Syrian refugee Khaled Haj Khalaf, the patriarch of the Haj Khalaf family, helped prepare lunch for his family at their home Friday, April 14, 2017, in Skokie, Ill. Fleeing the civil war in Syria, Haj Khalaf and his wife, Fattoum Bakir, came to Chicago in September 2016 with three of their children, but their oldest daughter Baraa Haj Khalaf and her family were denied entry in January of this year after President Donald Trump's immigration order banning all immigrants from Syria. Baraa, her husband Abdulmajeed and their now 19-month-old daughter Sham spent two years in a Turkish refugee camp for the proper paperwork, interviews and background checks required to come to America. They were all finally reunited in February and now live together in two different apartments in the same building.
I was in Peoria for several days to shoot back-to-back boys high school basketball Class 3A and 4A semifinal and championship games. Emotions ran high, especially the 3A championship game which ran into overtime. Chicago schools Morgan Park and Whitney Young Magnet took home trophies.
A few photos from a fun little shoot at Cafe Tola Lonchería in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. The place is small but very colorful with some great murals on the outside. I ended up taking some empanadas home for lunch. Highly recommend.
I photographed 3-year-old Dayna Dorencz-Cuervo and her mother Kimberly at their home Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, in the Morgan Park neighborhood of Chicago. Dayna has spina bifida and several other health issues which require special care, but she and mom have a regular routine of playing together, watching cartoons and having lunch after Dayna's older brothers leave for school. She usually gets around by crawling at home.
For preschool in the afternoon, Kimberly brought Dayna's wheelchair, which she doesn't use at home because the house is not very "wheelchair friendly." State Treasurer Michael Frerichs recently announced a new program, "Achieving a Better Life Experience," that aims to help families like Dorencz-Cuervo's save for the future. Illinois is forming a coalition with 13 other states to allow people with a disability or blindness and their families to open tax-deferred investment accounts to save money.
Full store here: Illinois treasurer to launch tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities
I spent time early this year with two different women, 94-year-old Josephine Regnier and 71-year-old Kathyé Dawoudi, to hear how violent crime in Chicago has affected their lives and their families.
Josephine Regnier, a World War II veteran, was outside her home in Garfield Ridge waiting for her daughter when she was attacked as she went back inside to escape the cold on December 7, 2016. A large man hit her several times, bruising her face and breaking several ribs, before fleeing the scene with her purse.
"If he had just asked me for the purse I would have given it to him. But he...why did he have to hurt me? Break my ribs and hurt my back and…why did he have to do all that? People have been so nice it makes up for the one person that isn’t so nice."
Olajuwon Claiborne, a 26-year-old construction worker, was eventually arrested and faces charges for the assault and two other, similar robberies.
There was an outpouring of support from the community after the incident. Three cameras behind Villa Rosa Pizza, where one of Regnier's daughters works as a delivery driver on the weekends, captured images of Claiborne fleeing on foot, Regnier's purse in hand. The owners offered a reward on Facebook that eventually helped apprehend Claiborne.
Regnier said she will no longer go outside by herself or answer the door if she is home alone, although her daughters hope she won't be afraid to sit outside on the porch during summer months.
Kathyé Dawoudi’s 23-year-old grandson was shot and killed at his apartment building in 2015. It was devastating for Dawoudi's family, who said her daughter still hasn't recovered from the loss of her son.
"How he died is horrible, and the most horrible thing is the ones left behind. The ones that can’t get the picture out of their mind," she said. Two of her grandson's children, Dawoudi's great-grandchildren, witnessed the death of their father.
She said she refuses to hide or let the incident stop her from living life. She gets up every morning and goes out on her own.
“I’m not going to let violence dictate me. For myself or any of my children,” she said. She packs her bags each morning and takes a bus to Mather’s, a cafe for seniors, and later swims at her local YMCA.
“No matter how much pain I have,” she said of her emotions and her physical ailments, “I keep moving…Movement and getting around and doing stuff makes me feel better.”
Read more about violence and the elderly here: Amid Chicago violence, elderly residents face fears or hole up at home
This year was full of fun times at the lake, long overnight shifts, lots of hockey, baseball and baseball-related mayhem, and a lot of other stories here and there. Please enjoy a selection of my photos from 2016.
A few images from the Chicago Cubs' historic run to become World Series Champions after a grueling 108-year wait.
28 young men were tearing down drywall and tossing bags of debris out the windows of condemned homes Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the historic Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. They were deconstructing these buildings as part of a community renewal and jobs program initiated by the Emerson Collective, where former Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan is a managing partner. The program reaches out to young men with histories of involvement in gangs, drugs and violence in Chicago, many of whom have been shot and spent time in jail or prison, and offers them a chance to help themselves and the community by putting them to work.
