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Opportunities to step out in style while stepping up to support special causes are being offered over the next few months by a number of local organizations.


Two decades ago, Bin Su was a 27-year-old marked man in his native China because of his presence at pro-democracy uprisings in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.


It's the highest, driest, coldest place on Earth, and 98 percent of it is frozen solid. But when chef Erin Grimes got the opportunity to cook in Antarctica for five months last year, she signed up for the culinary challenge of a lifetime, literally cooking on ice, roughly a thousand miles from the South Pole.



Jan Ruby and his wife, Kathy Ruby, are best known as clowns Jelly Bean and Kupkake, respectively.

But during their twice-a-month visits with children at St. John's Children's Hospital through the Rubys' Clown "Doc" program, they become Doc Phil Betta and Nurse Bubbles.

And bubbles are what 3-year-old Delaney Beard of Raymond is wanting during their visit in April to her hospital room.


Tina Kiehl of Springfield has overcome being a high school dropout and a crack cocaine addict only to face one more obstacle to her plans to become an addiction counselor: algebra.


A day at the office for Missy and Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson is a bit of a balancing act. 

Recently, Missy could be found trading off answering student e-mails from her office at the University of Illinois Springfield and offering homework assistance to her daughter, who was off school for a holiday.Down the hall, husband Eric concentrated on grading student papers in his own office before packing up and breezing by his wife and daughter on the way to his next class.


According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and growing poverty rates are largely responsible for a rise in homelessness over the last 25 years.

More than 12 percent of the U.S. population currently lives in poverty. Living on the streets is often caused by limited resources, eroding job opportunities and negative circumstances that can include job loss, illness or an accident.


Were it not already claimed by a certain chef, "kick it up a notch" would be a fitting catchphrase for Tracey Sims.

If you reach her voicemail you'll hear the professional greeting you'd expect from a successful business person, before being wished adieu with a high-spirited, "Toodles!" Exclamation points aren't always sufficient when describing her personality.

When reflecting upon the past year as the president of Kiwanis International, Paul Palazzolo said his term in office went just as others had predicted.

On July 4, when most of us will be enjoying time off with family and friends, Maj. Gen. Dennis L. Celletti will be representing the Illinois National Guard at an Independence Day celebration in Itasca in northern Illinois.

You see someone on TV, and you think you know them, right?


The old adage, “One success leads to another,” is proving true for chef and restaurateur Jimmy Oh. As owner of Bentoh’s and Jimmy Oh’s restaurants, he distinguishes himself as one of few owner/chefs in Springfield. By successfully operating his restaurants in the past eight years, he also has beaten the odds that suggest 26 percent of restaurants in Illinois fail in the first year. During that time, he has developed a loyal customer base that has been steady business in spite of the economy. 


You probably know Sam Madonia from his morning radio show on WFMB. Maybe you pour that first cup of coffee in your kitchen as you tune him in to start your day. Or maybe you listen in as he calls the big football games, his high-energy, rapid-fire delivery barking into your car radio on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon.

On a cool, frigid February morning, Tyler and Harriet showed nary a care about the weather as they roll around on an iced-over pond in their enclosure.

The motto of the Secret Service is "Worthy of Trust and Confidence."


Mikal Sutton-Vereen's life has been a series of surprises. Pleasant surprises. From working on two ground-breaking campaigns that led to the first African-American U.S. president, to serving as a constituent services agent for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, to being named the program director for the Central Illinois Nursing Initiative in August 2009, Sutton-Vereen's life has taken several twists and turns.

Brian Oaks plans a party for 8,000 of his closest friends every weekend and sometimes during the week. Oaks, the executive director of the Prairie Capital Convention Center, thinks he's got one of the best jobs around.

Don Taft flies for the pure joy of it.

There's life after boring foreign language conjugations.

Morgan Metz, who learned to drive on the state fairgrounds, a rite of passage for many area teens, now tools around the fairgrounds in a car with her name on it.

Arthur Andrew "Drew" Coontz always wanted to be a cowboy. His parents, Debbie and Dave Coontz, have pictures of a tiny cowboy Drew sitting on a rocking horse, a little bit bigger Drew on a pony and finally young man Drew on a horse.


Marcus Miller, 20, has been around horses and tracks since he can remember. A little too tall to be a jockey, Miller opted to use his horse sense and light hands to be a driver.


Abbie Steelman just couldn't quite perfect the jump. Abbie was trying to master a double salchow during an ice skating practice session at the Nelson Center this summer.

Magicians are a naturally suspicious and mysterious lot - which is why magicians groups don't let just anyone in.

Basketball, bowling, soccer, softball and volleyball are all sports available to many of us through school or recreational leagues. However, these teams often require tryouts and are not at a level appropriate for individuals with disabilities. The Special Olympics fills this void and provides athletics to men, women, boys and girls with disabilities.

Nina Harris had it all planned out, just like most young people do. She was going to have a career in money - accounting, banking or finance, that sort of thing. And, for sure, she was going to catch a look at her hometown, Springfield, in her rearview mirror.

Jack Robertson is a business man, right? That's how you know him more than likely - as the owner of Jack Robertson Lawn Care. But, here's who he really is. The business is a front of sorts. Anybody who knows him well would probably tell you that.


In need of the cavalry, mounted militia, Mexican lancers, dragoons, West Point cadets, British officers, Afghan freedom fighters, Hussars, Cuirassiers, you need only contact Karl Luthin in Springfield.

Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation might seem mysterious to most of us, Dean Paisley of Chatham can tell you specifically what happened during one-quarter of the FBI’s 100-year history. That’s because from 1969 until 1994, he was an agent for the Bureau.

If not for her sister's homesickness and distaste for sports that make you sweat, or Kelci Bryant's preference for traveling - the 2008 Olympic diver from Chatham might have had a different path in life.

A "break" during basketball camp at the University of Illinois at Springfield's gym gives National Basketball Association star Andre Iguodala the chance to take in the high energy of 100 youths munching burgers, bouncing basketballs and basking in the dream that they one day, too, might be like Andre.


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