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An Elkville family is collecting shoes to fund the adoption of their fourth child, a Chinese boy with hemophilia

ELKVILLE — Most Americans have shoes they no longer wear hiding in a corner of their closet or somewhere in their homes. Maybe the toes pinch or heels slip. Maybe the color wasn’t as perfect as it seemed in the store. Maybe they are the height of fashion — for 1998.

For Jason and Danelle Humphreys of Elkville those shoes can give a little boy in China the chance to live and enjoy life. The couple is in the middle of a shoe drive and fundraising campaign to raise money to adopt a second child with hemophilia from China.

The Humphreys have been down this road before. In 2015, they adopted their third child, Maxen, from China. Mason will be their fourth child. The couple have two biological children, Jaxon and Ella.

Danelle Humphreys is no stranger to hemophilia. Both of the couple's biological children have hemophilia, as well as her father and Maxen.

Hemophilia is a genetic bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. It can cause problems with bleeding after an injury, even one most people would consider mild, or even spontaneous bleeding inside the body, especially in the joints and muscles.

The Humphreys first saw a picture of Maxen in January 2015 on Facebook. A post on the page noted several special needs children were available for adoption, including some with hemophilia. They had not planned to adopt, but felt led to make Maxen a part of their family.

Before coming to the United States, Maxen had very limited medical care. He lived in an orphanage with limited resources. He was not allowed to play for fear he would get hurt.

“The medicine they need they don’t really have access to in China. We keep it in drawers in our utility room,” Danelle Humphreys said.

“It was one extreme to the other,” Jason Humphreys said.

The Humphreys family includes (clockwise from left) mom Danelle, Maxen, Ella, Jaxon and dad Jason. They will add Mason to the family next year. 

Today, Maxen is learning English very quickly. He walks, runs, rides in the Jeep with his dad, and plays soccer. He has spent a few weeks this fall in a cervical collar after an injury playing soccer. The doctor and his parents expect him to fully recover with few complications. Maxen is a normal “almost” 10-year-old with hemophilia, thanks to the advanced medical care available in the U.S.

The Humphreys are amazed at the progress Maxen has made. Danelle said they basically took him away from everything he knew and brought him to a strange place. They couldn’t even talk to him in a language he understood.

Jason Humphreys said Maxen was scared on the airplane and did not want to put on his seatbelt.

“He fought us probably halfway home,” Jason Humphreys said.

Now, he copies everything he can that his dad does. He loves riding in the Jeep, his dad said. Jason Humphreys laughed, saying Maxen rests his arm on the window just like he does.

Now the family of five is on its next growing adventure.

Danelle Humphreys knew when she first saw a picture of Mason, he, too, was supposed to be their son. It is hard to judge the severity of hemophilia symptoms in pictures. In some of the pictures Danelle sees, Mason seems a little stronger than Maxen was. They will not know until they arrive in China and spend time with him.

Although Mason and Maxen both come from China, they speak different languages. Maxen speaks Cantonese, and they expect Mason to speak Mandarin. Jason and Danelle will have to brush up on their Mandarin basics.

“He’s not OK over there. He needs medical care,” Danelle Humphreys said, with tears filling her eyes.

As far as she is concerned, she is Mason’s mother. Their goal is to bring Mason home by the end of spring or early summer.

“The anticipation is so much more because it was so good with Maxen,” Danelle Humphreys said.

The family will collect shoes through the end of January. Their goal is to collect 15,000 pairs of shoes by Feb. 1. They want to collect 7,500 pairs by Oct. 31. A nonprofit organization will pay the family by the pound for the shoes they collect, and then the shoes are donated to people who need them.

Maxen, Jaxon and Ella sit on a mountain of shoes at the home of Jason and Danelle Humphreys near Elkville. 

They are getting some help from local schools, like Johnston City High School. Johnston City student council and students throughout the district collected 17 trash bags full of shoes. 

"Shoes we would have eventually thrown away are going to good use," Cade Cockeburn, student council freshman president, said. 

They are planning a Paw Patrol Meet and Greet with a craft fair Nov. 18 at Du Quoin State Fairground First and Second Heat buildings. Tickets are $12 each in advance and are discounted when purchasing multiple tickets. Tickets will be $15 at the door. Each child, regardless of age, will need a ticket to enter. The event will include Paw Patrol characters, along with face painting, balloon twisting, vehicle display and craft fair.