I spoke to 24-year-old Darius Fox, who said he was shot four times in front of a church when he was 17. It was a turning point in his life and it made him angry. He turned to selling drugs and spent three years in jail on a gun charge at 21. He said the program is helping him learn job skills, life skills and conflict management skills, all while working with other men with similar experiences.
"I like working a job. Just to have a job, that feels good, that help you feel better as a man...I ain't gotta look over my back, I ain't gotta watch out for the police, I ain't gotta worry about the police kicking in my door, nobody's trying to rob me. It’s a blessing. I feel good. I feel like a man."
One weekend in July 2016, 92-year-old Margaret Coleman was visited by all 14 of her children and handful of some of 48 grandchildren at the Coleman home in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. Margaret, who also went by “Marge,” although in high spirits and with quick wit, was bedridden and on oxygen but wished to remain in the family house. Her children spoke loudly to her through a hearing device, giving updates about their own families, while the grandchildren joked with her about their summer plans before heading back to school.
Marge’s children, John, Mike, Tom, Tim, Maureen, Maribeth, Peggy, Terry, Patty, Rich, David, Diane, Cathleen and Dan, kept a schedule and took turns caring for their mother in 12-hour shifts in the house where they all grew up. Although she was a nurse and her husband Jack a doctor at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, Marge was not too keen on seeing doctors herself. The family was happy to help.
“They gave a lot to us and really built a strong family bond and so they instilled that in us, that you have to take care of each other,” said Maureen Kelly, child number five.
I was lucky enough to meet Marge and spend time photographing her with family members. At one point, all the kids stood in the kitchen, discussing the possibility and logistics of fulfilling their mother’s wish to visit the family lake cottage in Michigan one last time. The following weekend, they took her to the cottage where she spent summers at as a little girl.
Margaret “Marge” Coleman passed away on Sunday, August 7, surrounded by her family at home.
Mary Schmich wrote two wonderful stories about the Colemans here:
On a day off, making the most of summer on Lake Michigan with generous and beloved friends.
Happy Independence Day from the beaches of Chicago.
As I'm writing this post, 1973 people have been shot in Chicago since January 1 of this year, including 329 killed. These numbers will go up overnight.
This Fourth of July weekend, typically one of the most violent of the year for the city, the Chicago Tribune released several pieces on the last six months of gun violence, including a video compilation of work from myself and my colleagues. Please have a look and share:
Working the late shift and overnight shift means covering a lot of the gun violence here in Chicago. Initially, I titled this post "Summer So Far" until I realized I have photos starting back in January.
It was such a beautiful day and gorgeous evening I actually thought the severe thunderstorm watch issued by the National Weather Service might turn out unnecessary. Moments after I photographed lightning over Lake Michigan, the downpour began, pretty much soaking me from head to toe. On my drive home, lighting crackled so loudly overhead it shook my car. Spring in Chicago.
It all came down to game 7. Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks fell to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup first-round Western Conference playoff series in a frustrating 3-2 loss. It's a huge bummer because it means no more hockey games to cover until next season. This post is a selection of photos from all the games I covered in the 2015-2016 season. Until next fall.
Recent photos of a few well-known people. Iggy Pop turned 69 on April 21, Hillary and Bernie were in town before the Illinois primary election, Billy Corgan is still a great musician even if the Smashing Pumpkins don't exactly exist anymore, and Obama made a quick stop to promote Supreme Court Nominee native Illinoisan Merrick Garland.
The Blackhawks got a trouncing from the Minnesota Wild/North Stars during the 2016 NHL Stadium Series Alumni and and outdoor games at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. A fun time, though, because outdoor hockey is something different and a big deal for fans. There were plenty of people at both games from both sides. I also appreciated the fact that it wasn't -20 degrees out all weekend.
Saarah Bhaiji, 16, and her sister Aasiyah Bhaiji, 13, attend public school during the week and Sunday school at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill. where Saarah also teaches. Both spoke of having mostly positive experiences as Muslims with their peers at Glenbrook South High and Springman Middle Schools although Aasiyah, who only wears a headscarf to Sunday school and not in public, said she has encountered some insensitivity toward her religion when people around her don't realize she is Muslim.
I spent an afternoon with the two sisters and their mother, Rehana, at the Muslim Education Center and later at home where the two girls made snacks and did homework.
Read more about Saarah and Aasiyah's experiences in this Chicago Tribune story by Manya Brachear Pashman: Chicago area's Muslim youth fight stereotypes, suspicion
Colorado-based company Vail Resorts recently purchased the tiny Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort just over the Illinois border in Wisconsin, and plans to make renovations to the lifts, terrain park and lodge, as well as improve snow-making conditions. Wilmot Mountain was created by Walter Stopa, who had a million cubic yards of dirt trucked into the Wisconsin cow pasture to create the slope 80 years ago. It's a popular place for Chicagoans who ski and snowboard - one of the only options in the Chicago area.
A few favorites from the past eight months here in Chicago.