Having a ball to make wishes come true

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Two Oak Park residents, 9-year-old brothers Jake and Sam Koeningsberg, attended the 18th Annual Wish Ball on May 21 at Union Station in Chicago. The ball is the largest annual fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Illinois, which raises more than $350,000 annually to make wishes come true for local children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Jake and Sam served as Wish Ambassadors, sharing their inspiring stories of hope, strength and joy. Jake was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had his wish granted when he was drawn as a cartoon character to appear on his favorite show, The Kids Next Door. Sam was diagnosed with polymyositis, a disease of muscle inflammation causing severe weakness, about five years ago. He enjoyed the beaches, balmy weather and snorkeling in Hawaii when his wish was granted in December.

YMCA honors its best

The West Cook YMCA of Oak Park's President's Award winners were honored at the annual fundraiser, A Celebration from the Heart, on April 28. The awards were handed out in six categories. Youth of the Year is Luciene Harrison, 9, of Oak Park. She's active in the Y-Kids afterschool program, serves on the Y-Kids focus group, who do service and other activities through the year, and along with fellow Y-Kid Lan-Jian Manley, raised funds for tsunami victims.

Family of the Year went to the O'Shea family: Sean, Julie, Katie, Tommy and Kelsey, who demonstrate "respect and caring" and "show real joy in spending time together," said Scott Gaalaas, Y president and CEO. Oak Parker Kathleen Duffy, who helps with kids in swim lessons, was named Volunteer of the Year. Other winners are JC Penney, Corporation of the Year; Lois Klatt, Layperson of the Year; and Josh Skoczen, Employee of the Year.

Letter perfect

Jacob Ginn is the grand champion of the Fourth Annual Percy Julian Middle School Spelling Bee. Michael Jacobs took second place and Grace Mizen finished third. The contest began in early April, when 900 students began elimination rounds in their language arts classrooms. On May 26, 15 finalists battled for the title. The other finalists were: Lucy Gill, Isabel Hickerson, Benjamin Mildenhall and Frank Picchiotti, sixth grade; Kristie Borg, Sujata Borthakur, Dylan Knox and Ariel Levin, seventh grade; and Kamila Berkaliev, Ashley Leflore, Dede Minter and Paul Rubio, eighth grade.

Life is a cabaret conference, old chum

Lynn Nosek of Oak Park has been selected for "The Cabaret Conference at Yale," an internationally focused, nine-day teaching program that offers master classes in the art of cabaret performance technique and trains professionals for the live entertainment industry. Nosek is one of 36 cabaret performers selected after auditions in 10 United States cities, Toronto and London.


MESSENGER on a mission

Graduating Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Anna Rothenbaum took first place in the 2005 MESSENGER Scholarship, sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA. The scholarship was created to expand interest in the MESSENGER mission and to support continuing education.


Optimistic about their future

The Oak Park Optimist Club has awarded three $1,500 scholarships to Oak Park and River Forest High School students displaying a combination of academic achievement and public service, and evidence of hard work and personal initiative. Ilana Green is a jazz trumpeter, Latin scholar and member of the Society of Women Engineers and the Community Relations Commission of Oak Park. She plans to major in physics; Diane Njindam, a native of Cameroon, West Africa, came to Oak Park as a freshman knowing no English and quickly moved into honors and advanced placement classes. She's a member of the math and badminton teams, the International Club and the Service Club. She's won two German National Test awards and a Vassar Science Award, and plans to major in engineering. Amanda Velazquez is a valedictorian, year-round athlete, a member of four service clubs and the Minority Student Achievement Network. She plans to major in psychology.

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