From a Paralympic swimmer to kids determined to fight hunger, in 2013, we met a number of Naperville residents who’ve made their mark on the community and the world.
Collecting Food for the Hungry
When it comes to tackling the problem of hunger in our community, one family said, “Yes, We Can.”
That’s the name of a canned food drive Sasha and Vaughn Lindstrom began to feed those in the area that go to bed hungry every night.
“I felt like I needed to help them because they shouldn’t have to live like that,” said Vaughn.
With the help of the community, the kids collected nearly 9,000 pounds of canned soup for Loaves & Fishes, Hesed House, and DuPagePads.
Taking the Spotlight
One students took the spotlight, even though she couldn’t see it, as Naperville North’s first blind actress.
Freshman Amy Bosco co-starred in “My Teacher Is An Alien,” and gained empathy and understanding with her peers along the way.
“It’s taught me to not judge people by how they look, but to look deeper. It’s also taught me to not care what others think and be a stronger person,” said Bosco.
“The kids have been doing a lot of exercises where they have been blind themselves so they can experience life the way Amy has to get comfortable with how she’s feeling,” said Director, Ryan Cap.
Paralympic Swimmer Making Waves
Over at Waubonsie Valley High School, another teen with a disability continues to inspire her teammates and coaches.
Born with a disease called Arthrogryposis, Alyssa Gialamas’s joints and muscles in her hands and legs never developed properly, making life challenging at times but being in the water she says is liberating.
Alyssa, who’s a member of Waubonsie girls swim team, is training for the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio and has been named the March of Dimes 2014 Inspirational Athlete Award winner.
“I want to to inspire others to be better and to be the best they can be so to be able to get this award really means so much,” said Gialamas.
“Alyssa’s instrumental to the team because she’s really a model of overcoming obstacles, a model of going out there and taking what you have and turning it into a success and being willing to put in the work to achieve that access and being willing to be able for other people,” said Nick Arens, Assistant Coach for Waubonsie’s Girls Swim Team.
Helping School Children In India
Helping people across the globe is Naperville resident, Kuldeep Sra.
Driven by economic concerns many families in India are illegally aborting female babies, so often, he says, that the country is short 100 million women.
The staggering number motivated Sra to start a not-for-profit called Dheean Pukardian, meaning “Daughter’s Outcry.”
The group now sponsors 32 Indian high school girls, hoping that by giving them knowledge and strength they will be able to say no to societal pressures when they become pregnant.
“We send them 500 Indian Rupees a month,” said Sra. “It isn’t a lot but it’s the first time that they’ve felt that they are being favored over the boys. And that gives them a lot of confidence and self-respect, which they lack otherwise.”
Making a Difference for Africa
North Central College graduate Etienne Mushuli received national recognition for his efforts to help school children in Africa.
At just seven years old, Etienne escaped the Rwandan genocide, which left much of his family for dead, taking refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Years later while at North Central, Etienne co-founded “Ubuntu in Action”, with Ubuntu meaning “humanity to others,” to help those children still suffering in his native area.
“The idea of Ubuntu in Action was to try and address this extreme violence going on in the Congo by proposing some alternative solutions, giving these children an opportunity to go to school, to be sort of a strong, solid foundation for trying to reinvent society,” said Mushuli.
The initiative garnered him a prestigious Soros Fellowship, a scholarship awarded to students born outside of the U.S. pursuing a graduate degree.
In the new year, we’ll continue to share the stories of people that make this community special. If you or someone you know has a story you’d like to share, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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