Marching Panthers play their way into history with first Regional Championship


O’FALLON – The Marching Panthers made history this past weekend, winning their first Regional Championship in Clarksville, Tennessee.
The band competed in the Bands of America Regional Championship held at Austin Peay State University. Twenty-two marching bands from Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee all competed.
After the results were in the Marching Panthers won Class AAAA first in class, outstanding music performance, outstanding visual performance, and outstanding general effect. They would then go on to the finals where they achieved first place based on their total score, outstanding visual performance, outstanding general effect, and were named Regional Champion.
This is the first regional championship win for O’Fallon Township High School and the first for an Illinois school since 2001 when Prospect and Lake Park each won.
The band will be competing at McKendree University this weekend.  October competition consists of:  The Bands of America Super Regional, Edward Jones Dome, October 16-17; The Bands of America Super Regional, Indianapolis, October 23-24; The U of I Marching Festival on October 31.


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District 203 School Board hears report on state assessment testing, passes annual budget

Benway headshotO’FALLON – Superintendent Darcy Benway reported on problems she has observed with a new statewide student performance test during her report at the District 203 Board of Education meeting Thursday night.
A recent report as shown dismal results on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment test across the state. It is important to note that the the only issued scores come from tests administered electronically, and that OTHS administered the test with pencil and paper.
Benway said that after looking at the data, she has some serious questions about the PARCC test and what these preliminary results actually mean.
“What is staggering to me is that zero percent of students in Illinois, of the 75 percent or so of reported scores, that zero percent exceed standards. We have kids here that get 36, a perfect score on their ACT exams, and perfect scores on their SAT exams, but you’re going to tell me that there’s not one student in the entire state of Illinois that exceeds standards? Is there a problem with public schools or a problem with the PARCC test as its being presented,” Benway said.
“Is this PARCC test really aligned to where students are in their education at the time its administered. I hope that’s something educators and legislators look into.”
Benway takes exception to any implication that schools and teachers have underserved the students of District 203 based on the results of the PARCC exam.
“You get an article or a headline that implies that our schools are failing, I will adamantly show you our ACT scores and the colleges our kids can get into, and I will refute that every time,” Benway said.
In other business, the Board of Education approved their annual budget for next year. Benway said the district has budgeted within its means.
“OTHS budgets conservatively, so we tend to budget our revenues a little lower than expected. We never know if the state is going to cut something throughout the year. We budget our expenditures a little bit higher than expected as well. So our actual performance has always significantly beaten our budget,” she explained.

Officers receive promotions at City Council meeting

City Council Meeting PhotoO’FALLON – It was standing room only at the O’Fallon City Council meeting Monday night as three police officers received promotions.
Lt. James Cavins was promoted to the rank of Captain. Sgt. Kirk Brueggeman became a Lieutenant, while Ptl. Michael Mojzis was promoted to Sergeant.
Also present was Captain Mick Hunter who recently retired after 27 years of service to O’Fallon.
In other business…
During the clerk’s report, four requests were granted by the council. One request was from the O’Fallon Rotary Club to conduct a children’s parade on October 31, starting at 12:30 p.m. and running until 2 p.m. The parade will begin at the Opera House and will head to the Santa Hut.
Another request was from the O’Fallon Women’s Club to conduct a raffle for liquor and other items on November 14 at the Katy Cavins Center. The third request came from the Knights of Columbus to hold a raffle for a “Wagon of Spirits” from October 9 through December 23. The last request came from the O’Fallon Underwater Search and Recovery Team to conduct a roadblock at the intersection of Lincoln and State on November 27 and 28 from 8 a.m. until noon both days.
Resolutions passed by the council include…
A resolution approving the preliminary plat of Parkview Meadows. Mike Bennett voted against this resolution saying he had concerns regarding the connectivity of surrounding streets.
A resolution authorizing the Mayor to sign an annexation agreement with Christ Matteo, representing Fulford Homes for the Illini Trails.
A resolution approving the preliminary plat for Illini Trails.
The final plat for the new ice sports complex at Highway 50 and Scott-Troy Road was approved. The area will be called the Four Points Center.
Mayor Gary Graham proclaimed October 4-10, 2015, as Fire Prevention Week in O’Fallon.

Two Cents Worth – Sept 23, 2015

Last Saturday, the VFW hosted the 24th Annual POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony honoring those who were captured or are still missing.

I won’t pretend the ceremony went off without a hitch.  The musical part didn’t really work out and at times the event seemed a bit ad libbed.  However, with all of its hiccups, it was a great event.

