Petrak: Once again, La Grange rallies for one of its own

Lynn Petrak
Lynn Petrak
Lynn Petrak
For Sun-Times Media
Aug. 1 5:05 p.m.

We come here for things like the schools, parks, a cute downtown, proximity to the train and expressways.

We stay, largely, for the same things. We go about our daily business, enjoying a walk in the park, grabbing a bite to eat, driving to work or school.

But then something happens — something awful — and we realize that it’s the people around us who sustain us and who make this community a special place to live.

All too often in the past 19 years that I’ve lived in La Grange, I’ve seen the special spirit of our community rise during the lowest of points.

Parents facing the ordeal of a child with cancer, for instance, have been supported through a range of kind-hearted actions, from major fundraisers that drew a substantial part of the community to smaller gestures, like a flower left on a doorstep or a freezer-ready meal anonymously delivered on a weeknight. A family who lost their home to a devastating fire received baskets of gift cards and other donations within a day or two of the blaze. Those who have lost a spouse all too young to accident or illness have felt the ring of support and love in many ways, including the formation of a local nonprofit men’s organization called The Legacy Guild that collectively manages a college scholarship award program for young people who have lost a parent.

Remember, too, how our surrounding communities came together after the senseless killing of Lyons Township High School freshman Kelli O’Laughlin, who surprised an intruder in her Indian Head Park home nearly three years ago. It was the worst of times that brought out the best in those who wanted to help or just express their support as best they could.

Once again, the community is rallying to support one of its own. In the wake of the shooting of La Grange resident Steven LaVoie in Chicago’s Loop, people have tied hundreds of red ribbons around trees, taken turns staying with and taking out family members, held a prayer vigil and expressed their prayers, concern and encouragement on social media.

Drive past a sea of ribbons, and read some of the messages on social media and on the caringbridge.org webpage that updates friends about Steven’s condition, and you’ll see how people in frightening and tragic circumstances can be lifted up by those in the community, whether they are fellow school parents, neighbors, co-workers or even those who may not know the family well but want to let them know they are in their prayers.

There are definitely days when it can feel like we’re on our own in a big, scary and often maddening world. And then there are moments like this in our town, when we know that we can and do come together when it matters most.

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