual 9/11 ceremony at the Shanower Memorial in downtown Naperville.
According to the club's president, John Dunham, "Our club members are very passionate about being able to help those in need and bringing recognition where it is deserved. I believe that is why we have been so successful for over 31 years. It's the big hearts and hard work of the membership."
George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Dennis E and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky
This year's George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award is being given to Dennis E. and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky. They came from modest beginnings in the hills of Pennsylvania. Rosemary's grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from what is now the Slovak Republic, and Dennis's grandparents emigrated from what is now the Republic of Poland. They are very proud of their ancestry and the country to which their families came for freedom and a better life. Their lives exemplify giving back and service to others.
Residents of Naperville since 1980, Dennis and Rosemary have each made invaluable contributions to the local, national, and international communities - professionally and as volunteers. As successful entrepreneurs, both business leaders established their own companies.
Rosemary cofounded RE/MAX Affiliates in 1985. After 25 years, she and her partner sold the business to the owners of RE/MAX Professionals Select, and Rosemary continues to conduct her real estate business as a broker in that office. A renowned expert in robotics, computing, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Dennis founded Wizdom Systems, Inc., in 1986 and served as its chief executive officer. This computer technology firm became a preeminent supplier of Web-based process management methods, tools, and business process portals. While consulting for manufacturing companies, Wizdom discovered a way to use personal computer technology to automate machines on the factory floor and dramatically reduce the costs of bringing computers to manufacturing. Wisnosky was named a "Hero of US Manufacturing" by Fortune magazine for his pioneering work. In subsequent professional roles, Dennis served at the Department of Defense, helping to streamline Department of Defense projects and significantly reduce costs. He currently serves as an adjunct employee for the Institute for Defense Analyses.
Volunteering on behalf of children, education, church, and international peace have always been integral in the lives of the Wisnoskys.
When their three daughters were young and the family was living in Dayton, Ohio, the young parents were instrumental in keeping open a Catholic school that the Archdiocese had ordered closed. The Wisnosky family moved to Naperville when their girls were teenagers, selecting this community because of the excellent schools.
Feeling a great responsibility to get involved, Rosemary joined the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce in 1983 and became president of the chamber in 1988. The same year, she became a member of the board of directors of the Naperville Area and served on its executive board. For several years, she was also chair of the Heritage YMCA's Child Development Center Board. Rosemary continues to serve on the Naperville Advisory Board.
Dedicated to excellence in education, Rosemary was a founding board member of SciTech, an interactive technology hands-on science center in Aurora. She and Dennis are lifetime members. She also serves as a longtime member of the Benedictine University Board of Trustees.
Honoring her family's heritage, in 1989, Rosemary became a founding board member of the Slovak American Cultural Society of the Midwest. Her international interests also led her to becoming a founding member of the Naperville Sister Cities Commission, serving as its chair in 1994. She served on the ad hoc Sister City Search Committee which chose Nitra, Slovakia, as Naperville's sister city. For her efforts and continuing support of the Naperville/Nitra Sister City relationship, she was named an Honorary Citizen of Nitra by the Nitra City Council in Nitra in 2000. She is one of three non-Slovak citizens to ever receive this award. In 2001, Rosemary and Dennis each were awarded a Medal of Honor by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
In 2002, Rosemary served as chairman of an ad hoc committee in Washington, D.C., which drafted a 13-point resolution, on behalf of organizations across the United States, in support of the Vilnius Group's entry into NATO. In November of that year, at the Prague Summit, seven of the ten-member Vilnius nations received invitations to join NATO, including Slovakia.
Rosemary was named Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic in Chicago and was installed by Slovak Republic President Ivan Gasparovic during his special visit to Benedictine University in May 2012. The Wisnoskys frequently serve as hosts to visiting dignitaries from the Slovak Embassy and from Slovakia.
Rosemary's other community involvement includes serving on the founding board of Omnia, a local group advocating for a performing arts center to be built in Naperville, and co-chairing a fundraising event at Benedictine University to build an academy for peace, Beit Benedict, on the last remaining piece of land on Mount Zion.
Once Dennis was able to find some personal time, away from work and travel, he became a private pilot - something that he had wanted to do all his life. He admitted, "The airplanes that we owned became the magic carpet to connect with family back in Pennsylvania. It was a privilege that I just had to share."
When he discovered an organization then called "Lifeline Pilots," he signed up. Now named "Angel Flights," it was established to help people in need get to some medical facility they could not reach because of lack of funds or a medical condition that made commercial air travel not possible. Dennis recalls taking two sisters to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where one was donating a kidney to the other. He also remembers taking two grandparents to St. Jude Hospital in Memphis to say goodbye to a grandchild. Another flight that he vividly recalls is a Christmas Eve flight where he was called to go to New Orleans to bring back to Chicago an 8-year-old boy for a liver transplant with his accompanying mom. "Every flight had a different set of emotions," he admits. "The patient, the passengers, and mine. I could not be distracted, no matter what happened."
Dennis later purchased a 1946 Piper Cub. In the 1990s, the Experimental Aircraft Association started a program named "Young Eagles." The goal was to fly 1,000,000 children ages 8-17 by the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. They did, and the program continued. Since joining the program, Dennis has flown more than 200 kids. Dennis has also offered free flights to high bidders at fund-raisers for important causes in the area.