We should take time to remember those who went off to fight for our freedoms and had their lives stolen from them.  In many ways, its a fate worse than death.  They’re forced to live under the control of the enemy, knowing their loved ones are at home worrying and praying for their safe return.

The Scott POW/MIA Council and VFW Post 805 honored some ex-POW’s that were in the crowd.  Richard Anshus, Vince Ralves, Robert Teichgraber, and Vernon Warren all were recognized, as were the family and widows of deceased POW’s.

While the event wasn’t polished and didn’t go off perfectly, it was a great event because of the love and care put into it.  There was a level of devotion and heart poured into that hour that is undeniable and inspiring. The organizers truly wanted to honor and remember our nation’s past and present POW’s, and they did that flawlessly.


O’Fallon native dances professionally with Paul Taylor Dance Company

Heather McGinley, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Photo by Paul B. Goode
O’FALLON – Dance St. Louis is kicking off its 50th anniversary 2015-16 season with the presentation of Paul Taylor Dance Company, one of the world’s most highly regarded performing arts companies founded by Paul Taylor, the last living member of the choreographers that established American modern dance and one of the most admired choreographers in the world.

O’Fallon native Heather McGinley is a dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company, joining the company in 2011 after dancing with the prestigious Martha Graham Dance Company. McGinley says dancing professionally has been a dream come true.

Dance St. Louis presents_PTDC_HeatherMcGinley_Photo by Paul B. Goode“Dancing professionally is a very unique life. I have the privilege of doing something I’m passionate about for a living – and I get to travel the world while doing it,” McGinley said.

She said her love of dancing gets more nuanced and deep as time goes on.

“The longer I dance, the more layers there are to why I love to dance. As a child, I loved dancing for the sheer joy of moving through space. As an adult, to move your trained limbs with that same abandon is incredibly challenging. In dance your body is your instrument, making it incredibly personal. I get to let everything go. I get to be a more vivid version of myself – and finding those moments on stage make dance deeply satisfying,” she said.

Heather is thrilled to perform back in her hometown. Despite performing in countless cities all over the world, this will be her first time performing professionally in St. Louis. She said performing locally allows her the opportunity to be an influence on potential up-and-coming dancers as she was influenced as a child.

“I have clear memories of going to see major New York dance companies when they toured to St. Louis. In sixth grade I saw the famous Julie Kent perform in American Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet. During high school I saw the premiere of Paul Taylor’s Black Tuesday – now one of my favorite dances to perform with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. These performances were a great source of inspiration for me. It’s important for young artists to see a real life example of their dream in action. To be part of such an example is a great honor,” McGinley said.

Heather’s family still lives in O’Fallon. She studied dance at DanceStation and graduated from O’Fallon Township High School. She went on to study dance at Butler University and then starting her professional career.

“My family moved to O’Fallon when I was eight and finding a new dance studio to train at was my first priority. I tried a couple of classes elsewhere in the area but from my first ballet class at DanceStation I knew I had found my place. For the next ten years I spent countless hours at the studio studying ballet, tap, modern, and jazz, and rehearsing for seasonal performances with the State Street Dance Company. For ballet, we trained in the rigorous Cecchetti Method of Classical Ballet. Lisbeth Brown, the original and longtime owner of DanceStation, became my first mentor. With no shortage of blood, sweat and tears, I passed my eighth and final Cecchetti exam just before graduating from high school.”

Heather said that on the rare occasion she is able to make it back home, she said she has to take in some Cardinals baseball.

“I love going to Cardinals baseball games – takes me right back to being a kid,” she said.

Paul Taylor Dance Company, established in 1954, has long been one of the world’s most highly regarded performing arts companies. On October 2-3, as the fall kick-off to its 50th anniversary season, Dance St. Louis presents Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

WHO: Dance St. Louis
WHAT: Paul Taylor Dance Company
WHEN: Friday, October 2 at 8 p.m. & Saturday, October 3 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Touhill Performing Arts Center
TICKETS: $30-50 for both performances (

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City Council supports installing a stoplight at Scott-Troy Road and Old Vincennes Trail

City Hall

City Hall

O’FALLON – Drivers along Scott-Troy Road may soon encounter a stoplight at Old Vincennes Trail if the O’Fallon City Council has their way. The council voted 12-0 at their regular meeting on September 8 to authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to express the need for a stoplight at the intersection to St. Clair County officials.

