Helping Kids Succeed in School and in Life
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The Education Center Kids' Best Friends Benefit - October 20, 2018



At the Education Center's Kids' Best Friend Awards benefit last Saturday evening, Tim and Tom Belgio received the Kids' Best Friend Award, the Exchange Club of Naperville received the Making a Difference Award, and Dennis E. and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky received the George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award. In this photo, from left to right are: Tim and Tom Belgio, Jan and Randy Tylin, Rosemary and Dennis Wisnosky, and Marva and Dr. Mike Litow.

The Education Center will honor Tim and Tom Belgio, Dennis and Rosemary Wisnosky, and the Exchange Club of Naperville at its annual Kids' Best Friend Benefit

The Education Center is proud to announce that it will honor the Exchange Club of Naperville and four remarkable community leaders at its annual Kids' Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner in October. The honorees have impacted families and children in many ways, including efforts preventing child abuse and domestic violence, assisting veterans and nonprofit groups, supporting youth through local YMCA and Young Eagles involvement, and encouraging international peace and understanding.

This year´s awards and winners are:

  • Kids' Best Friend Award– Tim and Tom Belgio, Owners, Belgio's Catering
  • Making a Difference Award– The Exchange Club of Naperville,
  • George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award– Dennis E. and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky

Kids´ Best Friend Award
Tom and Tim Belgio will receive the 2018 Kids' Best Friend Award from The Education Center at the annual Kids' Best Friend Awards benefit in October.

Tim and Tom Belgio are well known to anyone in Naperville who has hung out at "the Beach," purchased a snack at the Riverwalk Eatery, or attended a Friday fish fry at the VFW. The brothers, owners of Belgio's Catering, got their start working in a variety of positions with the Naperville Park District at Centennial Beach in the 1980s and '90s. According to Tim Belgio, "The food piece at the Beach was the most intriguing. There would be long periods of time when no one would be in line to purchase food - until the swim break. Then the lines filled! We did our best to provide good service and provide the best experience for everyone. That gave us our foundation for service, accountability." For many years, they worked at the Beach seasonally. At the same time, they did some special events and catering on their own at Ribfest, the Last Fling, and Eyes to the Skies. Ultimately, they signed a contract as a third-party vendor for the park district and in 2001 began running the food service as Belgio's Catering at the Riverwalk Eatery, the Beach, and several parks. They also provided food service for numerous homeowner pools. As their catering business grew, they also catered Boy Scout and Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinners, school district banquets, sporting event dinners, and church events.

The desire to give back to the community was always one of the brothers' core values. "There were a lot of business owners who were always setting the tone for us when we were young," Tim explained. "We asked ourselves, 'How do we make an impact on those who impacted us?' It doesn't always need to be money that helps others. It can be your time, materials, resources, staffing." With those thoughts in mind, Belgio's Catering began to sponsor events for nonprofit groups and eventually became sponsors of major events, such as Ribfest and the Last Fling, that raise funds to help children and families.

Another group that the Belgios wanted to support was the veterans. According to Tim, "We were concerned as we saw the population of the VFW aging. We talked with them about how we could help them continue their tradition of the Lenten fish fry while reducing their workload." Together, Tim and Tom worked with the VFW to form a very successful partnership that has lasted for 15 years. Belgio's Catering does all the ordering, cooking, and staffing. Members of the VFW find service clubs who can help with the other aspects of the weekly Lenten event. The veterans now do less of the labor-intensive work and have more time to talk with and share their experiences with guests. Belgio's and the VFW share the net profits of each dinner, and there are more people who attend now than ever before.

Tim and Tom come from a large family, and kids are very important to everyone at Belgio's Catering. When they provided food service at local pools, they employed many teens who continued to work for them when returning home from college during the summers. Tom spent many years on the board of KidsMatter and is currently part of the District 203 Business Partnership Program. Tim is active with the Naperville Sunrise Rotary and is a past president. He is a committee member for St. Patty's 5K Run fundraiser and is also currently serving on the YMCA board.

Belgio's Catering has received recognition for its work on behalf of the community, including: the District 203 Exemplary Partnership Award, the Exchange Club Spirit of Naperville Award, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award, the Naperville Jaycees Distinguished Service Award, and the 360 Youth Services Business Leadership Award.

When asked what advice he would give to other businesses who want to give back to the community, Tim suggested, "Find things that are near and dear to your heart and support them. Get involved where you want and do as much as you can to help."