Believing that there should be many more green spaces for future generations, Dennis and Rosemary have supported the Conservation Foundation for many years. Dennis is on the board of trustees, and Rosemary is on the DuPage County Board of Advisors. Both participate in many conservation activities.
An outdoorsman, Dennis just left the board of Oak Brook Trout Unlimited. Its mission is preserving cold water streams. He remains on the Conservation Committee where he is focused on local community involvement and involving youth.
Kids´ Best Friend Award
Tom Carroll is this year's recipient of the Kids' Best Friend Award. Formerly executive vice president and chief administrative officer of RR Donnelley. Recently retired, Carroll has dedicated his adult life to helping kids, families, and communities through his work and volunteerism.
In his early career as a psychologist, he worked at a nonprofit, The Baby Fold, in Normal, IL. The organization's mission, to "embody Christian principles to help families and children develop the hope, courage, and love they need to become whole and healthy" and "to never give up on a child" became part of his lifelong philosophy. After six years at The Baby Fold, working with children in residential treatment and home intervention programs, Carroll joined the staff of a local hospital serving kids with special needs, including those with neuro-psychological issues due to brain injuries and head trauma.
The principles that shaped Carroll in those early years have guided him throughout his corporate career. As an executive at RR Donnelley, he embraced the company's mission of making a positive difference in the communities in which employees work and live, drawing on its tradition of supporting youth, education, inclusion, and diversity. Under his guidance, RR Donnelley has been a major sponsor of many youth-focused programs throughout Naperville, Chicagoland, and nationally. Leading by example, Carroll has encouraged employees to give of their time, as well as their talents and treasure.
He has served on many not-for-profit boards including the Chicago Public Library Foundation (executive committee), the Naperville Area Humane Society (board president), Naperville Community Television (board president), Chicago YMCA (executive committee), Naperville Development Partnership (board member), and North Central College (board member).
With each organization, he has embraced the important role they have impacting children, young adults, and families. For example, RR Donnelley's dedication to the public library system includes support of summer reading programs around the country. Carroll adds, "The Chicago Public Library is about learning in the community and redefining the spaces where learning occurs." RR Donnelley's involvement with the Naperville Area Humane Society includes being part of the Paws for Tales animal-assisted reading program, in which children enjoy successful experiences while reading aloud to dogs in a non-judgmental, supportive environment. RR Donnelley supports the Safe â€˜n Sound afterschool child care program and summer camps at the local YMCA and Y's across the country. The company's work with the Naperville Development Partnership includes support of its authentic learning programs for high school students in Districts 203 and 204.
Tom Carroll's board involvement began when he was chief human resource officer at RR Donnelley in Warrenville and joined the board of the Naperville Area YMCA. "I realized we were giving treasure but not time and talent, therefore, missing an opportunity to better serve the community," he observes. Working with Executive Director Tom Beerntsen and others, Carroll helped lead the merger of the Naperville Area YMCA and the Chicago YMCA. "The YMCA is very special to me," he admits. "It was the beginning for me."
As the former executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Tom Carroll had responsibilities for domestic and global administrative services for RR Donnelley, a $7 billion international company with 44,000 employees worldwide. His role included human resources, real estate, environmental health and safety, corporate marketing, community relations, postal affairs, government relations, communications, and advising an enterprise tech accelerator in New York. In addition, Carroll is a skilled business strategist, executive coach, team developer, facilitator, and motivational speaker.
His extensive responsibilities have never dampened his dedication to serving kids and families as a volunteer, and he encourages all business leaders to be involved in their communities. Carroll explains his personal philosophy. "Leadership begins with you, what you value, what your capabilities are â€“ being generous and kind. People don't follow those they don't believe in and trust." He adds, "My own path was knowing and leading myself. Then knowing and leading others. Then knowing and leading the business."
A devoted husband and father, Tom met his late wife, Kay Dahlquist, when they worked together at the Baby Fold. They have three grown children, Andy, Tommy, and Mary.
Making a Difference Award
Rotary Club of Naperville
The eradication of polio is the goal of Rotary Clubs throughout the world. Naperville Rotarians have been involved by raising funds for this vital effort and by assisting international teams as they administer the polio vaccine to children in countries that still have endemic cases of the dreaded disease. The Rotary Club of Naperville, the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise, and the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown will receive the Making a Difference Award at the Kids' Best Friend benefit.
Long admired for their support of community and international causes, the three Rotary clubs of Naperville are, together, being recognized with the Education Center's Making a Difference Award. The three clubs are: the Rotary Club of Naperville, chartered in 1941; the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise, chartered in 1991, and the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown, chartered in 2007. The clubs are all members of Rotary International, one of the world's first humanitarian organizations, and they are part of over 34,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas with 1.2 million members worldwide.
While unified by the mission "Service above Self" and numerous international goals, such as the eradication of polio worldwide, each of Naperville's Rotary clubs has unique goals, projects, and fundraisers to make a difference in the lives of others. All are sources of fellowship and lifelong friendships.
