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Kishwaukee YMCA awards salute community work

DeKALB – Sycamore High School senior Erin DeWitt doesn’t know what she would do if she wasn’t so involved in community service.

DeWitt, a member of the school’s Key Club and chairwoman of its Illinois-Eastern Iowa new club building and reactivation, was presented Thursday with the outstanding youth award, given to her by Kishwaukee YMCA.

“It gives you a sense of satisfaction,” she said. “You know you’re leaving the right mark in the community.”

Four people were presented with awards Thursday during Kishwaukee YMCA’s Y Community Awards Dinner at Faranda’s Banquet & Conference Center, 302 Grove St., DeKalb. The event included keynote speaker Bonnie Blair, a Champaign native and five-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating, as well as dinner and promotional videos that featured Kishwaukee YMCA members.

Blair’s presentation highlighted a successful Olympic career, during which she received her first gold medal at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic games, two gold medals at the 1992 Albertville games and her last two gold medals during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Liilehammer.

Blair had lots of advice and inspirational messages to the more than 300 people who attended the event. One of those messages was to be passionate about one’s goals.

“If I didn’t love what I did, I might not have had the success,” Blair said. “That passion can take you a very long way.”

DeWitt and Maddie Suter, senior at DeKalb High School, were both given outstanding youth awards. Dan Kenney, executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, was given the community leader award; and Mike Kokott, assistant vice president of marketing and planning at KishHealth System, accepted KishHealth System’s award for outstanding business or organization.

Suter, who plans to attend college to study speech pathology, is a member of DeKalb County Foundation’s Youth Engaged in Philanthropy program, which awards grants to local nonprofit organizations.

Suter recently helped YEP distribute 10 grants, each less than $2,500.

“At this age, it’s important to be involved,” she said. “You don’t visualize how much impact you can make until you’re involved.”

Kenney, whose efforts have helped DeKalb County Community Gardens expand to 38 plots and yield eight tons of food for local food pantries in 2013, mentioned during his acceptance speech that he has potatoes at his home’s garden and that his family room is full of seeds.

Kenney touched on the importance of what DeKalb County Community Gardens does.

“It’s all about bringing people together and working together for the benefit of all,” he said.

KishHealth System also is involved with giving back. In 2013, the community-owned health system provided $589,000 in donations, sponsorships and contributions, according to a Y Community Awards Dinner pamphlet.

“It’s neat to work for an organization that takes as much pride in what happens outside our four walls as in what happens inside,” Kokott said.

Blair knows how much having the support of her community can help. When she was traveling nationally to speedskating competitions, the Champaign police department held fundraising events to help her family pay for traveling costs.

Blair said focusing on achieving her personal best helped her reach her goals.

“You’ve got to take care of yourself,” she said. “It’s important to take time for yourself to make yourself the best that you can be.”


• Outstanding youth awards: Erin DeWitt and Maddie Suter

• Community leader award: Dan Kenney

• Outstanding business or organization award: KishHealth System

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