Making a Difference Award
The Exchange Club of Naperville

The Exchange Club of Naperville has been making a difference in the lives of children and families in this community for many years, especially in the area of child-abuse prevention. Chartered in 1987, the Exchange Club of Naperville held the first of what would become its signature fundraising event, Ribfest, in 1988, in partnership with the Naperville Park District and the City of Naperville. Since that time, the club has distributed more than $16 million to provide financial support for agencies in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Cook counties that are committed to eliminating child abuse and domestic violence, strengthening families, and promoting Americanism.

Understanding the challenges of parenting, in 1992 members of the Exchange Club established Project HELP as a non-profit organization to help parents achieve better parenting skills. Project HELP, accredited by the National Exchange Club, now serves as a model for a national network of Exchange Club Centers in 28 states. As part of its mission, the organization provides home-based parent mentoring services and parent education workshops. The Parent Mentor Program helps parents improve their understanding of child development, improve their ability to identify and manage situational stress, strengthen their social support networks, and increase their ability to find and access services to meet their family's basic needs. The Parent Education Program helps parents develop more appropriate expectations for their children, how to respond to their child's behavior, and how to provide opportunities for children to grow through mistakes.

Many facets of the Exchange Club of Naperville's Americanism projects are familiar to local residents. These projects are designed to promote pride in our country, respect for the flag, and appreciation of our freedoms. The Freedom Shrine, on display on the outside wall of the Naperville Municipal Center along the Riverwalk, displays reproductions of documents of our nation's founding and history. The Exchange Club has also placed Freedom Shrines in many local schools and public places. Club members distribute thousands of American flags each year during the Last Fling Parade as part of their Give a Kid a Flag to Wave project. The Exchange Club of Naperville also hosts the annual One Nation under God Breakfast and the annual 9/11 ceremony at the Shanower Memorial in downtown Naperville.

According to the club's president, John Dunham, "Our club members are very passionate about being able to help those in need and bringing recognition where it is deserved. I believe that is why we have been so successful for over 31 years. It's the big hearts and hard work of the membership."


George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award
Dennis E. and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky

This year's George and Pat Pradel Humanitarian Award is being given to Dennis E. and Rosemary Macko Wisnosky. They came from modest beginnings in the hills of Pennsylvania. Rosemary's grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from what is now the Slovak Republic, and Dennis's grandparents emigrated from what is now the Republic of Poland. They are very proud of their ancestry and the country to which their families came for freedom and a better life. Their lives exemplify giving back and service to others.

Residents of Naperville since 1980, Dennis and Rosemary have each made invaluable contributions to the local, national, and international communities - professionally and as volunteers. As successful entrepreneurs, both business leaders established their own companies.

Rosemary cofounded RE/MAX Affiliates in 1985. After 25 years, she and her partner sold the business to the owners of RE/MAX Professionals Select, and Rosemary continues to conduct her real estate business as a broker in that office. A renowned expert in robotics, computing, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Dennis founded Wizdom Systems, Inc., in 1986 and served as its chief executive officer. This computer technology firm became a preeminent supplier of Web-based process management methods, tools, and business process portals. While consulting for manufacturing companies, Wizdom discovered a way to use personal computer technology to automate machines on the factory floor and dramatically reduce the costs of bringing computers to manufacturing. Wisnosky was named a "Hero of U.S. Manufacturing" by Fortune magazine for his pioneering work. In subsequent professional roles, Dennis served at the Department of Defense, helping to streamline Department of Defense projects and significantly reduce costs. He currently serves as an adjunct employee for the Institute for Defense Analyses.

Volunteering on behalf of children, education, church, and international peace have always been integral in the lives of the Wisnoskys.

When their three daughters were young and the family was living in Dayton, Ohio, the young parents were instrumental in keeping open a Catholic school that the Archdiocese had ordered closed. The Wisnosky family moved to Naperville when their girls were teenagers, selecting this community because of the excellent schools.

Feeling a great responsibility to get involved, Rosemary joined the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce in 1983 and became president of the chamber in 1988. The same year, she became a member of the board of directors of the Naperville Area and served on its executive board. For several years, she was also chair of the Heritage YMCA's Child Development Center Board. Rosemary continues to serve on the Naperville Advisory Board.

Dedicated to excellence in education, Rosemary was a founding board member of SciTech, an interactive technology hands-on science center in Aurora. She and Dennis are lifetime members. She also serves as a longtime member of the Benedictine University Board of Trustees.

