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Olson: Academy showcases good in community

Often in the news, and in our online comments section after news stories are posted at, the focus is on things that seem to be going wrong or that need to be improved.

It’s issues and controversy that make news, and we have our share of them on the local, state and national levels.

A fact easily forgotten, though, is that there are many good people in our community who work hard – many as volunteers – to make this a better place to live for all of us.

That was my takeaway from participating in the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s DeKalb Leadership Academy.

For the past 10 months, I was one of a class of more than 20 people who met monthly at different sites in DeKalb and Sycamore to learn more about the organizations and people who make things work in DeKalb County.

It was an invaluable experience that I hope will make me a better steward of the Daily Chronicle’s newsroom.

It also gave me and my classmates a new appreciation for just how much behind-the-scenes work goes into 5K races, community events and charity efforts that we report on daily.

With a class of more than 20 people who live or work in DeKalb or the surrounding area, we had a good cross section, and it also showed that there is an incredible amount of talent in our community. When talented people work together – busy though they may be – they can accomplish great things.

Members of this class created a Bike Safety Rodeo that is expected to continue through the Kishwaukee YMCA. That was the brainchild of Sonoco Alloyd safety guru and lifelong DeKalb resident Bruce McCord.

McCord’s idea was the starting point, but the other members of his team, including Lindsey Engelsman, Mark Mattson, David Galica, Greg Herring, Heather Ferguson, Laura Nesbitt, Brian Oster and the never stressed Christina Severson all worked to make it happen.

DeKalb and Sycamore police, the YMCA and others from the community joined them to teach children about bicycle safety – something they certainly need to know.

The group of which I was a member was led by Shannon Barnaby, an attorney at the Foster and Buick Law Group. Barnaby wanted to do something for a cause important to her – juvenile (also called Type I) diabetes.

The plan was to stage a 5K run to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Resource Foundation, which seemed simple until we actually started putting it all together. However, the DeKalb Park District and city of DeKalb administration and police department were very helpful, as were others in the community who had organized other races.

There were a lot of details to work out, probably more than I and my teammates Michael Cullen Jr., Mandy Kakac, Carolyn Leist, MaryJo McAdams and Matthew Wray imagined. But when the race day came, the Beatin’ ‘Betes 5K raised more than $3,400.

It also gave me a renewed appreciation for all that goes into organizing these events. Hats off to all those who strive to put together the different fundraisers that seem to fill the calendar month after month.

Speaking of good causes, the third group in our class championed an effort by Leah Jordal of the Voluntary Action Center. The group comprised of Robin Franklin, Tatum Glas, Diana King, Liz LeMay and Kathleen Patterson created new marketing material designed to recruit volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program.

We also were lucky enough to hear from people in the county whose names are too numerous to list about how things many of us take for granted in our day-to-day lives actually work.

If you’re interested in joining the class of 2013-14, learn more online at

If you have the inclination to learn more about the community and how leaders push us forward, it’s well worth the investment of time.

To the girl dads: Some guys make only girls.

I’m one of those guys.

I learned this week that my wife and I will have our third girl months from now. I was not surprised.

My mother told me I would have a girl family. And she was right. She was right when our first born, Alayna, first erroneously reported to be a boy, arrived eight years ago.

She was right again a few years later, when Allyson joined us on New Year’s Eve.

And, unless the sophisticated test results are somehow completely off, she’ll be right when the next one arrives months from now, God willing.

I’ve been telling people about it this week, and they’ve been laughing at me. All girls. Good luck with that, guy.

But don’t feel too bad for us girl dads. It’s not so bad. Actually, for me, it’s great.

I play Barbies, but only on the condition that I get to be “the boy.” I’ve seen several movies about princesses. I’ve been to multiple daddy-daughter dances. I took them camping this week and made them get dirty.

Truth is, it doesn’t really matter what we do so much as the fact that they’re my children and we’re doing it together.

Do girl dads need to hide sometimes? Absolutely. Preferably to a space where there is a cold beer and sports on TV. But that’s probably true of all dads, and moms, too, although their retreat might include a bubble bath or whatever it is that moms like to do when no one’s around.

Raising children, no matter their gender or yours, is a challenge.

Which is why we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

If you’re a girl dad like me, I hope your daughters got you something thoughtful.

• Eric Olson is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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