Rock Steady Boxing O’Fallon – Fight Parkinson’s

O’Fallon, IL. – The month of April was designated Parkinson’s Awareness Month by the United States Senate in 2010. This year, the Parkinson’s Foundation’s theme is “Start a Conversation.” It is a call to action that urges people to talk about Parkinson’s with their loved ones, friends, neighbors, care team and community. 

Rock Steady Boxing O’Fallon, located at 629 West Highway 50 in O’Fallon is hosting an Open House on Saturday, April 13, 2019 from 9 a.m. until noon to welcome all families who have been touched by Parkinson’s disease. Rock Steady Boxing is an exercise program for people at all levels of Parkinson’s to help manage their symptoms, maintain and maximize their level of fitness and help them stay as active as possible, thereby slowing the progression symptoms. “This program gives hope to all who participate and a sense of camaraderie,” said Steve Stephens, a coach at Rock Steady who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nearly 30 years ago. “We encourage all who have been affected by Parkinson’s disease to come and see what we are all about. It will change your life.” 

An estimated on million people in the U.S. live with Parkinson’s disease and every year 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD. The importance of National Parkinson’s Awareness Month is to help people learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatments of the disease.

For more information, call Rock Steady Boxing O’Fallon, Inc. at (618) 589-9080 or visit the website at

A night under the stars

O’Fallon – There will be a lot of beautiful things to observe in the sky, during the month of April. The O’Fallon Public Library is hosting a Star Viewing Party and is partnering with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. The event will start in the Library’s Community Room, where community members will learn how to unpack and use a telescope. They will then be shown how the telescope works and how to find different objects in the night sky. With the weather permitting, the event will then move out to the library’s lawn to use the telescope. 

“With summer coming up, we anticipate this being a fun family activity and the telescopes to be heavily requested,” Jessi Baker, Program and Social Media Coordinator, said. 

Come out to the O’Fallon Public Library on April 11th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and use the Library’s new telescope. After the Star Viewing Party, the telescope will then become available to the community. 

Cope Marine wins Small Business of the Year Chamber Salute to Business Award

Ken Cope, right, and his son Shane are proud to be honored as the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.

Ken Cope of Cope Marine in O’Fallon said it’s nice to be recognized as Small Business of the Year for the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Salute to Business Awards.

Ken and his family started his business in 1964 and moved to its O’Fallon location in 1969. Prior to that, the business was located off Highway 158 near Scott Air Force Base. 

According to Ken, the whole climate of the O’Fallon community has changed since he first started his business. 

“When I started, it was two lane highway then it got to be a three lane road and now a five lane road with all kinds of businesses and traffic,” Ken said. 

There are eight and a half acres of property that are dedicated to Cope Marine at their O’Fallon location. Cope Marine sells and services boats, motors and trailers. 

Ken said his ultimate plan for his business is for himself to eventually retire and have his son, Shane, take over Cope Marine. 

“Shane has worked here since about four years old and is an integral part of the business,” Ken said. “The design is to have him take it over.” 

“It’s nice to see the town recognizing us as people who have worked hard — local people that stayed in town and built a business and served a lot of customers from long ways away,” Ken said. 

Cope Marine operates at a second location in Branson West, Missouri, which is right by Table Rock Lake. They have been there for 21 years and in O’Fallon for 55 years. 

“It’s a very difficult task with two locations because there are 300 miles between the two stores,” Ken said. “We are busy at both locations.”

Ken said running his business is a challenge every day. What helps, he said, is quality help and finding proper employees dedicated to the workforce. Cope Marine employs approximately 30 people. 

“We are predominate in this marketplace,” Ken said. “We have everything that a person would want for a boat.”

“It’s nice to be noticed by our town. We are proud of that,” Ken said. “Very few family businesses endure for the time frame that we have endured.”

“It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat equity, a lot of late nights and early mornings. There is no secret to it other than roll your sleeves up and get at it and do the best you can.”