Throughout the past 76 years, the Rotary Club of Naperville has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to support various projects and organizations, including: helping to fund capital projects such as Rotary Hill, the Millennium Carillon, the 95th Street YMCA, the Pre-Emption House, and Naperville's Riverwalk; funding sculptures for Century Walk; grants and personal involvement in building freshwater wells and a dialysis clinic in India; sending solar ovens to Honduras and the Dominican Republic; acquiring and shipping medical supplies to equip a hospital in Nigeria; supporting Upendo Village in Africa; providing thousands of dollars in college scholarships to local students, and supporting numerous local not-for-profits. The club is also dedicated to serving our veterans by helping with the regional Stand Down Day, organizing coat drives for homeless veterans, and awarding veterans with Quilts of Valor. The club's signature fund-raisers that enable this support have been Rotary Fest, Oktoberfest, Soup's On, Festiville, and weekly good-natured fines of members.
The Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise has focused many of its efforts on programs for teens, young adults, and families. The club supports the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy in the schools and youth leadership activities with the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. The Sunrise Rotary club is also involved in the District 203 mock trial and youth exchange and donates to a number of local organizations dedicated to youth and family development each year. Through the School Backpack Program, each fall club members provide backpacks filled with essential school supplies to children in District 204 and Hesed House. The club also organizes an annual winter clothing drive, collecting coats, hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves in boxes throughout the community. The warm winter items are given to veterans and local organizations that provide services to people in need. International efforts center on providing clean water in Guatemala. The club also is involved in suicide prevention programs, placing hotline signs along the Burlington Northern train tracks throughout the western suburbs. Among its most delightful activities, the club offers the popular NaperLights holiday light display, which is free to the community throughout the holiday season on the grounds of Naper Settlement. Many of the club's philanthropic activities are made possible through Sunrise Rotary's annual St. Paddy's Day 5K Run.
The Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown provides additional opportunities for individuals who want to make a difference in the community by putting service above self through membership in this worldwide organization. The downtown club, known affectionately as Naperville's 4:44 Club because of its late afternoon meeting time, focuses on supporting the Rotary Foundation and meeting unmet needs that make a difference in the community. To promote awareness of Alzheimer's and dementia, the club sponsors forget-me-not planters with signs at local businesses. Another inspiring and unique project sponsored by the club is its "Alive Inside Outreach." Using music as a vehicle for human connection via ArtSpeaks, high school students create playlists of favorite music from past generations and upload those songs to special wireless earphones for individuals who live in nursing homes or who are aging in place at home.
Elderly who have been unresponsive for years are frequently reawakened by the sounds of their youth in heart-warming meetings with the teens. The club's annual Rotary Ride for cyclists and bike riders raises funds for local nonprofits, including Naperville Responds for Veterans, Loaves and Fishes Community Services, SamaraCare, and End Polio Now, a Rotary Foundation commitment to eradicate this dreaded disease.
The Rotary Club of Naperville meets most Thursdays at 12:15 at Meson Sabika; the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise meets most Friday mornings at 7:00 am at the Naperville Country Club, and the Rotary Club of Naperville/Downtown meets most Wednesdays at 4:44 pm at Hugo's Frog Bar Restaurant. The presence of three different clubs allows people interested in helping others a convenient choice of times and days to be part of this important international civic organization. Together, these three Rotary clubs make an important difference to people locally and around the world.
George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Thomas and Kathleen O'Donnell
This year's George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award is being given to Thomas and Kathleen O'Donnell. Once again, this important award is honoring a caring couple whose many contributions to the community have been made quietly behind the scenes. The impact of their lifelong efforts reaches deep within Naperville and beyond the ocean to foreign shores.
The children of Irish immigrants who came to America with little formal education, Tom and Kathleen were the first man and woman in their families to attend college. Armed with college educations, a strong work ethic, a country that valued achievement, and a strong devotion to God and family, this couple raised six children, volunteered in the community, found unimagined success in business, and used their personal blessings to help others.
According to Kathleen, "To me, it always begins with the children. Community starts at home. You teach your children to love one another and help others when they are in need. Today I enjoy watching my children contribute to the community in both visible and more private ways."
The O'Donnell's financial donations provided seed money for the founding of the Naperville Education Association and the Naperville Soccer Association. With a focus on education and Catholic Charities, they have quietly supported St. Raphael's School and parish, Sts. Peter and Paul, Benet Academy, Covenant Classical School, St. Patrick's Residence, Catholic Charities, and many other organizations. During the Vietnamese refugee crisis, they supported multiple families through local community organizations. They are also major supporters of Notre Dame, providing first-year scholarships to local high school students who attend the university in South Bend and four-year scholarships to several other students annually. They also funded two chairs at Notre Dame: the Thomas J. and Kathleen O'Donnell Chair of Irish Language and Literature and the Patrick B. O'Donnell Professor of Irish Studies, named in honor of their son.
The O'Donnells also believe that strength comes from knowing their heritage. "I feel it is important to know where you came from to know where you are going," explains Tom. This strong belief inspired the couple to co-found Notre Dame's Irish studies program with other business leaders, including Donald Keough, former CEO of CocaCola, and prominent Irish businessmen Michael Smurfit and Martin Naughton. In partnership with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, the Keough Institute for Irish Studies is the number one Irish studies program in the world. People travel to South Bend from cities around the globe to study Ireland's history.
Because of their commitment to education and the fact that Tom's uncle and father were involved in the Irish uprising in 1916, he was easily persuaded to "write a check" to help fund the award-winning documentary entitled "1916 The Irish Rebellion." Narrated by Liam Neeson, this three-part series tells the dramatic story of the events that took place in Dublin during Easter Week 1916, when a small group of Irish rebels took on the might of the British Empire. Although the rebels were defeated, the events of the 1916 Easter Rising were a precursor to an independent Irish state and inspired countless freedom struggles throughout the world.