The couple’s fundraising goal is $38,000. For more information or to donate shoes or money, visit Bringing Home a Brother on Facebook or Go Fund Me.


Carbondale
First African-American woman elected Cook County State's Attorney says SIU laid the foundation for her success

CARBONDALE — Kimberly Foxx, the first African-American woman to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, said Southern Illinois University Carbondale helped lay the foundation for her success.

Growing up in Cabrini-Green Homes in Chicago, raised by a single mother who dropped out of high school three months before she was set to graduate as she brought Foxx into the world, the groundbreaking prosecutor said she arrived 27 years ago in Carbondale “as a young person who was not expected to be much of anything,” as she put it.

“And so I got on the 4 o’clock Amtrak and came down here, for the first time in August of 1990, full of hopes and dreams and aspirations of one day becoming a lawyer. It was here, in Carbondale, for the course of the next seven years, that I got the foundation that I needed to stand here today — to come back, ever so grateful, grateful, grateful,” Foxx said Sunday afternoon at the Carbondale NAACP 40th annual Freedom Fund Banquet, where she delivered the keynote address.

Foxx said there “is no way in any imagination that I could have had back then” as an undergraduate arriving in Carbondale — the first place she ever lived away from home — for the first semester of classes “that I would be standing before you as the first African-American woman elected to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.”

At that, Foxx received a standing ovation from the crowd that filled the Carbondale Civic Center event hall. “Steadfast and Unmovable” was the theme of this year’s event, which raised money for scholarships and other activities of the Carbondale NAACP. 

Foxx said she changed her mind about the speech she wanted to give at the banquet in the 48 hours leading up to it. She returned to Chicago Saturday evening, she said, from a brief trip to Airlie, a hotel and conference center near Warrenton, Virginia, about an hour from Washington, D.C.

The reason for the trip, Foxx said, was a rare invitation for a prosecutor — herself — to address a weekend retreat for civil rights lawyers and activists sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 

Foxx said she came to learn that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has a 55-year history of meeting at the Airlie convention center, which in the early 1960s was considered the only place south of the Mason-Dixon line that would host an integrated gathering of black and white lawyers. Foxx said that as she walked around the stunningly beautiful 300-acre grounds, she could not help but feel shaken by the fact she was standing here “as a lawyer, as a prosecutor, as an elected official, on land where my ancestors toiled” in an area that was once the site of a large Virginia plantation. 

She said she wondered what her great-great-great-grandmother, who was a slave, would have thought about her great-great-great granddaughter traveling to this location to address a group of civil rights activists as an elected leader of the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country.

Foxx took office Dec. 1, 2016. “It’s easy for us to think about that accomplishment and say to ourselves, ‘We’ve gotten so far, that if I can be here, that if we could have elected an African-American president, if can we look around us at things that are so much better than they were before,’ but I couldn’t help but be struck by being in this space,” Foxx said.

Foxx said she shared her conflicted feelings over breakfast with a colleague. Just before the event was to begin, Foxx said NAACP Legal Defense Fund President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill emerged “and she was shaking.”

Foxx said Ifill relayed to her that the evening before, some of the people attending the conference had gathered to socialize in one of the many cottages on the campus. As one of those individuals headed to his room — “a distinguished lawyer from Tulsa” — walking along the edge of the road, a car barreled toward him and he had to jump out of the way, Foxx said. “And the car stopped about 20 yards ahead of him, rolled down the window, and said, ‘n----- go home,’” Foxx said that Ifill relayed to her and others. 

“As Sherrilyn was sharing this with me, right before I was going in, at a conference of lawyers, and civil rights activists, part of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and their leadership, on a plantation, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we’ve got a lot of work to do.’

“So not for a moment can we allow ourselves the comfort of believing that we have come so far that we cannot acknowledge how far we have to go,” she said.

Foxx received her bachelor’s degree in political science at SIU Carbondale and her juris doctorate degree from the SIU School of Law. In September, she was named the “Justice Champion of the Month” by the Coalition for Public Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that represents the largest national bipartisan movement to reform the criminal justice system, comprising partner organizations from across the country.