“Cope Marine is one of the unsung heroes of business in O’Fallon,” Chamber president Sid LeGrand said. “For over 55 years, they have provided excellent boating equipment and services locally and to a nationwide market, while adding significantly to the sales tax revenue used to fund public services.”

Janelle Hensler wins Ambassador Impact Chamber Salute to Business Award

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.

Janelle Hensler is recipient to the Ambassador Impact Award for the 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards but insists that all credit goes to the “amazing Chamber staff.” 

“We are fortunate to have such a great O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce,” Hensler said. “The true credit should be for our amazing Chamber staff that work so hard to connect over 600 members and pull off countless events flawlessly.” 

Hensler said the Chamber Board of Directors and her fellow ambassadors who invest their time and talents make everyone in the community feel welcome. 

Hensler worked as the Director of Member and Fitness Services at McKendree Metro Rec Plex for close to three years before recently claiming a new positions as Patient Coordinator at Victory Men’s Health. 

“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve O’Fallon in any capacity,” Hensler said. “This community, its leaders and business owners model servant leadership daily. Their commitment to O’Fallon is contagious and you can’t help but want to be a part of this community.”

Hensler said the Chamber offers many learning opportunities such as Lunch and Learn, Chamber YOUniversity educational sessions, Book Club that focuses on professional development, leadership and business. 

“The O’Fallon Shiloh Leaderhip Institute (LeadIn) lead by Jessica Lotz has had the greatest influence on my development,” Hensler said.

The LeadIn program connects 20 young professionals under 40 years of age for a 10 month program. 

“This program exposed us to community issues, resources within the community, and opportunities to become more involved and serve,” Hensler said.

LeadIn is now in its third year and has now connected over 60 young professional that are committed to serve and make an impact in O’Fallon. 

“Chamber Ambassadors are the reason I continued to attend Chamber events,” Hensler said. “Networking events such as Business Over Breakfast and Business After Hours can be intimidating if you are new. Ambassadors do an excellent job of making new attendees feel welcome and connected with other businesses.”

Hensler said her greatest professional achievement is a commitment to be a lifelong learner and surrounding herself with likeminded professionals that challenge her growth and development. 

Debbie Arell-Martinez, Executive Director of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, said all chamber ambassadors are active and doing great things. 

“Janelle, a recent grad of our Leadership Institute, has been wanting to get more involved in professional development,” Arell-Martinez said. “When she heard of the possibility of a Book Club – she jumped at the chance to lead it. She went above and beyond just leading the book discussion. That’s how Janelle operates – she’s full-steam ahead and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see what ideas she has next. 

Brad McMillin for O’Fallon’s historic City Hall wins Beautification Chamber Salute to Business Award

Developer Brad McMillin will be presented with the Chamber of Commerce’s Salute to Business Award for Beautification for his work restoring O’Fallon’s Old City Hall.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.

Brad McMillin has a long history of development in the O’Fallon community. On Wednesday, April 10, McMillin will be recognized as a O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Salute to Business award recipient for renovation of the historic City Hall. 

Along with the Old City Hall renovation, McMillin’s most notable developments are: 

• Beltone Hearing Aid Center – it was built 33 years ago, torn down and rebuilt 15 years ago. 

• Western Sizzler – it was purchased and remodeled in 1993. 

• The Econo Lodge (Quality Inn) – A new development for McMillin that was constructed in 2000

• The Peel building 

• Unity Yoga & Wellness – remodeled in 2016

• Old City Hall – Purchased and renovated in 2018

• 1st Street Exchange – currently under construction 

• TownPlace Suites by Marriott – currently under construction; expected to open late April of 2019.

“Unity Yoga & Wellness was certainly the most significant project to date,” McMillin said. “It holds a special place to me because my wife, Time McMillin owns and operates the business.” 

“I’m accustomed to remodeling buildings for myself or for others within the community, but working on this project was a labor of love for both my wife and I,” he said. 

McMillin said he grew up in a small town where there wasn’t a lot of development and growth. 

“Being apart of a community that plans for its future residents is not only inspiring, but it creates a great atmosphere for residents and business alike.” 

