Olson: Back-to-school nostalgia and new fundraising heights
High school football has started, the evenings and mornings are cool, and the first leaves (at least, the ones that didn’t wither during the summer drought) are starting to fall.
That means back-to-school time. Now that I’m no longer in school, it’s one of my favorite times of the year, once I get past the feeling old part.
First, there was taking my own daughter to school for her first day. She’s in second grade now, and there I was, camera in hand, taking photos of her on the front stoop, walking into school. I think I stepped into a couple of other moms’ shots when I was photographing her sitting down in the gym with the rest of her class, but hey, you’ve got to get in position to frame the photo properly.
The whole time, I was thinking, “How’d my little girl get so big already?” “Where’d these gray hairs on my head come from?” and “I don’t care what she says, I’m not buying her a cell phone for at least nine more years.”
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And then: The students returned to Northern Illinois University on Thursday, which only drove the point home further that time has continued marching over me.
I was in their shoes only 16 years ago. The pictures by photographer Kyle Bursaw and a great video by reporter Nicole Weskerna (you can see them online at www.daily-chronicle.com) sneaked up on me and took me back to my own first day at college.
I was a little excited for them, moving into their first dorm room (that New Residence Hall looks top-notch) and about to get their first taste of real independence. This community hosts them as they’re figuring out what they want to do and become when they grow up, which I hope for their sake, doesn’t happen for them too soon.
It’s easy to pine for the college days – I had no kids, no wife, none of the grown-up responsibilities, but a lot of the grown-up perks.
But I was glad when it was over, too. I wanted a job. I was tired of delivering pizzas and being broke all the time.
Make the most of it, students. College can be a truly transformative period in your life.
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Give ’em a brake: Not everyone’s back to school yet (the first day for the kiddos in DeKalb is Wednesday), but once they are, please follow the school zone speed limits. Every child walking to school means the world to someone.
Besides, nobody wants to be the car that gets pulled over speeding through a school zone. It’s like the modern-day equivalent of being put in the stocks on the public square – there’s general scorn and an expensive ticket involved.
So slow down in school zones – it’s worth it for everyone.
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Lofty goal: Heights don’t faze Cortland’s Brent Genseke.
His work in the construction industry has taken him to open-air job sites in unfinished high-rises, even the cabin of a crane, 120 feet up. (“It really makes you appreciate the solid feeling you get when you’re on the ground.”)
I’ll bet. Genseke, 33, will be taking a 278-foot plunge, rappelling down the side of the Wit Hotel, at State and Lake streets in downtown Chicago, on Sept. 9 to benefit the Respiratory Health Association.
Genseke, his father and his 8-year-old son, Isaac, all suffer from asthma.
“The three of us having asthma seemed to be something that was running in our family,” Genseke said, “and then I heard an ad about it on the radio, and the more I heard about it, it just seemed like something I had to do and wanted to do.”
Throw in the fact that Genseke installed the pre-cast skin from the 10th to the 24th floor on theWit building in 2010, and it’s a natural.
Genseke was diagnosed with asthma at age 12. Isaac also must manage the condition, and recently, Genseke’s father told him he has age-induced asthma. So now all three generations know the uncomfortable feeling of an asthma attack.
What’s it like?
“When someone’s having an asthma attack, it’s like breathing through a straw,” he said. “Your ability to take in oxygen is greatly reduced, which elevates your heart rate and makes your life a lot tougher.
“You just feel like someone’s pulling on your chest.”
Genseke never let his asthma keep him off the soccer field, a game he played at Streator High School and still plays today in a DeKalb Park District men’s league. He’s also coached local youth teams, including the Northern Illinois Football Club.
But he only learned to manage the condition after a couple of trips to the hospital. Everyone with asthma has to be educated on how to care for themselves, he said.
“The money that’s raised goes to much more than just people with chronic disease,” Genseke said. “It helps young kids that are just diagnosed with asthma that don’t understand it.
“... It helps people in a lot of ways other than trying to cure what seems incurable. It helps people in smaller ways also.”
Genseke already has almost $1,500 for Skyline Plunge! Chicago, and as of Wednesday, had raised the fourth-most of any of the event participants.
You can donate to his cause online at www.lungchicago.org/brentgenseke.
Anyone who donates will have their name added to a T-shirt he plans to wear the day he rappels.
“I’d like to fill up the T-shirt with as many people as possible,” he said.
Let’s see if we can’t get Brent at least into the top three for fundraising.
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Happy Corn Fest: If you have some time, stop by the 35th annual Corn Fest celebration this weekend at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport.
There’s free corn at the Chuck Siebrasse Corn Boil on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., lots of bands, airplanes and carnival rides all weekend, and if that’s not enough to get you to come out, well ... then having a chance to meet me probably isn’t going to sway you. But just in case you’d like to (I’m not quite as long-winded in person as in this column) I’ll be at the Daily Chronicle booth from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Stop by and say hello, or let me know what’s on your mind.
• Eric Olson is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 257, email email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @DDC_Editor.
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