The O’Fallon Township Board of Trustees also recently passed a resolution requesting a stoplight at the intersection. Residents along Old Vincennes Trail and in the Brasewood subdivisions have been requesting a light there for quite some time. St. Clair County is responsible for that portion of road and would have to be the one to install the light.

Both the city council and the township board have cited safety concerns as the need for the stoplight. Traffic can be heavy at peak times of the day making it difficult to cross Scott-Troy Road or make a left turn onto Old Vincennes Trail or Borchers Lane.

In other business…
The council approved the final plat for the Four Points Center, Phase 1, which will be the location of the ice rink and aquatic center at Highway 50 and Scott-Troy Road.

The council approved a resolution to replace the HVAC units at City Hall in an amount of $168,350. According to city officials the current units are old and past the end of their life cycle.

A resolution approving the design of the State Street Water and Sewer Rehabilitation Project also passed. The $61,000 project is to replace old water and sewer lines near the Public Works Compound.

The council also approved the replacement of the Community Park Restroom Facilities near Blazier Field. The current restrooms are old and obsolete and in need of replacement. The resolution stated the project is not to exceed $66,929.

The council approved the purchase of a slope mower in an amount not to exceed $88,840. The city’s current slope mower broke down. They also approved the purchase of a boring machine, including a a trade, in the amount of $45,135. The current boring machine is in need of replacement.

Peel Wood Fired Pizza was granted a special event permit for its planned Oktoberfest to be held on September 19 in downtown O’Fallon. Food, drinks, and entertainment will be available for guests.

Two Cents Worth – Sept 16, 2015

You may have noticed that we have added another person to the O’Fallon Weekly team this week. Angela Simmons has come aboard as our Shiloh area reporter.

Angela first reached out to us about two weeks ago inquiring if the position was still available. She indicated in her email that she had written for the student newspaper at UMSL and that she was looking to flex those muscles again. We met and talked for a while, getting to know each other as best you can at a restaurant for an hour and a half, and by the time we left she was one of the crew.

My wife, who is in HR, probably would hate me for saying this but I’m a big believer in going with my gut when dealing with a person. Oh sure, I want to see writing samples and maybe a resume, but for the most part the most important thing to me is if we can sit for a while and actually have a decent conversation. I figure if a person can’t talk with another person for a little while, how are they going to develop relationships to get story tips and information? How will they build a rapport with government officials and community leaders? Being able to converse is a pretty important skill to have when trying to gather the news.

I had the same experience with Nathan, our sports editor. When we met it was a very casual conversation, starting out with what he was looking for and what I was looking for. But before long we were talking about all sorts of things and I knew he’d be able to interact with coaches, players, and even parents to do the job that needed to be done.
Since that evening, Angela and I have obviously spoken more and begun to get to know each other a bit. I’m actually pretty excited that we’re having a news team get together this week. It’ll be the first time that the editorial side of the paper is all together and can sit around and interact with one another. The internet and email are wonderful tools that allows us to do our jobs independently of one another very well, but that also means we have to make time to meet in person. Otherwise we find that time slips by quickly and it could have been weeks or months since we last spoke in person.

Part of the whole game is just trying to find time to interact when we can. For example, I plan on popping by the Panthers football game this Friday evening. I don’t need to, Nathan has the game covered well and has everything under control. But its a convenient excuse to circle up and add a bit of personal, human interaction into this job.
We’re unique from a lot of newspapers in that we don’t have a centralized newsroom. There’s no one office where we all reconvene from a day’s worth of reporting to share stories and goof around. We don’t have that for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here today, but I will say that there are times that I wouldn’t mind having the camaraderie that would come with a home base. But all good things come to those who wait I suppose.

But anyway, our little news team continues to grow and I think its exciting. If you live in Shiloh and have a story suggestion for Angela, shoot her an email at She’d love to hear from you.

Construction at Memorial East nears completion

SHILOH – An exciting new chapter for Shiloh, O’Fallon, and Memorial Hospital is about to begin as work at Memorial East nears completion.

Mother/Baby Room

Mother/Baby Room

“We are on schedule and happy about that,” said Memorial East Administrator Ruth Holmes. “Essentially construction will be complete in October. Between then and substantial completion in December, we will be going through our punch list items – could be a chip in the wall, or something in the floor, or some additional painting that has to be done somewhere. Those kinds of things happen between October and December.”

Construction on the five-story, 207,000 square foot, $124.6 million hospital began officially in late
2013 and when complete will have taken between 24 and 26 months to build on the site of the old O’Fallon Sportsman’s Club. Holmes said things have gone smoothly and are steadily progressing toward completion.