When asked why supporting education is so important to them, Tom O'Donnell explains, "Because our parents had no education at all. Education is how you can progress in our society. You've got to get an education if you want to advance." He adds, "It is our obligation as a community to provide the best opportunity for youth to advance in our society. Andrew Carnegie believed this. He donated construction funding for more than 2,500 libraries throughout the world to provide the opportunity for other people to advance and get ahead."
Tom believes, "You have got to have a purpose. That purpose must go beyond you and your family, beyond your immediate world." Several years ago, he and his wife set up the Donegal Family Foundation so they could continue to support Naperville through their children. "When you are young, you can see the results of what you do," Tom explains. "If you work hard, you can see your business prosper and your children grow. When you get older, your role is to influence what is going to happen, knowing that you will never see the result. You have to take inspiration knowing that what you do will have an influence sometime down the road. Your efforts will make a difference for someone else."
Kids´ Best Friend Award
Jeffrey and Stephanie Jones Kastelic
This year's Kids Best Friend Award will be given to Jeffrey and Stephanie Jones Kastelic. The Kastelics are well known in the community for their volunteer work with numerous nonprofits and church groups. Jeff has coached Naperville Little League and is a supportive member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Raphael Catholic Church. Stephanie serves on the board of directors for Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center and the committee of the "Silent Samaritan Breakfast." She has been a dedicated member of the St. Patrick's Residence Guild since 1996, serving as treasurer and vice president for over 12 years. She has also chaired and co-chaired the guild's largest fundraiser, the "St. Patrick's Day Party." A former board member of the Ecumenical Adult Care Center in Naperville, Naperville United Way, and Naperville Community Outreach, Stephanie is also known to many families as the thoughtful co-owner and pre-planning consultant at Friedrich-Jones and Overman-Jones Funeral Home.
The Kastelics are the proud parents of three children - Jake, Will, and Julia - and also spend time volunteering at their children's schools.
Dr. Scott Mitchell, president/CEO of Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center, said, "Stephanie and Jeff are longtime members of the community and have been active in their support of numerous not-for-profits. Stephanie has been serving on the board of Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center for many years and has been a key leader in helping Samaritan grow toward helping people in need through her fundraising work on our Silent Samaritan Committee - women helping women - as well as on our board. She has helped to secure funds which help single mothers and their children receive needed mental health counseling."
Mitchell added, "Stephanie is one of the most compassionate, caring people I know, who leads with a strong commitment to her faith, her family, and the community. She is gifted at connecting people to one another who can be of help to various causes in the community. She and Jeff are a gift to the community of Naperville!"
Outstanding Community Leader Award
Commander Ken Parcel
Commander Ken Parcel of the Naperville Police Department says he is humbled to receive the Community Leader Award. His 27-year career on behalf of youth and families has been exemplary.
After years of working to stop a heroine spike among teens and dealing with kids in crisis as a detective in charge of youth investigations, Parcel wanted to also work with kids on a friendlier turf. He joined the board of KidsMatter and soon took a leadership role in brainstorming and promoting what is now known as the KidsMatter Skaters' Picnic. This annual event takes place at the Centennial Beach Skate Park during the Last Fling. According to IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of KidsMatter, "Ken has worked tirelessly to make this happen - and he rallies his fellow police officers to join him at this event that draws more than 225 skaters each year. You can find Ken serving hot dogs and participating in the donut-eating contest with the kids - and always exemplifying his dedication to serving and caring for this skating population that often feels disenfranchised and unappreciated."
This outstanding community leader has also served on the board of Family Shelter Service, which supports victims of domestic violence, and the Heritage YMCA Child Development Committee. He continues to devote time to kids as a Mill Street School Reading Buddy. He also has taught BP Amoco's Parent and Parent-to-Be classes to help parents better understand dangers in the world of social media. Wenhold added, "Permeating all of these activities is the heart of a man dedicated to the health and well-being of the youth and families of our greater Naperville community."
Making a Difference Award
Kitty Ryan, assistant superintendent for elementary education for Naperville Community Unit School District 203, is this year's recipient of the Making a Difference Award. She has served as assistant superintendent for almost a decade and began her career in District 203 as a third grade teacher in 1988.
According to Superintendent Dan Bridges, "Kitty Ryan leads from the heart and uses her caring and concern to develop personal connections with everyone she meets. Most remarkably, she truly cares about the hearts of children; everything she does is aimed at helping children be successful. To ensure that our community is strong, Kitty builds leaders to mentor and support the adults who matter most to kids - parents, teachers, principals, and community agencies."
In her role as the assistant superintendent for elementary education, Kitty supervises early childhood through fifth grade elementary principals and works closely with the assistant superintendent for secondary education to support the day-to-day operations of all 22 Naperville District 203 schools. Her leadership style is warm and creative, and she assembles diverse teams to tackle problems with fun and flare. This highly respected educator advocates for programs that empower students, parents, staff, and the community, encouraging programs such as HURRAH, the Naperville Education Foundation, and school/family/community partnerships. Kitty Ryan also volunteers with the Nicarico Fund for Literacy and serves on the board of directors of the DuPage Children's Museum. A co-worker states, "She is tiny but mighty. She just keeps going - she doesn't ever give up, and when you hit a low, she's able to redirect with humor that inspires you. Every decision she makes illustrates her constant care and focus on our children."