Jasmine Heiss, deputy director of the Coalition for Public Safety, said that the moment is ripe to elevate the work of forward-thinking prosecutors who are working to change the narrative about how to effectively use their particular prosecutorial powers and discretion to reduce prison populations and slow incarceration rates.

“In that vein, Kim Foxx is one of the foremost faces of this new class of reform, who is really thinking about her role not just as an enforcer of laws, but as a minister of justice,” Heiss said. Heiss said that Foxx’s background growing up in poverty on Chicago’s Near North Side in one of the country’s most notorious public housing projects also gives her a unique perspective on how to address barriers to creating just and safe neighborhoods.

During her talk in Carbondale, Foxx also addressed growing up at Cabrini-Green Homes, the demolition of which began in 1995, not long after Foxx headed for Carbondale. She said that she can relate to how families feel who are being relocated from two public housing complexes in Cairo because they are no longer considered safe due to years of neglect and their age.  

“I grew up in one of the worst public housing complexes in the country,” she said. “And so the work that’s being elevated about what’s happening in Cairo, I know personally having grown up in Carbrini.”

Foxx said it is important that the citizens of Illinois recognize that the state cannot be its best “if a child in Cairo doesn’t have the opportunity to live in decent, affordable housing … And collectively, truly, we will do better as a state, and as a nation, when we recognize that for our neighbor.” ​


Local
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Audit report finds more than $315,000 missing in Zeigler after former treasurer indicted on charges of fraud, embezzlement

ZEIGLER — An audit report from accountant Dennis Uhls provides a final number of how much former Zeigler treasurer Ryan Thorpe allegedly stole from the city and recommends a change-up in commissioner seats.

According to the report filed by Uhls Friday, he found a total of $315,890.94 that was allegedly stolen by Thorpe from Jan. 1, 2013, to Aug. 31, 2017. Uhls said in the report that “Thorpe has altered check images from the bank statements and given these falsified records to me for the Fiscal year end audits.”

Uhls also said in the report that he found that Thorpe had allegedly falsified accounting records in the city’s computer system that provided financial reports to the city council to “try to cover up theft.”

In August, FBI agents executed search warrants on Zeigler’s City Hall as well as Thorpe’s home, where agents confiscated documents as well as personal items.

Thorpe was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 3 on a five-count indictment, charging him with three counts of wire fraud and two counts of embezzlement from a local government, alleging he stole funds during his tenure as Zeigler’s treasurer.

According to the report provided by Uhls, the first amount allegedly stolen by Thorpe was $42.60, in a check written March 4, 2013. The majority of money taken, Zeigler Mayor Denis Mitchell said, were a result of hand-written checks, which he added the city no longer writes.

Much of this had been reported anecdotally or in partial reports, but the document filed Friday provided Uhls’ final analysis. Because of this, Mitchell said none of it surprises him — not even the recommendation Uhls made to reassign finance commissioner Jim Flood.

“Even if the council has to ‘draw straws’ to who will be Jim’s replacement, you need to do it,” Uhls said in the cover letter to Friday’s report. His reason for having Flood replaced stems from his “close ties to former City Treasurer Ryan Thorpe” and reports that Flood has allegedly intimidated city employees.

“If city management does not follow a C.P.A.’s recommendations on such important matter of internal control, I will have no choice but to report this matter in my audit report that goes to the Illinois Comptroller and the City’s Federal and State grant agencies,” Uhls wrote.

As for who will fill this post, Mitchell said he had two people in mind — Dorothy Bagwell-O’Brian, Zeigler’s streets commissioner, or Virgil Gunter, the city’s public safety commissioner. He said the topic has been broached with Bagwell-O’Brian, but Mitchell said she wanted to wait until the final report was released to make a decision.

“This isn’t exactly a sought-after post,” Mitchell said of finance commissioner, citing intense outside scrutiny of the position.

Jim Flood could not be reached for this report.

Contained in Uhls’ report is also a determination letter dated Oct. 10 from the Illinois Department of Employment Security denying payment to Thorpe of unemployment insurance.

“Since the reason the claimant was discharged was within the claimant’s control to avoid, the claimant was discharged for misconduct connected with the work. The claimant is ineligible for benefits,” the letter said.