“We’re on time and on budget and getting close to the end. Holland-Pepper has been our construction team. They’ve worked really, really well. Holland is a local firm, and Pepper Construction is from Chicago, and is probably in the top five, in terms of constructing health care facilities. We’re very fortunate that we’ve had a very strong construction team,” she said.

Emergency Room Entrance

Emergency Room Entrance

Hospital staff has been working with the construction team to make sure the rooms are set up ideally for patient care.

“We’ve tried to mock up rooms for staff to experience. They can tell us whether the bed is in the right spot, if the equipment is placed appropriately, if we’ve got enough clearance, that sort of thing. We work alongside of the construction crew every step of the way so it’s being built to everyone’s expectations.

Once construction is completed, staff will spend the next 90 days preparing the hospital for patients and getting all of the paperwork, certifications, and inspections finalized.

“We have about 90 days to move in and within that time a lot of things have to happen including building and clinical process inspections,” Holmes explained. “We have a big team working on the transition side of things. We have a variety of teams working on many different aspects of getting things ready. Equipment has to be moved and set up, you’ve got Human Resources making sure the staffing needs are met, even down to the detail of how much orientation and training someone needs. It’s a new building so we have a lot of scenario testing. I have a separate group working just on certifications and licensure. We also have a team working with our medical staff.”

Holmes said one of the transition teams is working on processes to provide the best quality of care they can to patients.

Emergency Room

Emergency Room

“We even have teams reviewing how some processes are done at Belleville and if those same processes will work well at Memorial East. Just because things have always been done a certain way at Belleville, doesn’t mean they have to or should be done that way at Memorial East. It’s a great opportunity for us to improve on what we do,” she said.
The team at Memorial East is aiming to provide efficient and streamlined medical care for patients.

“It’s going to be a way of delivering healthcare that the average person will see and like because they get what they need very quickly. It’s all about patient comfort and satisfaction by providing efficient and streamlined care,” Holmes said.

Holmes did emphasize that patients shouldn’t mistake efficiency for a limited quality of care.

“We are absolutely a full service hospital. There may be a couple of types of surgeries we may not do here, at least not on opening day, but we’ll eventually get there. We are a full service hospital with a fully-staffed 24-7 Emergency Department. We’ll have everything you may need. The ambulances that stop here know that care will take place here. We won’t be transferring elsewhere for things that can take place in a community hospital. We are a full service hospital,” she said.

View from 2nd Floor to Lobby

View from 2nd Floor to Lobby

“We also will provide some outpatient services,” Holmes continued. “Our outpatient component may be somewhat limited at the hospital in order to accommodate our inpatient needs. However, we will offer imaging and other diagnostic testing at Memorial Hospital East. In addition, Memorial has had a presence in the O’Fallon-Shiloh area for many years offering outpatient lab, imaging services as well as sleep studies at its facility on Seven Hills Road and physical therapy and sports rehab at 800 East Highway 50. It’s not always necessary to make someone come to the hospital for outpatient services.”

Holmes said one aspect where Memorial East will excel is their mother/baby services.

“I think our mother/baby services, because of the model of care, is a service line that will be different from Memorial Hospital Belleville. There will be no moving out of the room. If I’m a mom coming in to deliver my baby, I will have one room where I will labor, deliver, recover and spend those precious few days with my new baby. There will be a couch for dad or significant others to stay in that room. It’s our goal for Memorial East to be the premiere center for family care birthing.”

Another aspect that will be a bit different at Memorial East will involve doctor offices.

ICU Rooms

ICU Rooms

“We have some medical office suites in the building. We call it physician hoteling. One day it can be orthopedic and the next it can be pulmonary. This provides patients with convenient access to a wide range of specialty services. We have physician hoteling on the second floor and an OB suite on the third floor,” said Holmes.

With work nearing completion in the next few months Holmes said everyone is excited to see the final result.
“We’ve had lots of people ask how things are going. There’s a real sense of excitement and anticipation, and I can’t wait for everyone to see and experience our efforts,” said Holmes.

Memorial East is projected to open on April 12, 2016.

First floor – The First Floor will house the lobby, gift shop, cafe, greeter desk, chapel, medical records, surgery support, four Operating Rooms, 18 pre and post operation rooms, sterile processing, pharmacy, kitchen, IT Department, plant operations, materials management, and a separate discharge area so that patients can be discharged privately.

