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People Who Inspired Us in 2012

One woman bakes treats and donates profits to feed the hungry. An 8-year-old pushed for a safety day at his school. And after 70 years of marriage, one couple is still deeply in love.

We've highlighted some of the top headlines in Darien and Woodridge during 2012, and unfortunately a lot of the top news ends up being bad: major crimes take place, governments disagree and so on.

But there's definitely no shortage of great people in Darien and Woodridge, and we want to highlight their work as well. Here's who inspired us in 2012. 

Have someone in mind that we missed? Tell us about them in the comments! 

Cakes for a Cause: Woman Donates Baking Profits to Help Feed Hungry

A Darien woman is making life a little sweeter for people in the area by combining her greatest passions: baking and volunteering. 

Julie Stone has loved baking all of her life, but it wasn't until a few years ago that she realized she could put her skills to work by helping people. Instead of taking money for her baked goods, people write her a check made out to the People's Resource Center, and she donates the money to help the center. 

"I get to bake and it’s money for my cause. I love to see their face when they come pick up their cake. This is my ultimate thing. They’re always so kind and say it made their day, and that makes my day."

8-Year-Old Boy's Letter Sparks Bike Safety Day at Concord

Eight-year-old Hunter Long has never met the boy he calls “Big Hunter.” Big Hunter is Hunter Himes, the 14-year-old Lakeview Junior High student who was hit by a car in February while riding his bike. Hunter Long, however, says they share more in common than just a name.

“All the Hunters in the world would be broken if one of the Hunters were hurt,” Hunter said. “They really want to do something for him because they feel really bad for him.”

With the help of his mom, Ginny Long, Hunter came up with the idea of Hope for Hunter Day at Concord Elementary School.

Local Dogs Help Comfort Newtown Children After Tragedy

Following the tragedy in Newtown, CT, Darien resident Toni Bazon traveled to Connecticut with K-9 comfort dogs to try to spread some cheer to the children. One of the dogs was Shami, a comfort dog from Darien.

One girl sat by Shami and pet her, and the girl's mom said it was the first time she had talked to anyone since leaving Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting. 

Mayor Honors Teens Who Spotted House Fire

Three Darien teens helped prevent a possible tragedy when they spotted flames shooting from the roof of a home in the Mallard Landing subdivision and alerted the homeowner, who was working in the garage.

Mayor Kathleen Weaver honored the teens at a June City Council meeting for alerting the homeowner to the fire coming from his house.

The three girls—Jade Comes, Hunter Dapkus and Lane Paulson—were walking along Plainfield Road on their way to play miniature golf May 18 when they saw the blaze.

“Your efforts were so unique,” Weaver said. “Young people that cared enough to do something and actually notify a resident—that’s pretty special.”

Darien Citizens of the Year Help Local Kids Achieve Dreams

The good deeds happen quietly: piano lessons for a student here, a musical instrument for a student there. Darien is more subtly beautiful each year for the pockets of trees planted in its parks, three or four at a time, in memory of loved ones lost. Young adults with disabilities experience the thrill of taking the stage with the aid of a grant to the La Grange Actors with Special Needs Theater Group.

Robert and Charleen Vuillaume are very humble about the difference they make through The Gift of Carl Foundation, established in 2005 in memory of the Vuillaume’s 16-year-old son, Carl, who drowned during a family vacation.

The city of Darien recognized the Vuillaumes as the 2012 Citizens of the Year for their foundation’s work in Darien and beyond.

“In their quiet, unassuming ways, Rob and Char Vuillaume together have touched the lives of thousands in Darien,” the Citizen of the Year Committee wrote in its endorsement.

High School Sweethearts Celebrate 70 Years of Marriage

What's more inspiring than a love that lasts forever? For Joe and Violet Luecke, that's a reality. There’s still a sparkle in Joe Luecke’s eyes when he looks at his bride, Violet. 

“They say, ‘How do you stay married?’” Joe said. “First, you find a girl who’s pretty; then she has to be smart; and then she has to be flexible.”

The Lueckes celebrated their platinum anniversary just one week before Valentine’s Day at Carmelite Carefree Village in Darien. They’re one of two married couples living together in the retirement home. 

Darien 'Wonder Boy' Represents American Heart Association

Marty Viau was born with an atrial ventricular septal defect — simply put, a hollow heart. There was a large hole in the walls that typically divide the human heart into four separate chambers.

Through an extraordinary series of events, Marty is now a thriving 5-year-old boy. The American Heart Association of Chicago recognized Marty for his strength by selecting him as a local ambassador for this year’s Jump Rope for Heart campaign.

Marty and his mom, Gerry Viau, have traveled to seven area schools so far, including Lace Elementary School and his own school, Concord, to share his story and help the students kick off the fundraiser.

“Just the fact of what he’s been through, Marty can help educate kids that heart disease is not just an old person’s disease,” said American Heart Association representative Mary Lou Torrison, who works primarily with DuPage County schools.

Man Pays It Forward With Woodridge Family's Camcorder Reward

After Patch helped unite a missing camcorder to its owners, a Woodridge couple, they gave a reward to the man who found it on the ground in St. Charles in October. 

Bryan Ketter received $100 cash and a $75 gift card from Joe and Gina Bosco, and he decided to pay it forward by donating the cash reward to the Izaak Walton League of America. The 90-year-old conservation organization works to protect the nation’s natural heritage and to improve outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.

Woodridge Little League Team Dedicates Itself to Helping to Cure Cancer

A Woodridge little league team dedicated its fall season to a good cause. Nicknaming themselves "The Cure," the boys, ages 10 to 12, raised money to help cure cancer.

Although the team's focus has been to help cure breast cancer, they also volunteered at a Salon Aria fundraising event that raised money for children's cancer research. The boys swept hair, loaded supplies and some held roadside signs in the rain to promote the event at the salon. Two of the boys on the team even dyed their hair pink.

Have someone in mind that we missed? Tell us about them in the comments! 

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