Honoring her family's heritage, in 1989, Rosemary became a founding board member of the Slovak American Cultural Society of the Midwest. Her international interests also led her to becoming a founding member of the Naperville Sister Cities Commission, serving as its chair in 1994. She served on the ad hoc Sister City Search Committee which chose Nitra, Slovakia, as Naperville's sister city. For her efforts and continuing support of the Naperville/Nitra Sister City relationship, she was named an Honorary Citizen of Nitra by the Nitra City Council in Nitra in 2000. She is one of three non-Slovak citizens to ever receive this award. In 2001, Rosemary and Dennis each were awarded a Medal of Honor by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

In 2002, Rosemary served as chairman of an ad hoc committee in Washington, D.C., which drafted a 13-point resolution, on behalf of organizations across the United States, in support of the Vilnius Group's entry into NATO. In November of that year, at the Prague Summit, seven of the ten-member Vilnius nations received invitations to join NATO, including Slovakia.

Rosemary was named Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic in Chicago and was installed by Slovak Republic President Ivan Gasparovic during his special visit to Benedictine University in May 2012. The Wisnoskys frequently serve as hosts to visiting dignitaries from the Slovak Embassy and from Slovakia.

Rosemary's other community involvement includes serving on the founding board of Omnia, a local group advocating for a performing arts center to be built in Naperville, and co-chairing a fundraising event at Benedictine University to build an academy for peace, Beit Benedict, on the last remaining piece of land on Mount Zion.

Once Dennis was able to find some personal time, away from work and travel, he became a private pilot - something that he had wanted to do all his life. He admitted, "The airplanes that we owned became the magic carpet to connect with family back in Pennsylvania. It was a privilege that I just had to share."

When he discovered an organization then called "Lifeline Pilots," he signed up. Now named "Angel Flights," it was established to help people in need get to some medical facility they could not reach because of lack of funds or a medical condition that made commercial air travel not possible. Dennis recalls taking two sisters to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where one was donating a kidney to the other. He also remembers taking two grandparents to St. Jude Hospital in Memphis to say goodbye to a grandchild. Another flight that he vividly recalls is a Christmas Eve flight where he was called to go to New Orleans to bring back to Chicago an 8-year-old boy for a liver transplant with his accompanying mom. "Every flight had a different set of emotions," he admits. "The patient, the passengers, and mine. I could not be distracted, no matter what happened."

Dennis later purchased a 1946 Piper Cub. In the 1990s, the Experimental Aircraft Association started a program named "Young Eagles." The goal was to fly 1,000,000 children ages 8-17 by the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. They did, and the program continued. Since joining the program, Dennis has flown more than 200 kids. Dennis has also offered free flights to high bidders at fund-raisers for important causes in the area.

Believing that there should be many more green spaces for future generations, Dennis and Rosemary have supported the Conservation Foundation for many years. Dennis is on the board of trustees, and Rosemary is on the DuPage County Board of Advisors. Both participate in many conservation activities.

An outdoorsman, Dennis just left the board of Oak Brook Trout Unlimited. Its mission is preserving cold water streams. He remains on the Conservation Committee where he is focused on local community involvement and involving youth.



2018 Kids Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner


The 2018 Kids' Best Friend Benefit and Awards Dinner will be held on Saturday, October 20, in the Hilton Lisle/Naperville Grand Ballroom, 3003 Corporate West Drive, in Lisle. Tickets are $125 per person and include a cocktail reception, dinner, and live and silent auctions. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information and ticket reservations, please contact the center at 630-420-7807 or visit www.theeducationcenter.org . The Education Center of Developmental Resources is located at 113 East Van Buren in Naperville.

NCTV "Spotlights" The Education Center

In a series of interviews on NCTV's "Spotlight on Naperville," students, parents of former students, and board members discuss how Executive Director Dr. Michael Litow helps empower young people to take responsibility for their own lives, become self-reliant, and "succeed in school and in life."

"Find a way and not an excuse."

Dr. Mike Litow, board member Mike Tegge, and parent Maria DeBartolo discuss how DeBartolo's son and other students at the Education Center learn to take responsibility for their own behavior.
"Look ahead and prepare or look behind and regret."

Dr. Mike Litow and former student Sagar Thakkar discuss how Sagar and other students who are struggling at school learn how to problem-solve, choose to succeed, and make their own situations better.
"Succeed in school and in life"

Dr. Mike Litow and parent Jeanne Newman discuss how the Education Center helped a bright but discouraged college student find his own path and pursue a course of study that allows him to succeed in the life he chooses.
"We are all in this together."

Dr. Mike Litow and parent Scott Marple discuss how the involvement of parents, job shadowing by students, and mentoring by business partners help students learn life skills and personal responsibility that help them succeed in school and in life.

Our mission is to help children succeed in school as well as in life. We discover what a child is good at and then build on their own interests. Children and teens trust us because we believe in them.

Our close relationships with school systems and the business community in Chicago and its suburbs, allow us to advocate for our students with guidance counselors and teachers as well as to connect a child with a potential mentor or employer. And we never turn away a child because of money. Whatever it takes, we go the distance for our kids.