Second floor – The Second Floor will contain emergency rooms, medical evaluations, an observation unit, cath labs and cardiology, a six-bed ICU, physician office suites, administration offices, and radiology.

Third floor – The Third Floor will be the home of Memorial East’s Mother/Baby Services, with normal capacity for 16 mothers and two c-section rooms

Fourth floor – The Fourth Floor will house 36 patient rooms.

Fifth floor – The Fifth Floor will also house 36 patient rooms

View from Cross Street

View from Cross Street

Emergency Room Reception Desk

Emergency Room Reception Desk

Patient Room

Patient Room

Local man prepares for third mission trip to Kenya

IMG_2936Kevin Kinsall is a man on a mission. His third to be precise.

Kinsall is preparing for his third mission trip to Kenya next year. He heads over in late December and will be going as part of an outreach to an area northeast of Nairobi called Tharaka, which is one of the poorest regions in the country. He’s teaming with Each One Feed One, International, which has been working in Kenya for more than thirty years providing education, medical care, clean water, and food for the people. Kinsall will be teaching seventh and eighth grade mathematics and technology to students at Mama Linda’s Excellent Academy.

The opportunity to go to Africa first came to Kinsall a few years back through his church, First Baptist Fairview.
“My church had taken small group of seven or eight the previous year and I didn’t go. I was feeling it out, but I just wasn’t quite ready yet. Then the next year I decided that since I had the summers off, I would go. I loved it! We only stayed for about seven days because you kind of start out small and expand as you go. We had a soccer camp and a full blown vacation bible school,” Kinsall said.

He said the kids took to soccer very quickly.

“They’re big on soccer. We’d play a soccer game almost every evening with the kids,” said Kinsall.
Through other activities, Kinsall met Kyle and Victoria McCarter, who run Each One Feed One, International. During his second trip to Kenya, Kinsall spent time at both the mission through his church as well as the Each One Feed One location. He said he had a great time with the McCarters.

“After we were back, the McCarters gave me the open invitation to come back to Each One Feed One any time. I thought about it, and prayed about it, and decided that I’d like to take a full year to come and teach. They need help in math and that’s one of my stronger subjects, so I felt I could do that well,” Kinsall said.

Kinsall will also be teaching the students about technology and basic skills, like typing.

“Learning to type is huge for them and their prospects of getting a job after school. Just having some hands on time with technology opens up a lot of doors. They can get a desk job rather than a hard labor job. If they can get those skills, it pays big dividends,” he said.

When he was over in Kenya last time, Kinsall set up a computer lab and he said the kids’ desire to use the machines was obvious.

“I’d get one computer up and I’d get a huge crowd of kids. Then I’d get a second set up and have more kids. Finally, as I kept going, I had to kick the kids out until they were all set up and ready for them to use.”

Kinsall is not taking his responsibilities lightly because he knows the kids have a lot riding on their education.
“Kids there take a test right out of eighth grade. Depending on how well they do on that test, determines if they will be put into a good or bad secondary school. The beauty of that is that they know its competitive and its all on them. So they work really hard and study really hard. There’s a higher drive to want to learn,” he said.

Classes begin January 4 and run all year long, on a trimester basis. He plans to return home in December 2016.
Kinsall is a teacher at OTHS. He said the administration has been very supportive of his efforts.

“One of the big risks is taking a year off here, losing all that equity I’ve put in here. But I’ve talked to Dr. Benway and Principal Bickel and they are very supportive. They have been for the past few years whenever I’ve left.”

Kinsall is reaching out to the community and asking their support in his work. He is in need of donors and sponsors that can contribute $100 per month for the full 12 months he’ll be in Kenya.

“It’s an expensive trip overall, but almost all of the cost is getting there. Maybe eighty or ninety percent is travel. Once you’re there, because the dollar is so strong, you’re just fine,” he said.

Each One Feed One, International is a non-governmental organization and is registered in the United States as a 501(c)3 organization. Those interested in donating to help Kinsall can do so online by going to and then clicking the “Donate” tab on the top right. Make sure to put “Kevin Kinsall” in the moment box on the donation page so that the donations go directly into an account set up for his financial support.

“Their big verse is Jeremiah 29:11. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ They’re about giving hope and I want to do my part to help with that,” Kinsall said. “It’s way too good an opportunity to pass up. It’s going to be something to remember forever.”