“For 33 years I have focused on growing the Midwest Beltone,” McMillin said. “Our corporate office in O’Fallon is the headquarters for what has become the largest Beltone dispenser.”

This year, Beltone will expand its offices to Florida and by the end of the year, Midwest Beltone will grow to over 130 locations. 

McMillin said he is lucky to have experienced the growth of O’Fallon first hand. 

“I watched cornfields transform into shopping malls and strip centers,” he said. “Corporations and hospitals have settled in for the along haul, making O’Fallon a career centered destination.” 

“But, what is heartwarming to see is the resurgence of downtown O’Fallon. It’s a place where you can spend time with your family, dine, shop and play,” McMillin said. 

“Brad McMillin is a champion of development in our community,” Chamber president Sid LeGrand said. “The renovation of Old City Hall is a wonderful testament to the history of downtown O’Fallon.”

Tye-Dyed Iguana wins Spirit of the Chamber Salute to Business Award

Tye-Dyed Iguana Owner Matt Smallheer handles one of the store’s many snakes. 
(Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.

Tye-Dyed Iguana owners Matt and Stephanie Smallheer say that receiving the O’Fallon-Shiloh Salute to Business Sprit of the Chamber award is “humbling” and “surreal.”  

After quitting their jobs at the YMCA and opening their store in 2006, they say their lives became incredibly difficult. 

“The early days were wildly difficult for us,” Matt Smallheer said. “It was just the two of us for the first four years.” 

Matt said he would work open to close every single day for four years straight. As time went on, Matt and Stephanie were able to take days off such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. 

Stephanie said their son was only two years old at the time of opening Tye-Dyed Iguana. “He grew up living in our store and that’s all he knew.”

“It was a tremendous amount of sacrifice,” Matt said. “No one took us seriously.” 

“Here we are, 13 years later and we have been able to not only build a living for our family, we have 16 employees making livings off of what we are doing,” he said. 

While Matt and Stephanie were involved with the Chamber of Commerce when they opened their business in 2006, it wasn’t until two years later when Matt was asked to become a Chamber ambassador. 

“To be asked to represent the Chamber of Commerce was a defining moment,” Matt said. 

Being involved with the Chamber lead Matt and Stephanie to become involved with Rotary Club of O’Fallon. 

“I would attribute all success to those two organizations,” Matt said. He added that both organizations taught him how to give back to the O’Fallon community. 

“In those early days it was very survival-orientated,” Matt said. “I learned over time, the more you give, the more you get.” 

Matt said his business is centered in large part on the youth in the community – through summer camps, educational classes, after school activities, birthday parties and various free events. 

“It’s giving the community something to do and giving their kids something to hold onto and remember,” Matt said. “Now, we are at point where kids are coming back with their kids.”

Matt said the secret to Tye-Dyed Iguana’s success is that he and Stephanie knew that failure was never an option. 

“You can’t run a business as a hobby, it has to be your prime focus and dedication,” he said. “We both quit our jobs at the YMCA so if TyeDye would have failed, we along with our son at the time literally would have had nothing,” Matt said. “Failure is just not an option especially when you are trying to raise a family.”

“It’s really just doing something you are passionate about,” he said. “Exotic reptiles was always something we were passionate about. Even today, it’s just not work.”

Matt said in terms of the future, he plans on expanding Tye-Dyed Iguana’s section of exotic plants. He also plans on continuing to serve St. Clair County as county board member. 

Chamber president Sid LeGrand commended the Smallheers for building their business from the ground up.

“In doing so, they have invested much of themselves to make an innovative business successful,” LeGrand said, “Yet, they have excelled in community spirit with their volunteer activity in the Chamber and Rotary.”

Wolfersberger Funeral Home wins Community Service Chamber Salute to Business Award

Kim and Jim Sabella of Wolfersberger Funeral Home (Photo by Melissa Federhofer)

O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.

Community service comes naturally to Kim and Jim Sabella, owners and operators of Wolfersberger Funeral Home in O’Fallon. 

The Sabellas are recipients of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Salute to Business award for Community Service and will be honored at the 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards.