George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Nick and Teresa Ryan
Nick and Teresa Ryan are being honored with this year's George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award. While many local residents know Nick as the co-founder of the Marquette Companies and Teresa as managing broker/owner of Ryan Hill Realty, friends who know them well recognize this successful couple as inspiring humanitarians for their tireless work on behalf of children, families - and nature. Both of them live by the credo, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." They both have a passion for young people and believe in giving them a "hand up" through education and opportunity and helping families to envision and realize their dreams.
Ray and Paula Kinney have known Nick and Teresa for more than 20 years. In a letter nominating the Ryans for the humanitarian award, Ray wrote, "Nick embodies the reason for this award - he has been a great friend to kids all over the globe, not just here in Naperville. His company has supported nearly every cause in this community for many years - often as the lead sponsor. But Nick really shines in his personal involvement. He helped create Institute for Community which has helped organizations change lives of young people here and in other parts of the world. He and Teresa have spent the vast majority of their lives giving to others, and, in true humility, never once asking for anything in return."
Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico added, "At a time when few companies would make such a commitment, Nick and his company helped form the Institute for Community to ensure a strategic and studied approach to providing the highest quality of life in residential communities. From after-school athletic programs and tutoring to weekend community brunches and commuter shuttles, Marquette Companies intentionally supports young people from school age through young adulthood."
Together, the Ryans have been involved coaching youth sports teams with the Naperville Park District, supporting the YMCA and its Camp Edge program, and working with volunteers at Community Christian Church to help missions in the Philippines and Africa and to fight illicit trafficking of girls in those countries. They are also involved in their church's Student Community (StuCo) Program. Members of StuCo helped form Food Fight which has provided over one million meals worldwide. The Institute for Community recently expanded internationally, supporting the mission of Casa de Luz in Honduras which provides education and family support services.
Nick grew up in a large Irish family, and he credits his determination to give kids "a boost" when they are facing challenging situations to his Christian faith and to the fact that he has two siblings with potential disabilities who "did everything" while growing up. "My blind sister waterskied, snow skied, and rode horses through the trees!" he explained. "My deaf brother was a coach of a basketball team and was on a championship team in high school. Because of the support they received from my dad and our family, they both overcame their handicaps, accomplished a huge amount of stuff, and are independent and feisty!"
Teresa credits faith and family, too. "It's how I was raised. It's in my core," she said enthusiastically. "My dad would start the day whistling and making us laugh. We were taught to think, Today's a new day. What are you going to do to help others? How are you going to improve yourself?" She added, "My dad was a native Cherokee Indian. I spent a lot of time with him as a kid, enjoying nature." She believes this is why she is so in touch with animals and the planet. In addition to supporting local and worldwide efforts on behalf of children and families, Nick and Teresa also are strong supporters of organizations that help and rescue animals.
Nick summed up their philosophy by saying, "We both have a passion for young people. We see them as the future. It is important to strengthen young people and help them move in a positive direction. Help educate them. Show someone a dream."
Kids´ Best Friend Award
"Our Kid's Best Friend Award recipient, Ray Jones, is well-known for his support of schools, spearheading fundraising events, and for his philanthropy," said Litow. "His kindness and generous nature have helped people of all ages."
Jones, owner of Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home in Naperville, has been an active community leader for almost 40 years. Having lost his father when he was a little boy, Jones shares that he always wanted to be a funeral director. "It's a calling," he said. "It's also a community service." Jones believes that, if you're going to be in business in the community, you need to be involved in the community. In a recent NCTV interview, he explained, "I believe in reaching out to the youth in the community and to the seniors and the elderly."
And reach out he does. This warm-hearted man has served on numerous boards, including those at Edward Hospital, Naperville's Little Friends, Little League, United Way, and Loaves & Fishes. He is currently a commissioner of the Naperville Police and Fire Board and a board member of St. Patrick's Residence. Each year, Jones serves as chairman of the St. Patrick's Residence "Gold Key Gala," a fundraiser that he originated. He also chairs the largest annual fundraiser and capital campaign for SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, "Light the Way" and "Pass It On."
Sister Anthony Veilleux, St. Patrick's Administrator from 1994-2003 and current assistant administrator, thanked the Education Center for recognizing Ray's community efforts. "Ray has been an integral part of the St. Patrick's family since the days when St. Patrick's was at its original location in Joliet. When we relocated to Naperville 26 years ago, Ray made the transition with us and continues to serve on our board of directors. He has given us guidance and has impacted our facility with his friendship and the love he brings into our home."
Sr. Anthony added, "In 2004, he pulled together a committee of volunteers to organize a celebration, the Gold Key Gala, to recognize the 40th anniversary of St. Patrick's Residence. The event was so well received that we continue to hold the Gold Key Gala each September. The Gala has raised over $950,000 in net proceeds which have been used enhance the programs and services for our residents."
Jones has shown a similar passion for efforts on behalf of youth. According to Judy Ellertson, executive director of the Fry Family YMCA, "Ray Jones has very quietly been an exceptional advocate for the YMCA and its work with young people in the community. Ray understands and appreciates the importance of values, mentoring and leadership in the development of young people. Ray's sponsorship of the youth sports program, the Y's annual Prayer Breakfast and many more civic endeavors is evidence of his ongoing commitment to building a stronger and more vibrant community. Kids and families in the area are fortunate to have Ray Jones as a friend and advocate".