To learn more about Each One Feed One, visit To learn more about Kinsall’s previous trips to Kenya, visit






Stooke Family swim their way to Russia

AmericanFlagAndMedalLast month Nathan Stooke embraced a part of his life he thought he had left behind.
Stooke, who is the CEO of Wisper Internet Solutions and a former member of the U.S. Mens National Swimming Team, and his wife Kirsty travelled to Russia to compete in the Fina World Masters Championship.

“My wife and I are both swimmers. I was on the US Men’s National Team for three years and so I’d told my kids what it was like to go to an elite event. I’d told them what it was like and what I’d used to do. We found out about a year ago that the Masters World Championship was going to be held in Russia, and I’ve always wanted to go to Russia,” said Nathan.

After talking it over, he and his wife, Kirsty, decided they were going to try out and attempt to compete in the Fina World Masters Championships, held this past August in Kazan, Russia. The World Championships are like the Olympics in a non-Olympic year. Normally, the Elite World Championships are held one year and the Masters held the next. This year though, the two events were held together for the first time, giving Nathan the elite event he’d always wanted to take his kids to.

“We got to stay in the Athlete’s Village, we got to eat with the athletes, literally sit on the bus next to a gold medal winner, maybe walk into the pool with a world record holder and great international swimmers. And for our kids it was amazing,” he said.

However, deciding to try and compete at the Masters was the easy part. Just getting permission to go to Russia was a painstaking task.

“Russia is an invite only country. You literally have to be invited. And so I went through an immense amount of work to get our visas, and they said that it was an easy process. They told us they had streamlined the process for the athletes because they had 6,000 of them coming, but it wasn’t easy at all,” said Nathan.

From there Nathan and Kirsty had to train to get fast enough to meet the cut off time. To compete in the Masters, a swimmer must be faster than a specified time. If someone can swim fast enough, they can compete. There are age categories, however the oldest people swimming were 98 years old.

“We trained for about six or seven months. Unfortunately, you get done with your swimming career, be it college or in my case the national team, and you don’t want to touch a pool ever again because you spent five hours a day training. Or you say, yeah, I’m going to keep training because I like swimming, but not as much. Then you get married, get a job that takes up time, have kids, and lo and behold you haven’t really worked out in 15 years. So it was like ‘I think I can still swim, let me try’,” said Nathan.

“I was, in my group, the fastest out of shape person. The highest place I got was sixth. The top five guys were ripped and you could tell they hadn’t stopped training after their collegiate or olympic careers. And more power to them, I’m glad they were able to do that.”

Nathan said he made fast friends with other swimmers in his age category.

“We got to know one another pretty well. What else do you have to do when you’re sitting there? ‘Hey do you speak english? I speak english!’ You sit and converse and get to know one another. I met a guy from Greece who said he’d been retired for 15 years and just started training six months ago, which was just like me. We’d compete and he’d out touch me in one race and I’d out touch him in another.”

About 3,000 swimmers took part in the Masters event. Typically though the Masters can attract between 6,000 and 7,000 swimmers. Nathan believes the lower attendance is due to Russia being more difficult to get to. He also attributes some of the drop to the event being so soon after the last Masters event in Montreal last year.
“Some people may have spent all of their vacation time or money going to Montreal and needed to skip Russia. So it was lower in attendance, but we didn’t care. It was awesome to go,” he said.
Nathan has wanted to visit Russia since he was a boy paying attention to his father’s work as an Air Force intelligence officer.

“My dad was in the Air Force, which is why we live around here. He was stationed at Scott Air Force Base. I had all of the books about the Soviet Union and was fascinated by them and their military presence. I always had an idea about Russia and the Soviet Union in my mind. As hard as it was for us to get our visas, I feared we’d all be over there, discover I hadn’t filled something out right and then ‘BAM!’ be put in the slammer. I had a weird feeling. But then when we got there and the red carpet was rolled out. People were the nicest they could be.”

Talking to the Russian people was illuminating for Nathan, educating him about he realities of the Soviet regime.
“When we went on a walking tour we had two guides, a younger lady and a slightly older lady. After talking to them we realized the Russian people hated the Soviet regime as much or more than we did. Russia has a thousand year history… way longer than the U.S… and the Soviet regime was only 70 years of it. It was really cool to see that because I grew up military and in the day and age I grew up in, we learned the Soviet Union is bad. The Russian people are bad. But then we got there and learned they’re not bad. They look at the Soviet regime as one part of their long history,” he said.