“It is a natural thing for us to want to be involved,” Kim Sabella said. “It’s icing on the cake that I get to do all of these things with Jim.” 

Wolfersberger Funeral Home, located at 102 W. Washington, serves families throughout O’Fallon, Shiloh, Troy, Lebanon, Swansea, Fairview Heights, Belleville and Scott Air Force Base. 

Jim attributes their family’s community service in part to his upbringing. 

“It’s hard for me to say ‘no’ when someone asks for help,” he said. 

Along with offering guidance for families during their time of death and grief, the Sabellas consistently contribute to the betterment of the O’Fallon community. 

The Sabellas have hosted an annual blood drive for more than a decade, coordinating it, marketing it and scheduling people to donate.

In his spare time, Jim, retired Air Force veteran, volunteers as shuttle driver for local disabled veterans.

In July of 2018, Kim hosted her inaugural “Funeral Forum” – which now are ongoing events open to the community as a way to discuss funeral related topics in a comfortable setting, and not at time of need. 

“Kim does a lot of speaking to various group, she almost always has someone on the schedule whether it’s eighth graders at a career fair or church groups for confirmation classes,” Jim said. 

“People want to know how did I come to do this,” Kim said. “It’s really unique, especially for women. For me, that’s one of my favorite things to do is share my story and talk with people.”

“The funeral home here — it is an extension of our home. We do live upstairs and we want to be warm and welcoming,” Kim said. “If there is a goal that I have, I want to make you feel at home.”

Kim and Jim have four other employees – Katie Wilson, a licensed funeral director and embalmer, funeral assistants Bill Gehrs, Patrick Kuhl and Ruth Ann Britt. 

“Katie is really involved with suicide prevention and awareness,” Kim said. 

Katie also serves on the St. Clair County Suicide Prevention Alliance, and is a certified QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) trainer, who educates the public on how to respond when encountering someone who may be suicidal. 

“We are proud of Katie’s work with that,” Kim said. 

Kim said she is happy to keep building relationships with people in the community. 

“We love living downtown and we are so excited for the new O’Fallon Station,” she said. 

Kim described O’Fallon as a mobile and transient community due to the proximity of Scott Air Force Base, but also one that people want to come to and raise their kids here. 

“It isn’t just the people who were born and raised here,” she said. “They are here and are vital to contributing to the community but there are so many people with fresh ideas. As it continues to grow it’s bringing such an added variety of fantastic and creative people.” 

Kim said she was first invited to join the Sunrise Rotary Club of O’Fallon by one of Jim’s former coworkers when he was still active duty in the Air Force. 

“Initially I thought it would be a really difficult time commitment,” Kim said. “As that has evolved I don’t look at it as a time commitment, I see more of an opportunity to meet fun people and have breakfast with them and participate in projects to give back to the community.

“The Chamber has really helped us build relationships and just to get to know people,” she added.

“Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s so rewarding,” Kim said about her life as a funeral director. “We feel really fortunate, we love O’Fallon.” 

Chamber president Sid LeGrand remarked that the Sabellas are very familiar names in O’Fallon.

“Not just because of their business, but because of their dedication to the community,” he said.

“From being key members in the Chamber of Commerce, to leadership in Rotary, to shepherding the downtown clock renovation, to ringing the bells at St. Clare Church, they’ve done it all,” he said. “There’s never a need to ask, Kim and Jim are always there to lend a helping hand.”

New family registration for Breakers Swim Team set for April 6

The O’Fallon Breakers summer swim team will have open registration on Saturday, April 6 at the O’Fallon Township offices, located at 801 East State Street in O’Fallon. Registration hours are from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The Breakers, which compete in the 10-team Midwest Swim Conference, have offered a competitive summer swim team for the youth of O’Fallon for over 30 years. And according to Breakers Board President Rick Edwards, while the kids do work hard they have lots of fun along the way.