Outstanding Community Leader Award
A plane load of positive energy arrived in America in 1993 when Nicki Scott and her family arrived from England. With an attitude of "Happiness is giving back," Scott got involved in the community and quickly earned leadership positions that have impacted people around the world.
She joined the Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise in August of 2000 and quickly immersed herself in club activities - leading community service projects, chairing fundraisers, and hosting Youth Exchange and team members from other countries. In 2007, she started a grassroots international project that took the family to Tikondane, Zambia in Africa. From 2009 to 2010, Scott served as president of her Rotary Club.
In a remarkable commitment to children in other parts of the world, Nicki traveled to New Delhi, India, in 2012 and worked with thousands of other volunteers trying to immunize all children younger than 5 with the polio vaccine. This effort to eradicate polio worldwide has been done through a long-standing cooperative relationship among Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the government of India. As a result of these incredible efforts, India is now polio free. Africa may soon be declared free of this dreaded disease. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio is still endemic.
Scott is now serving as District 6450 Governor for Rotary International. In this position, she has traveled to meetings around the world, has trained with 537 Rotarian leaders from 200 countries, and visits all of the 63 Rotary Clubs in District 6450 in the Chicagoland area. Among her goals as district governor are bringing younger generations into the Rotary family, developing skills in young entrepreneurs to build the next generation of leaders, and promoting the Rotary Foundation and all it does to help people across the globe.
In addition to her work with Rotary, Scott served as board director with Samaritan Interfaith and the Millennium Carillon Foundation. She was also one of the co-founders of Artful IMPACT, a not-for-profit that was established collaboratively between the directors and faculty of The School of Performing Arts in Naperville and a small group of community leaders. Dedicated to making people stronger through the arts, Artful IMPACT serves schools, behavioral health organizations, seniors, special needs and at-risk populations.
Scott frequently recites a poem attributed to Ashish Ram, modified slightly, that sums up her philosophy of life. It is entitled "The Power of One." The final stanza reads:
"One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what's true.
One life can make a difference,
You see, that difference can be you!"
Making a Difference Award
Vicki Coletta is the highly deserving recipient of this year's Making a Difference Award. Nominated by Peggy McGuire, executive director of Project HELP, Coletta is a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit, as well as president of the board. Project HELP is a child-abuse prevention center in Naperville whose mission is to empower parents, nurture families, and strengthen communities. Project HELP is affiliated with the Exchange Club of Naperville, and the agency's flagship parent mentoring program is affiliated with the National Exchange Club. In 2014, Vicki Coletta received the National Exchange Club Parent Aide of the Year Award.
For the past 15 years, Coletta has been a parent mentor volunteer and has worked with numerous families with a variety of issues. She has also taught parenting classes for more than 10 years and is certified to teach the active parenting curriculum which Project HELP currently offers to the community. Coletta explained, "With a licensed professional or parent mentor, we work with a family up to a year. We help them set goals and achieve them." She added, "Parents may need help to get stress under control. We help them learn to set limits in a nurturing way."
Expected outcomes for the parenting program are to increase the parent's knowledge of parenting and child development, enhance their children's social and emotional development through improved family communications, build healthier parent-child relationships, learn effective problem-solving skills, build their natural support network within their family and community, and understand how to access available community resources.
In describing the many ways in which Coletta makes a difference, McGuire said, "The amount of time Vicki volunteers at Project HELP is consistent with that of a full-time job. She has the ability to work with and manage many personalities and backgrounds to create a cohesiveness that allows us to be a successful child abuse prevention center." McGuire added that Coletta is very flexible when working with staff, volunteers, board members, and families that she has been assigned. "With her charismatic personality, she is able to engage the community in Project HELP at an elevated level. She rallies the local schools, neighborhoods, and businesses to come together to help improve the agency and support local families."
McGuire continued, "Vicki approaches her families through a strengths-based perspective and always meets them where they are. She looks for strengths when helping to establish goals with the families and understands the importance of small successes. Vicki frequently reminds her families of the progress they have made, especially when the family is having a tough time seeing the progress for themselves."
Being a parent mentor has also impacted Coletta's life. She has worked with families from all walks of life with many different family dynamics. "My family is the most important thing in my life. I have loved being a mom and watching my daughter grow up to become an amazing young woman of excellent character and strong values." She continued, "I believe my time spent mentoring families has helped me, as well as my family, to become more open minded and accepting of others. It has helped raise our awareness of needs that we have right here in our own community. To prove this point, my husband serves on the board of 360 Youth Services and my daughter has a degree in teaching and is currently getting her master's in social work. They both enjoy being able to help those in need."
George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky
Brand and Mary Ann Bobosky have served in many leadership roles in our community, both as professionals and as volunteers. They were inspired to give back years ago and set out to contribute to their hometown in a way that would exemplify Naperville's community spirit. Their efforts have helped children, families, and the community in many ways.
Brand and Mary Ann, a sixth-generation native (with Meyers and Riedy's roots), are life-long residents of the Naperville area. They both served as chairs of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and as presidents of their Rotary Clubs, Brand of the Rotary Club of Naperville and Mary Ann of the Rotary Club of Naperville/Sunrise.