Included in the report also are requests from Uhls to Chris Scroggins, the city’s CPA, to issue miscellaneous income forms to Thorpe for the money Uhls concluded he stole from the city. The largest yearly sum Thorpe reportedly took was in 2016, when the report claims he stole $105,153.39.

Thorpe will appear Thursday for arraignment before a federal judge in Benton. Mitchell said he plans to attend, seeing Thorpe for the first time since he was brought by agents to City Hall in August to return his keys, where Mitchell said he “didn’t say one word.”

“I don’t really have any anger. I should be angry,” Mitchell said. He said he doesn’t anticipate having a strong emotion when he sees Thorpe on Thursday.

According to a release sent from U.S. Attorney Donald Boyce’s office earlier this month, each count of wire fraud carries with it a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and each count of embezzlement comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. It also indicated that the indictment seeks forfeiture of several items, including a woman’s diamond ring, property in Zeigler, a portable building, firearms, two motorcycles, two side-by-side utility vehicles and a utility trailer.


State-and-regional
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Illinois' 200th birthday party gets late start, low budget

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is on the brink of its bicentennial bash, but political skirmishing that has battered the state could be blamed for late party planning, a comparatively low budget — and ultimately, its contribution to future generations.

The plans to celebrate Illinois' Dec. 3, 1818, admission to the Union seem to pale compared with the two states that joined just prior. Indiana and Mississippi spent tens of millions of dollars and have flashy "legacy" projects to show off. The Prairie State, just seven weeks from kickoff of its yearlong festivities, is aiming to raise a modest $4 million to $6 million.

Stuart Layne, executive director of the Illinois Bicentennial, acknowledges planning got a belated start with his appointment just a year ago. While he said significant corporate and other donors are stepping up, he would not say how much has been raised.

But he dismissed the idea that two years of infighting in the 21st state between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who appointed him, and Democrats who control the General Assembly over a budget that is billions in the red, has hamstrung the project.

He said he's taken two things from virtually every conversation he's had about the Illinois celebration.

"People want us to use the bicentennial as a platform to change the conversation about the state of Illinois, to talk about all the great things that Illinois has contributed to society," Layne said in a speech in Springfield this month. "The second is pride. People are proud to be from this state. ... That has become our mantra."

There are plans for exhibits; a school curriculum; a United Center ceremony honoring 200 Illinoisans in arts, entertainment, sports, agriculture and business; and more.

But it's hard not to notice what's been done elsewhere. Raising $55 million by leasing unused state-owned cell-tower space, Indiana, which celebrated its bicentennial last December, built a state archives building, a statehouse-lawn bicentennial plaza, a state-library learning center and an inn at a state park.

In Mississippi, years of planning went into the celebration, along with over $100 million — including $90 million from taxpayers — for construction of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in downtown Jackson. Katie Blount, the bicentennial organizer and director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said the museums will open Dec. 9, on the eve of Mississippi's birthday.

It's nice to cut ribbons on grand projects to mark such events. Illinois did it when ground was broken for the $3 million Centennial Building, now the Michael J. Howlett Building, on the state Capitol grounds in 1918. But the key to Indiana's celebration was buy-in, said former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who chaired the state's bicentennial with then-Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, a Republican.

"We'd go to the civic groups, the Rotary, or Kiwanis with our bicentennial plans and say, 'What are you going to do about it?'" Hamilton said. "We'd push and prod, and some would ignore you, some would say, 'You're wasting your time,' but most reacted positively to it. It instilled some pride and people started to say, 'I'm glad I'm a Hoosier.'"

Yes, Indiana's commission had a top-notch staff that traveled 65,000 miles and visited 300 communities, Hamilton said, but coordinators in all 92 counties directed how to celebrate in a locally appropriate way, he said.

Layne, who's paid $142,000 through state tourism funds, said he has a small staff.

In Mississippi, Blount agreed that people are key. The state-of-the-art museums cover the sweep of state history and, in the Civil Rights section, the state's unique place — warts and all — in the struggle for racial equality. They will be the state's birthday gift to the future.

"But the bicentennial celebrations that took place in communities across the state had a real grassroots spirit and reflected lots of different people's ideas about what the bicentennial means to Mississippi," Blount said. "And the funding came from many sources in addition to the Mississippi Legislature."

— Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.