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Bears-themed fundraiser benefits tornado victims

Mark Yunker (from left) Manhattan Township farmer whose farm buildings home sustained damage Nov. 17 tornado; his father DYunker OrlPark;

Mark Yunker (from left), Manhattan Township farmer whose farm buildings and home sustained damage in the Nov. 17 tornado; his father, Don Yunker, of Orland Park; Kristen Yunker, 23; Heidi Yunker; and Doug Yunker, 22.. | Ginger Brashinger/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 17, 2014 6:28AM



Efforts to help the victims of the Nov. 17 tornado in the Lincoln-Way area continue nearly a month later.

Manhattan residents Steve Pycz and Kim Kelly “got their minds going” recently, looking for ways to help those affected by the storm. The solution was the “Bear Down for Will County Tornado Victims” fundraiser Sunday at 191 South in Mokena.

Held during prime Sunday Bears’ game hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the fundraiser drew about 60 people for food, drink, live music by 1540 Rock, raffles and camaraderie.

Kelly, an employee at 191 South, said she felt the Manhattan area victims’ needs had been overlooked and she wanted them to know they weren’t forgotten.

“Being from Manhattan, I wanted to do something,” Kelly said. “If anything happened to me, I’d like to think people would help.”

Pycz has lived in Manhattan only two months, but his background as a 31-year retired veteran of the Country Club Hills Fire Department meant he could not sit on the sidelines when people needed help. Pycz said he just wanted “to give back to the community.”

Some in attendance were grateful families who are still picking up the pieces weeks later.

Matt Leader moved into his home in Manhattan just 18 days prior to the tornado.

Although his home sustained some damage, he took time to help his new neighbors, the Allen family, who were trapped in their basement.

Jim and Cheryl Allen and their two sons lost four cars parked in the driveway and sustained damage to about half of their home, Kelly said.

The Frawley family lost their landscaping and snowplowing business housed in the barn, and a deck and pool in the backyard.

Heidi and Mark Yunker said their family farm in Manhattan Township was hit while they were attending services at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Mokena.

Heidi Yunker said they knew the weather was going to be bad, but “you keep going on with your life.”

Their share of the devastation was the loss of three roofs: one above the garage attached to their house, an entire roof of a 200 foot long barn and three-quarters of the roof of a second 200 foot long barn. The Yunkers said they consider themselves lucky despite the damage to their house and barns. Their daughter, Kristen, 23, and son, Doug, 22, were safe and sound as well as the family pets: five barn cats, four horses, and three dogs.

All four horses were under the one-quarter section of barn roof that was not blown away and the three dogs remained unscathed despite the garage ceiling falling on top of them.

Heidi Yunker said they thought one cat, “Little Miss,” was a casualty of the storm because she was missing for a week, but Doug Yunker and six of his friends from the University of Illinois, where he is in his senior year as an agriculture major, found the cat among the bales of hay they were moving to a covered area.

Mark Yunker said over 100 people came during the Will County Farm Bureau and Cook County Farm Bureau Clean-Up Day to help them put their farm in order.

“Just tell everyone we said ‘thank you,’ ” Yunker said. “There’s a lot of good people out there.”



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