The older guide who took the Stooke family on a driving tour grew up in a four bedroom apartment. Her family had one room and three other families had the other three rooms, and then they shared a bathroom and half sized kitchen. She told Nathan that was the Soviet ideology of equal. She told him about how growing up in it, it was obvious that it wasn’t equal. She said everything the Soviets were portraying was the opposite of what was going on.
Another tour guide was a young lady the family had was a millennial. She didn’t grow up under Soviet control and had only known life after they’d fallen.

“She kept saying ‘We don’t have any use for them. We’re not them. They don’t define us, we don’t believe in what they believe, and we don’t have any use for them.’ There is still a soviet party but they’re not nearly as big as they used to be,” Nathan said.

Reflecting back, its obvious Nathan had a wonderful time in Russia. But it also seems he had a great time reconnecting to his past as a swimmer. He said he plans to continue to train and swim in two years when the event takes place in Budapest and then in four years in South Korea. He has been keeping in touch with his new friends from his age group at this year’s Masters.

“A lot of us can’t wait for Budapest and we’re emailing back and forth encouraging one another to stay with it and keep training. This event travels all over. I love to travel and what is a better excuse,” Nathan said.




Car broken into at township building topic of discussion at board of trustees meeting

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Township Supervisor Gary Ahle took some time during his report at the township board of trustee meeting to discuss a car break in that took place outside of the Food Pantry.

On Friday, August 21, three individuals were caught on camera acting suspiciously at the township building. One of the three would stay in their car while the other two would go in and then leave the building.

“What they were doing is two of them would come inside and one would stay in the car. Every time they’d go back outside they’d nudge the camera up a bit trying to change its line of sight. They didn’t bump it high enough and we have them on tape,” Ahle said.

According to Ahle, the three reached into a car through a rolled down window and stole money, cigarettes, and a winning lotto ticket from a car parked around the back of the building.

“We called the police and when they finally got out here, we talked to them. We know one of the three. The car was parked at the food pantry but its our property,” Ahle said.

The township wants to have the three charged with trespassing once the police identify all of the people involved. Ahle said more than once that the township was familiar with one of the three individuals, but wouldn’t say their name.

“We know one individual involved and he’s caused problems before in the past. We don’t want them out here,” he said.

According to Ahle, the owner of the car doesn’t want to get involved and its his understanding that the owner won’t press charges.

The O’Fallon Police Department are currently investigating.

In other business…
The township trustees approved the appointment of Annie Roberts and Ben Dalman to the Township Youth Committee.

The employees of the road district were commended for filling in the cracks in the sidewalk at the township building. Trustees reported the sidewalks looked great.

Following up on a discussion from last month’s meeting, it was reported that the senior committee has all but decided to officially raise the fee for the monthly senior dinners to three dollars from its current price of two dollars. The increase is to be used to pay for quality entertainment. Many of the trustees expressed they had talked to residents who all were fine with the increase and were excited to see some good entertainment.

The next meeting of the O’Fallon Township Board of Trustees will be on Wednesday, October 7, at 7 p.m. at the township building.

Two Cents Worth – Sept 9, 2015

You may have noticed that each week we feature two animals available for adoption at the St. Clair County Animal Adoption Center.

When we launched the O’Fallon Weekly, one of my first priorities was to have a “Pet of the Week” section to help homeless pets find families. My wife and I are big animal people and have adopted our own collection of critters (one dog and three cats). Homeless animals are a big problem everywhere and I wanted to take a small part of the paper to help in whatever small way I could.

Each week I receive photos and descriptions of pets available for adoption from Tabitha at the Adoption Center. While I’ve actually never met Tabitha in person, we’ve spoken on the phone and emailed back and forth, and I can tell there is no one those pets would rather have working on their behalf to find them homes than Tabitha. She’s energetic and passionate about helping each and every animal that passes through her doors.

This past week the Animal Adoption Center posted a photo to their Facebook page showing the names of all of the dogs and cats that had been adopted in August. I recognized a lot of names from our Pets of the Week section and reached out to Tabitha to see how many featured pets had found forever homes.

I’m thrilled to report that all but four of the animals we have featured since we launched the Pets of the Week have been adopted to their new families. Only Cora (a kitten featured July 22), Robyn (a kitten featured August 19), Rascal and Waino (a dog and cat featured just last week) remain at the Adoption Center. Since we started featuring pets, we have spotlighted 27 different dogs and cats.

Pets provide so much more to a family and household than can be quantified. They love you unconditionally and bring joy and happiness into your life. Even cats, which sometimes get a bad reputation for being aloof and haughty, can be extremely affectionate and loving.

