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Oak Lawn teen an ally for troops

Alex Rigik Oak Lawn often volunteers help get items American troops serving overseas.  |  Supplied phoby Bob McParland

Alex Rigik, of Oak Lawn, often volunteers to help get items to American troops serving overseas. | Supplied photo by Bob McParland

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Updated: July 10, 2014 6:16AM



Led by Alec Rigik, members of the National Honor Society at Richards High School in Oak Lawn earlier this year organized a drive to collect items for American troops serving overseas.

Rigik, 18, who just graduated from Richards, is an old hand at helping out the troops. An Eagle Scout from Troop 596 in Oak Lawn, Rigik and his friends from the Boy Scouts of America have supported American troops in the past. They have collected food, toiletries and other personal items for Mrs. Jacky’s Soldiers, an Oak Lawn-based group that sends care packages to military personnel.

“She takes names of local veterans and makes lists of whatever they need like toiletries, snacks or gum,” Rigik said.

But Rigik’s age is catching up with him. Once he turned 18, he no longer was an “official” Boy Scout, so he asked his fellow NHS members to help.

“I got a list of items from Mrs. Jacky and asked everyone in NHS to do it,” Rigik said. “Last year was the first year I organized it through NHS. In Boys Scouts, I did it but never led it.”

Rigik is always volunteering, but there is something special about helping the troops that is especially dear to him.

“They are over there, and a lot of their time is waiting around,” he said. “Knowing that we can send them things and letters is important.

“I think it is just awesome to let the soldiers know that people here are still thinking about them. There are a lot of people who do not think of them since Iraq is not making headlines anymore.”

Each Friday for the past five years, volunteers have gathered at Oak View Center, an Oak Lawn Park District facility, to organize and sort toothpaste, lotion, razors, shampoo, food and various other donated items for shipment. That’s where one often would find Rigik.

When he is not there, he is often volunteering for other NHS projects, including helping feed the needy or at homeless shelters or helping other Boy Scouts with their Eagle Scout projects.

Last summer he took a mission trip to Queens, New York, where he worked in kids clubs and senior centers.

Rigik especially enjoyed working with the kids.

“They didn’t have a whole lot of people involvement,” he said. “When we had to go, it was devastating to them because they got so attached. They had a great time knowing people wanted to hang out with them. We did the same thing at the senior center.

“There is something about the look they give you or when they reach out and hold your hand without words and you know everything you do is really appreciated,” said Rigik, the son of Brian and Heidi Rigik, of Oak Lawn.

He said that Alex McNeill, the youth pastor at Moraine Valley Church in Palos Heights, is his mentor.

“He makes you think about everything and how you can make an impact. He says it is the younger people’s responsibility to make a difference,” Rigik said.

Rigik also was on the speech and volleyball teams at Richards. In addition, he played the drums in Monday night youth group services and sometimes on Sunday. He also holds down a part-time job at the local Papa John’s as a delivery man.

Next school year, he will attend Illinois State University with plans to become an English teacher. To that end, he recently was awarded the Golden Apple Scholarship worth $24,000 with the promise to teach in Illinois.

“I’ve had a few good teachers over the years,” he said, citing Richards teacher Michael Badger among his favorites. “He’d be funny in class and he made me want to make kids excited to come to school. I wouldn’t be as outgoing as I am without Mr. Badger’s influence.”

He also gives high marks to Elly McKimson-Rhodes, another teacher at Richards.

“She got us really involved in the books we are reading,” Rigik said. “It would be awesome to be a teacher who doesn’t just teach you but engages you and has an impact on your life.”



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