A local attorney specializing in commercial, real estate, and business law, as well as estate planning, Brand has served as president of Little Friends' Board of Directors, the Naperville Jaycees, and the alumni association of Benedictine University. He has also served on the board of Edward Hospital. Nicknamed "Naperville's Idea Man," he spearheaded many Naperville initiatives, including the Little Friends Bid for Kids auction which now raises over $100,000 annually, and the Rotary Club's Oktoberfest. He founded Century Walk, Naperville's outdoor public art program, and has served as president of Century Walk Corporation since 1996. Through Brand's vision and determination, Naperville now has almost 50 sculptures, mosaics, mobiles, and murals throughout the city.
Mary Ann was a member of the District 203 staff and worked in the education field for 38 years, serving in the roles of teacher, guidance counselor, and administrator. She worked with former Superintendent Jim Clark and Assistant Superintendent Gene Drendel to start The Naperville Education Foundation for the district and later became director of community relations, working with Superintendents Don Weber and Alan Leis. Her warmth, knowledge, and unlimited energy helped MaryAnn to effectively establish valuable business/community partnerships, bring senior citizens and veterans into the schools, and foster parental involvement. "The key is collaboration," she explained.
Mary Ann founded Advocates Building Communities, helping districts across the nation build partnerships similar to those that are so successful in Naperville. She is on the board of directors of Naperville Bank and Trust and a distinguished adviser of the DuPage Children's Museum. She is also on the advisory council of Loaves and Fishes and KidsMatter, of which she is a co-founder. Harking back to her days growing up on a farm, Mary Ann also served as a board member of the DuPage County Fair Authority.
This generous and dedicated husband-wife team has received numerous accolades over the years, including the Leadership Award from the State of Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Proud to Be 203 Community Award for District 203, and the Croagh Patrick Award from the Carmelite Sisters at St. Patrick's Residents.
Married for more than 50 years, the Boboskys believe their greatest achievement of all is their family. They are the proud parents of Courtney, Whitney, Blake, and Shelby and grandparents of 11.
According to longtime friend, Ed Channell, "I met Brand when he joined the Naperville Jaycees in 1969. He jumped right in and became one of the more involved members, even serving as president. I met Mary Ann through some of the projects we were involved in. She went on to be known as 'Naperville's Energizer Bunny!'" Channell added, "Little did I know how involved we all would become over the years. Most of us did our civic and community duties and retired. Not the Boboskys. They are more involved today than they ever were and seem to be enjoying it more. Naperville has a great asset in Mary Ann and Bo!"
The Education Center achieved a significant milestone this year as the organization celebrates its 35th anniversary – with a record of helping thousands of local children successfully overcome obstacles and gain success academically, socially, and within their families. “Our kids may be struggling with a learning disability, the loss of a parent or sibling, or just need a helping hand to get through a difficult situation,” stated Dr. Michael Litow, executive director. “The mission has never changed for The Education Center since its inception in 1979 – that of helping every child succeed in school and in life.” The program consists of a unique “life-coaching” approach, which creates an individual approach for each child enrolled in programming and meets their specific needs.
At this year’s Kids’ Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner, The Education Center honored five local leaders who are dedicated to the well-being of children and families. Several of the award winners have been working with youth for more than 40 years.
Kids´ Best Friend Award
Tom Miers, President, Naperville Bank and Trust
“Our Kids’ Best Friend Award recipient, Tom Miers, has made enormous contributions to our youth through his service on numerous boards and through his support of youth programs as a local bank executive,” said Litow.
Miers, president of Naperville Bank and Trust, has been a respected leader in Naperville since he first moved to Illinois in the early 1970s. His professional and volunteer work has benefited the community greatly, and he has always been especially dedicated to working with – and on behalf of – youth.
He started his youth service work in 1966 with the YMCA in his hometown, Norwich, New York. As a young man who was not as athletic as his brothers, Miers found personal reward at the Y. “I discovered that I enjoyed leading kids,” he explained. “The director encouraged me to become a youth leader, and that was the beginning of a lifetime of work with them.” In 1968, he was elected as the president of the Northeast YMCA Leader’s School that involved 2,000 youth from the Northeast YMCAs. That experience inspired the young man to attend George Williams College (from 1969-1974) to pursue a YMCA career. George Williams was the founder of the YMCA in London during the mid 1880s.
In 1971, Miers started working at the Naperville YMCA as a youth program director coaching swimming, leading YMCA Indian guides and princesses, Leaders Club, and a very successful Friday night program for junior high kids called Jr. Hi Jinx. After graduating from George Williams College, he was appointed senior program director for the Naperville YMCA.
Tom joined the Naperville Jaycees as a young community leader, and has been associated with the organization for more than 35 years. He became President in 1981, and was named the first Last Fling chairman the same year, when the organization assume responsibility for the event from the Chamber of Commerce.
Ken Koranda, former president of MidAmerica Bank, witnessed Miers’s interest in the community and his willingness to become involved with local organizations. In 1979, Koranda recruited Tom to manage the MidAmerica Bank’s Naperville location.
Within three years, Miers was a board member of the Naperville YMCA and became board president in 1987. A year later, he became chairman of the campaign to build the Fry YMCA on 95th street. He served on the board from 1982-1991, 1993-1996, and 2007-2011. Always dedicated to working with youth and believing in the YMCA, he was elected to the YMCA of the Rockies Board of Directors in 2003 and continues to serve.
Reflecting his growing role in the business community, in 1985 Miers was elected president of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and served on the board for two terms from 1983-1990. He was reappointed to the board in 2011 and will serve until December 2014.