“The Breakers are a longstanding summer tradition in O’Fallon. Practices are early in the morning, Monday through Friday. We generally have meets Tuesday and Thursday nights in early June, with at least half of those meets at O’Fallon Pool in the park. The season culminates with the Conference Meet in late July at the new Rec Plex. And yes, the Breakers have been highly successful over the years and the kids do work hard, but they have a blast as well. It’s just a great experience.”

“It’s also worth noting that while some swimmers are highly competitive and eventually branch out to year-round club swimming and/or swim in high school, many others are just out here to have fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But understand the Breakers are a competitive team, meaning our purpose is not to teach kids how to swim. Kids have to be able to do the stokes appropriate for their age group, which is generally Backstroke and Freestyle for the youngest age groups and then all four strokes (Back-Free-Breast-Fly) generally age 9 and above. So the focus is on getting better at those strokes and increasing endurance. And fortunately, we have an awesome coaching staff to lead the way, led by Head Coach Katie Kuhl – who swam competitively for Miami University in Ohio and is now the Aquatic Manager at the McKendree Metro Rec Plex here in O’Fallon. It’s a great group of kids and solid coaching staff.”

Swimmer ages generally range from 7 – 18, with 18 being the maximum age for eligibility (as of June 1, 2018). Other teams in the conference are located in Belleville, Highland, Trenton, and Dupo.

Annual Boys vs Girls Lacrosse game to raise money in honor of coach who passed from cancer

By Kate Crutcher

O’FALLON – To many the word “family” is just a word, but to the OTHS lacrosse program, it is a word that defines who they are and what it means to be in their program. After every practice and before every game, the team members say the word “family” to one another. No matter if you played for one year or all four years, if you are a sophomore or a senior, once a part of the OTHS lacrosse team, that player is always a part of the family. 

“Last year we lost one our own lacrosse family members to cancer, Coach Terry Williamson. He was an excellent lacrosse, football, and baseball coach and loved spending time with his friends and family,” Jen Gabb, friend of Coach Terry Williamson, said. 

Coach Terry Williamson served in the United States Air Force for 30 years. His service as a medical service corps officer shaped him into the leader that he was for the students that looked up to him. He greatly enjoyed being involved in his community, along with coaching the students of OTHS. 

In memory of Coach Terry Williamson, the OTHS lacrosse programs are gathering to play the annual Boys vs Girls charity game, sponsoring The American Cancer Society for their friend, community member and coach. The eighth annual game will be held on Saturday, April 6 at 5 p.m. on the OTHS Stadium Turf Field. There is a $5 suggested donation that will be donated to The American Cancer Society. 

Boys Track team takes the top spot at O’Fallon Relays

O’Fallon High School hosted the 53rd annual O’Fallon Relays on Friday, March 29. 

OTHS was the team champion for the Gold Division of the O’Fallon Relays. This was the team’s second team championship of the season. 

“Overall, we had another outstanding day. Our young athletes continue to impress and improve. We performed well again in the sprint relays, running season best times in the 4×100 and 4×200. We had a couple of hiccups in the SMR and the 4×400, but both relays still ran good times. The distance events also performed well, placing high in both 4x800s, taking two places in the 3200m run, and placing second in the DMR,” said Head Coach Joe Speaks. 

“Depth has been the key to both of our team wins this season. We have placed in most every event, often placing two in individual events.”

Rod Williams took first place in a variety of events including long jump, varsity 4×800, shuttle hurdle relay, and varsity 4×200. 

Taylor Lehman won first in the 300IH.

Zach Claxton took second in pole vault. Nick Farmer placed second in discus.

Will Ray placed second in the 3200m, F/S 4×800, and DMR. 

Boys Lacrosse team sees mixed results on the road

Goalie Tommy Fulford (#34) and Will Dunlap (#22) await the shot on goal as Braden Gaab (#2) attempts the block. (Photo by Scott Gaab)

The O’Fallon Boys Varsity Lacrosse Team recently hit the road for a few games.

The Panthers started on Friday and played a strong Jordan High School team from North Carolina.  The Panthers played hard, but lost their first game of the season.  

