By Dan Haley
LemonAid is back: September is almost here and with it that moment of remembrance of the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001. In River Forest that anniversary has been tempered and honored by the organic growth of the LemonAid fundraiser, an event launched by kids on the 700 block of Bonnie Brae as a response to the terror attack. It continues, with some help from the grown-ups, as a kid-centered tribute to 9/11 and as a potent fundraiser for local charities.
Way back in 2002, LemonAid raised $400 for Hephzibah Children's Association. But in the past four years, the event has grown mightily and in 2013 gathered up $32,000 for Oak Leyden Developmental Services. Doesn't hurt that Whole Foods and Burger Boss make major food donations to the event.
Well, this year, with some 80 Bonnie Brae folks planning to help out, and thousands of people expected to turn out, the organizers have decided to "spread the wealth" and split the take between two local non-profits. One is Parenthesis Family Center, a great Oak Park group with the mission of building stronger families and boosting the parenting skills of young parents.
The second recipient is, to my mind, an inspired and generous choice: Maywood Fine Arts. What a wonderful, effective, essential group this is. Created in 1979 by the remarkable Lois and Ernie Baumann, Maywood Fine Arts has brought a wide world of enrichment, culture and identity to generations of Maywood kids who don't have near the options as their counterparts on the east bank of the Des Plaines River.
So the details: 13th annual LemonAid, Thursday, Sept. 11, 3-7 p.m., 731 Bonnie Brae in River Forest.
Ford's freedom: It was a remarkable turnabout earlier this month when the U.S. Attorney's Office dropped 17 felony charges against State Rep. LaShawn Ford in exchange for his guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge that he underpaid his income taxes by $3,782 back in 2007. The feds don't often drop charges and to have it all unfold on the very morning Ford's trial was to begin was exceptional.
Like others, I've speculated that Ford benefitted from the recent appointment of a new U.S. Attorney, Zachary Fardon, and his fresh set of eyes on the evidence. A couple of weeks back, WLS radio's Bill Cameron asked Fardon what had changed in the run-up to the trial. Here's the quote: "It's not our job to win or lose. It's our job to do the right thing. My office is full of altruistic public servants who work hard every day to make hard judgments about what is the right thing, given the particular facts and circumstances in front of them. That's what we do. And so, in that case as in all, we did what we thought was right."
It's that simple and that complex.
Speaking of simple and complex: In the past two weeks, we've reported two difficult stories: the Bali murder case and sexual assault charges against the late pastor of Ascension Church, John Fitzgerald. Response to our coverage has been generally positive with a few detractors who objected to our efforts to offer a fuller picture of murder suspect Tommy Schaefer and Fitzgerald. Those ready to convict each man saw us as making excuses for the alleged behavior of each of them. As the local media outlet, we have a special responsibility and opportunity to provide as much context as is possible. And that is what we will do.