CEDAR LAKE | It was a Christmas many years ago. A great joy from that season wonderfully still lives with us today. Read on.
The excited young boy rushed to the tree. He opened the colorfully-wrapped box with an elevating pulse. Sounds of the season could be heard as Eric Lakomek moved the packing paper and saw a red pair of baseball spikes.
They were from his grandmother, Ann Beard.
"I have always loved Christmas," Lakomek said. "It's my favorite time of the year. My grandma meant so much to me."
Ann Beard died in December of 2009, unexpectedly. It was a deep pain for her daughter, Tracey Lakomek, son-in-law Scott Lakomek and granddaughter, Ashley.
"It's been very hard not to have her here," said Tracey, who was on Thornwood's 1990 state championship softball team. She also played for South Suburban College's national qualifying team.
Eric Lakomek is a freshman basketball player at Hanover Central. With a heart much more mature than his peers, he decided to honor his grandmother and help those in need, too.
So he started the Red Shoe Foundation.
This community service project is collecting sports equipment for those in need. All the schools in Hanover Central's district has a box where used equipment — such as old mitts, bats, balls, pants, shoes — can be dropped off.
Eric will clean up the equipment and the Hanover Trustee Office will help those in need of such equipment to receive it.
Today is the last day equipment can be dropped off. So you have one dropping day left.
"I was at a Little League baseball game this past summer and I saw some kids who needed some equipment," Eric said. "That's where the idea started. I wanted to help these kids. I wanted to honor my grandma."
Eric is a straight-A student and a member of the National Junior Honor Society. He was invited to participate in the National Youth Leadership Council last year.
And he's at the top of this sports scribblers' list of area athletes who should be copied. To care and give to strangers is what this season is all about. Or what it should be all about.
I feel like singing some Handel about now. Bob Dylan style, of course.
While the Wildcats' boys basketball program looks for its first win, there are some things more important than what's on the scoreboard. This is one of them.
"I think it's pretty neat to have a high school freshman thinking like this," Hanover coach Bryon Clouse said. "His teammates have bought into it. I've heard they're bringing in some stuff for the project. I think it's pretty cool."
If you have an old glove, bring it over. Or a basketball or baseball in good condition, the same. 'Tis the season, people.
Here is a remarkable young man who came up with this great idea on his own. He isn't just thinking of himself. Joy to the world.
"My grandma was very good to me every Christmas," Eric said. "So I want to try and do something good for someone else."
What a great way to remember Ann Beard.