The boys bounced back nicely Saturday morning defeating Christian Presbyterian Academy (CPA), a high school team from Tennessee, in a close game that ended 15-12.  

Braden Gaab (#2) takes the faceoff with Ryan Ritchie (#28) watching from the defense. (Photo by Scott Gaab)

Finally, the Panther’s played Franklin High School, another local team, in the afternoon and came up short with a close 10-14 loss.  The Panthers are 6 and 2 on the season and have a home stand this week with games against Rockwood Summit and St. Mary’s.

On Saturday, April 6, at 5  p.m. at the O’Fallon High School Turf Field, the Boys and Girls Lacrosse programs will be teaming up to play the annual Boys vs. Girls charity game to honor a beloved coach, husband, father and friend. The kids will be playing in memory of the O’Fallon Boys Lacrosse Coach Terry Williamson who passed away last year from cancer.  Terry enjoyed coaching and mentoring the youth of O’Fallon. His selfless involvement has left a lasting impact on the local community. 

Beau Carney (#23) defends against CPA with Evan Carney (#19) and Braden Gaab (#2) backing him up. (Photo by Scott Gaab)

There is a $5 gate entry fee and proceeds this year will go to the American Cancer Society. Please come out to show your support and honor Coach Williamson.

Girls Lacrosse team undefeated after three big wins last week

OTHS Lax vs Ladue- #14 Maddie Dalonzo (Photo by Tim Grout)

The OTHS Girls Lacrosse team continued its winning ways this past week. Currently the team is undefeated, 6-0, heading into this week.

Last week, the team took the field first on Tuesday, March 26, to take on Ladue. The Lady Panthers made short work of Ladue, defeating them 11-1. 

Zoe Hicks was named the Player of the Game for three ground balls and two caused turnovers.

Brooke Thomas was named the player of the game on Wednesday, March 27, when the Lady Panthers lacrosse team took on Oakville. OTHS would win 16-5. 
(Photo by Tim Grout)

Then on Wednesday, March 27, the team took on Oakville and continued their winning streak, winning 16-5. 

Brooke Thomas was honored as the Player of the Game against Oakville for her two goals, 100 percent shooting percentage, one draw control, and three ground balls.

Finally, on Friday, March 29, the Lady Panthers won a hard fought victory against St. Joseph’s Academy, 12-8.

OTHS Lax vs Ladue- #9 Adler Maher
(Photo by Tim Grout)

Maddie Dalonzo was named the Player of the Game on Friday for her hard work and hustle, scoring six goals on nine shots, getting two assists, six draw controls, three ground balls, one interception, and one caused turnover.

The girls will take the field again this week and attempt to keep their undefeated streak alive, first on Wednesday, April 3, against Nerinx Hall and then versus John Borough’s School on Friday, April 5.

OTHS Lax vs Oakville- #28 Mia Colebrooke
(Photo by Tim Grout)

View of the Past: O’Fallon water tower construction in 1987

This week’s view shows the construction of the $546,000 O’Fallon water tower off of Behrens Drive, near the Seven Hills Road roundabout, in late October 1987.  Before being assembled, the curved sides of the tower were on the ground facing up.  Local kids discovered that they made good skateboard ramps.  As a result, the sides were soon flipped over, to the skateboarders’ dismay. 

Contributed by Brian Keller, O’Fallon Historical Society

Local districts discuss school safety and active shooters at second board academy session

O’Fallon Police Captain Jim Cavins spoke about the department’s involvement within the schools to the assembled board members at the second board academy session.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – School board members, superintendents and board candidates from local districts gathered at the O’Fallon Public Safety building to discuss school safety and security with law enforcement. 

The second School Board Academy session took place on Tuesday, March 26 and included representatives from District 90, District 203, District 85 and District 104. The O’Fallon Police Department spoke to those gathered about the importance of school security in today’s national climate. 

Captain Jim Cavins first spoke at the session about the O’Fallon P.D. and its involvement within the community and schools. Cavins pointed out the mission statement: “The O’Fallon Police Department is dedicated to proactively solving problems and protecting life and property through education, prevention and enforcement.  In striving to accomplish this mission, service to community is our commitment; honor and integrity our mandate.” 