Miers was also a founding member of several important foundations and organizations. He helped found the Edward Hospital Foundation, serving from 1987 until 1997. In 1988, he worked with others to create the Indian Prairie Educational Foundation, serving until 1998. During that time, MidAmerica Bank established a branch teaching office at Waubonsie Valley High School to serve as a real-time learning experience for high school students. It was the first of its kind in the Midwest and won numerous awards.
He was also a founding member of the Sunrise Rotary Club and is currently serving as a board member.
One of Tom’s most memorable honors occurred in 1996 when he was elected to carry the Olympic Torch for a one mile stretch in Chicago. He was nominated and selected for his community involvement.
Miers enjoyed a brief retirement after MidAmerica Bank was sold, and he and his family spent much of their time in Colorado – not far from the YMCA of the Rockies. However, a yearning for Naperville and the magnet of community involvement tempted him home again. He accepted a position as president of Naperville Bank and Trust and helped to open its three offices in town. Fulfilling its role as a community bank under Tom’s leadership, this respected financial institution is sponsoring many local events, such as Ribfest and Special Talents America, and its employees are volunteering their time for important causes.
In 2012, Miers was appointed to the Naperville Fair Housing Commission and currently serves as chairman. In 2013, he was elected to the Naperville Development Partnership Board. He was recently appointed to the Executive Committee and Board of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, which oversees 37 YMCAs and 6 camps.
Tom’s family is an important part of his life. He and his wife, Pati, have raised their four children here – Jennifer, Sarah, Becky, and Jonathan.
According to Tom, “I have always enjoyed community involvement and playing a leadership role. I am so grateful to the Y. That’s why I am where I am, both with my family and professionally.”
George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Mayor A. George Pradel and Pat Pradel
“Everyone in town knows how dedicated George and Pat Pradel have always been to families and children. We really wanted to honor both of them for the commitment and caring they have shown to youth throughout the 54 years of their marriage. In addition to raising their own children, they were foster parents to three teenagers. George worked with kids as Officer Friendly and helped to create Safety Town, and they have supported families and children in every way they could – as private citizens and as Naperville’s mayor and first lady. While their family prepares for the mayor’s retirement early next year, we wanted to honor both George and Pat with this Humanitarian Award named in their honor.”
George Pradel has always had a soft spot in is heart for children. As a child growing up in Naperville, his goal was to become the director of an orphanage. He and his family spent time volunteering at an orphanage in Lisle. As the oldest of six children, he explained, “I wanted to share the love that my mom and dad showed me.”
Instead, he became a United States Marine, met and married a beautiful young woman named Pat, and together they became parents of three children – George, Carol and Gary. Then, in 1966, George Pradel was chosen to become a Naperville police officer.
Soon after he completed basic training, he asked the police chief if the department had any educational programs for kids. Offering to take the midnight shift so he could go to schools during the day, Juvenile Officer Pradel began to teach schoolchildren about drugs, “stranger danger,” and safety. The children nicknamed him “Officer Friendly.”
As a juvenile officer, Pradel befriended many youth. He and Pat took in three teenage foster children over a period of time. According to George Pradel, “Being foster parents really fulfilled my goal. I got my childhood wish because Pat joined me in taking the children into our home and giving them love.”
In 1977, the city started Safety Town, and Mayor Rybicki named George Pradel to be its first teacher. Eventually, community volunteers raised money to create a permanent home for Safety Town on Aurora Avenue.
Sergeant Pradel became a watch commander, lieutenant, and then a detective. When he decided to retire, groups in Naperville asked him to run for mayor. The rest is history. He won overwhelmingly in his first election and was unchallenged in his next two mayoral elections. He has served as mayor of Naperville successfully and energetically for 19 years. Under his guidance, Naperville has won many awards and received national and international acclaim.
The mayor, with the support of Pat, continues to devote much of his time to help organizations that strengthen children and families. He reads to children in the elementary schools, participates in events through DuPage Children’s Museum, Little Friends, Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, Our Children’s Homestead, the YMCA, Safety Town, Boy Scouts, Samaritan Interfaith, and other groups. During the holidays, Mayor Pradel is widely seen as Santa’s “helper” and is actively involved in Toys for Tots.
Devoted to his family, George Pradel sincerely admits that he couldn’t have served the community as he did without the support – and sacrifices – of his wife and children. Pat Pradel has always been at his side, or waiting patiently at home, while he has given his time and energies to help others and to make Naperville an exceptional place to live, work, and raise a family.
Business Leader Award
Bill and Vilma Paus, Braconi’s Restaurant and Pizzeria
Bill and Vilma Paus, owners of Braconi’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, will receive the 2014 Business Leader Award. Since they first opened their restaurant in 2005, giving back to the community and supporting its youth have been guiding principles of their family business. They have donated free pizzas to school and nonprofit events, sponsored numerous organizational and educational fund-raisers, purchased ads in programs, created and hosted unique fund-raisers (such as the Paul Salley Memorial Ride on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), and actively participated in community events such as Soup’s On (benefiting Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, Hesed House, and DuPage PADS) and Rockin’ for the Troops at Cantigny (for Operation Support Our Troops – America).
According to Litow, “We are proud to honor Bill and Vilma Paus, who included service to the community as part of their business plan. They provide wonderful examples of the ways small businesses can support our youth and positively impact our community.”