Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills Exchange Club ‘answers needs of community’
Matthew Przeklasa, age 5 of Mundelein, chowing down pancakes at the Exchange Club's Annual Pancake Breakfast at Mundelein Fire Station 1. | Mark Ukena~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 28, 2012 12:50PM
One of the newest Exchange Clubs in the county held its first pancake breakfast at the Mundelein Fire Department that helped raise money for scholarships and also helped a Mundelein man in his search for a bone marrow transplant match.
About 250 people enjoyed the pancakes, sausage and baked goods earlier this month at the fire house at 1000 North Midlothian Road.
“When you get down to it, the exchange clubs are all about community service, and each club tries to find the needs of the community,” said Dr. Michael Oster, president of the Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills Exchange Club.
They found a need right before the breakfast when they learned that Mundelein resident Rick Teper was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and his best option for survival is a bone marrow transplant. But no one in his family matched and there were no matches found on the national registry. That led to a bone marrow registry drive. Participants had a simple cheek swab to see if they were a match.
Fire Chief Tim Sashko said they had learned about Teper just before the pancake breakfast and raced to set up the registry. “I serve as the co-chair of the village of Mundelein Blood Committee along with Mary Yoho from the Mundelein Park District. We’ve been working hard for about the last three-plus years raising the awareness of blood needs throughout our area and this was our first bone marrow drive.
“We hope we’ve started a movement to “pay it forward” for people to understand these needs for Rick and many others,” he said.
There were 83 people who agreed to the cheek swab and those can take 6 to 8 weeks to process, but Life Source is trying to rush the process to see if they have a match for Teper.
Also at the pancake breakfast, the Exchange Club honored Alexa Rollins as Student of the Year at Carmel High School, as nominated by the school, and honored two other students — Elizabeth Happ of Carmel High School and Mike Leav of Mundelein High School — with ACE awards, Accepting the Challenge of Excellence.
Three Policeman of the Year honorees were Rachel Messina, Kathleen Smith and Stephanie Whittaker. Police Chief Raymond Rose said the three officers, on their own initiative, started a class for women to learn self-defense techniques and ways not to become a victim.
“Their passion and dedication merits recognition,” he said, explaining how one officer went to a girls gym class at the high school to teach self defense and then came back to the department and said they needed to expand this to all women in the village.
“They put this together themselves and adapted their schedules to make it a success,” said Rose.
‘Myriad of talents’
The Firefighter of the Year was Paramedic Steven D’Incognito.
“We are blessed with a myriad of talents in our department and Steve (D’Incognito) will tell you he’s just one of many who contribute every day to our success. Our senior staff felt that his energy, approach, professionalism and commitment to our ability to serve the committee was truly outstanding and worthy of this award from the Exchange Club of Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills,” said Sashko.
D’Incognito spearheaded the resurrection of the public education program, which is so critical to serving our community, he said. One example of his efforts is with a new program at the state level called “Remembering When,” which focuses key fire and general safety initiatives toward our senior citizens, “or as we like to call them, our ‘seasoned citizens’,” said Sashko. In addition he’s started new initiatives with school children and other community group and business relationships.
Club members that were honored include Oster with the Distinguished Service Award; Wally Frasier, Contributing Service Award, with honorable mentions to Bill Rekus and Tony Christie and Sandra Riordan as Exchangites of the Year.