Cavins then gave general information on the police department and its divisions, programs and organizations. 

O’Fallon Township High School School Resource Officer (SRO) Brian Riggar then spoke to board academy attendees about school safety and intruder defense training. 

Riggar is an officer assigned full time to District 203 throughout the school year. He is responsible for promoting positive relationships between O’Fallon P.D. and the students, parents and staff of the high school.

 A SRO’s responsibility is to assist the professional staff with the safety of students and staff, and also to evaluate the security of the facilities. 

Riggar said the elements of the intruder defense training is: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage. 

“This is what we teach to all schools — every school district in O’Fallon,” Riggar said.

The intruder defense training or — active shooter training — is necessary due to the steady incline of school shooters since the year 2000, Riggar said. 

Riggar said the instructional training is “not preventative, it’s saving lives.” “The goal is to save as many as we can.” 

The average response time from a police department to a school with an active shooter is three minutes, Riggar said. 

In an active shooter scenario, Riggar said your body will do one of three things: fight, flight or freeze.

Because of this, Riggar said the school community needs to be involved in training. 

Training in schools involves a powerpoint presentation for staff and then the police department will run drills recreating an active shooter scenario. 

While school lockdowns were mostly used in past active shooter situations, “it’s time to do something else, either flee or engage,” Riggar said. 

Riggar said active shooter training can be applied to multiple places like the movie theatre, restaurants, church and businesses. 

Riggar said if a staff member were to disarm an active shooter to place the weapon in a garbage can. 

According to Riggar, none of the four E’s: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage— are more important than the other. 

Dr. Darcy Benway, OTHS District 203 superintendent, said she thinks it’s important for board members to participate in the active shooter training if they are able to. 

“I think it’s very important for board members to participate because you are a vulnerable population when you are sitting in front of the public — sometimes board members have to make very difficult situations,” Benway said. “The public can become very angry.”

Benway referenced the Kirkwood City Council shooting that took place approximately 10 years ago that left six people dead. 

“It’s important that you start training your frame of mind as a board member,” she said. “Where are you going to go should someone come to a board meeting with the intent to do harm.”

Van Hook presented with Illinois Senate Certificate of Recognition

Pictured from left: Mayor Herb Roach, Chief Eric Van Hook, State Senator Jason
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Kate Crutcher)

By Kate Crutcher

O’FALLON – O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook was honored Monday with a certificate of recognition from the Illinois Senate for being named the 2019 Chief of the Year by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Van Hook will be accepting an award during the Annual Awards Banquet in Oak Brook, Illinois, on April 26. The award is for Van Hook’s leadership in the community and his police department. During Monday’s presentation, State Senator Jason Plummer recognized Chief Van Hook for being selected as Illinois Chief of Year. 

“I want to thank everyone because southern Illinois is a great place to live. If you go into the communities that are growing and where families are settling down, it is the law enforcement that makes the difference. O’Fallon goes above and beyond and is a great place to be. It is not an easy job, but the entire state of Illinois is proud of the chief and what the department has done,” Senator Plummer said. 

Van Hook has served as the Chief of Police for O’Fallon since 2013. His career as a police officer started in 1990. After leaving for 15 months, to help out the neighboring town of Collinsville, he returned to O’Fallon to not only manage the O’Fallon Police Department, but also the EMS. There are 50 full-time sworn in officers, along with 31 civilians. 

“We are so fortunate to have Chief Van Hook as a leader of public safety and the team that he built through the ranks. Chief, the whole community thanks you,” O’Fallon Mayor Herb Roach said.

Van Hook obtained his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Sterling College and his masters in human resource development from Webster University. 

“It is extremely humbling to be recognized. It isn’t an ‘I’ sort of thing, it is a ‘we’ sort of thing. I am the one person getting the award, but I feel like 150 people from all walks of life in O’Fallon should also be getting the award. One person is not responsible for where we are today. I am just blessed to be surrounded by so many amazing people,” Chief Van Hook said.