So if you don’t have a family pet or are considering getting a pet but don’t know where to get one, head down to the St. Clair County Animal Adoption Center. Or you can wait just a bit and head over to their Adopt-A-Thon on Sunday, September 27, at Silver Creek Saloon.The third annual event will run from 1-4 p.m. at 2520 Mascoutah Avenue in Belleville. Trust me, they’ll have a pet that’s just perfect for you.

The following former Pets of the Week have found forever homes…
Frank, Cole, Gucci, Leonard, Bernard, May Belle, Savannah, Rudder, Margarita, Catcher, Scribbles, Morgan, Paytin, Monkey, Milkshake, Mika, Cali, Joker, Sharkey, Alaska, Milo, Axel, and Cheshire.

Two Cents Worth – Sept 2, 2015

The O’Fallon Weekly News Team decided to take a road trip this past week.  Nathan and I piled into the car early Friday afternoon and drove a bit over four hours north to Hinsdale to watch the first Panthers football game of the season.

Now I won’t lie and say it was a good game. One look at the score will tell you that the Red Devil fans had a bit more of a fun time than the Panthers fans.  However, it was a good trip.

I’ve been saying since we launched that sports was the one aspect we were missing and going to that game helped me to process that something I considered a major flaw with the Weekly had now been taken care of. I finally felt like the Weekly was a real newspaper.

I was also glad to take the trip because it gave me a bit of time to get to know Nathan, our sports editor.  He’s a good kid.  Quiet but with a funny wit. He’s professional and respectful.  I couldn’t have been luckier to bring him on board.

After the game we swung through a nearby Giordano’s pizza for some Chicago deep dish.  It was really late by the time we left Hinsdale, making our arrival back into the Metro-East even later. I don’t know about Nathan, but I was pretty much dead to the world the next day.  These old bones can’t make a road trip like that in one day anymore.

I did see an interesting billboard on my way up to Hinsdale that I am doing a bit of research into.  I’ll tease you and say I hope to have more about that in next week’s column.

One last note… Last week in my column I accidentally butchered Nathan’s last name.  I incorrectly stated it was Pongee, when its really Poignee.  I have no idea where the incorrect spelling came from.  I guess that should be an indication that I shouldn’t write these columns at two or three in the morning.  Anyway, sorry Nathan.

Two Cents Worth – Aug 26, 2015

So you may have noticed that the Weekly is a bit bigger this week.

I’m really excited about our sports coverage, which we launch with this edition.  Since our first issue the one major thing I’ve felt our paper lacked was sports reporting.

It’s a major part of our community.  Sports give students an opportunity to show how good they can be when presented with a challenge.  It also gives them the chance to excel and obtain scholarships and help pay for higher education.  Sports also gives the community something to rally around and take pride in.

It’s easy to dismiss sports as just kids games, but I really feel its so much more than that and I’m thrilled to add it to our pages.

Now, just like the rest of our paper, our sports section will be a work in progress for a few weeks while we get used to it.  You can plan to launch a new section forever, but as the saying goes “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”  We’re getting to know the coaching staff and players and how we can best cover their efforts.

Thankfully, I was lucky enough to stumble into a really professional and great guy to trust with our sports coverage.  Nathan Pongee has thrown himself fully into his work and will strive to bring you the best coverage of OTHS athletics possible.  If you have any comments or suggestions for him, or would like to volunteer to help him out and cover a game or two yourself, drop him a line at

It seems that with each week that goes by the O’Fallon Weekly continues to get a step or two closer to what I envisioned it could be.  However, there are still areas that need to be addressed.

As you’ve no doubt seen the past few weeks, we’ve been advertising for an advertising sales representative.  Are you outgoing and personable?  Would you like to make some extra money? If so, consider sending us your resume.

We’re also looking for a freelance writer to cover the Shiloh area.  If you’re interested in attending Shiloh government meetings, Shiloh school board meetings, and finding general stories about things taking place in Shiloh, reach out and send me some writing samples.  I’d love to hear from you.

While we’re talking about changes and additions to the paper, I’d like to personally thank the four superintendents of the local school districts. We all spooke recently and they agreed to each send me a monthly column detailing items and issues taking place in their districts.  Each week, one of the four superintendents will have their column featured.  Last week, District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby wrote in, while this week we have District 203 Superintendent Dr. Darcy Benway.  I think it’s great that they’re taking time to communicate with their community about their efforts to educate the kids.

I’m really excited about how great things are progressing and I look forward to how much better they’re going to get.

But for now, play ball.