Lane Bryant: Out of sadness, some lives changed for the better
By Lauren FitzPatrick | email@example.com February 1, 2011 7:14PM
Rhoda McFarland, 42, Joliet
Updated: January 23, 2012 12:25AM
Five lives ended on Feb. 2, 2008. Dozens more were devastated: the husbands and parents and siblings left behind, the small children orphaned.
But in the few years since five women were shot dead at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park and a sixth survived a graze wound, a handful of young lives also changed, tasked with carrying on a legacy to make these women’s lives count.
Samm Hortsman and Terrs Gacek are among the 16 students given scholarships by the families of Carrie Hudek Chiuso and Sarah Szafranski.
Oak Forest High School grads Hortsman, 18, and Gacek, 19, both landed a scholarship in honor of Szafranski, who excelled at nearly everything she touched at Oak Forest before she graduated in 2003.
Gacek worries less now about her tuition to Western Illinois University. Her meteorology studies and weather club don’t leave her time during the school year to work; Her parents can only do so much to help.
“It means a lot because, you know, I’ve been trying to save up money,” Gacek said. “I would like to say how thankful I am for them giving money to me to go to college.”
Along with a computer, Hortsman, also got a mission from her scholarship she’s using at the University of Dayton as an education major.
“I feel like I have to step up my game, almost, because you had to live up to her and everything she accomplished at the high school,” she said.
Szafranski was a member of the National Honor Society and frequently named to the school’s honor roll. Yearbooks show her playing clarinet in the concert band, badminton for the school team. She was recognized as an Illinois State Scholar, and once as a mathlete, she turned in a perfect paper. When she died, she was working as a banker.
“Her life lives on even though she’s not here,” Hortsman said. “I would just like to tell the family thank you for the opportunity.”
Szafranski’s family took the donations given in their daughter’s name and handed the money to Oak Forest High School, Principal David Wilson said. They intended at the time to give away $1,500 chunks of money until it ran out. Carrie Hudek Chiuso’s family kept raising money in her memory at an annual Carrie Fest.
“I remember being in the car with my wife, driving around after her funeral,” said Carrie’s brother, Mike Hudek. “I said, this can’t be it. This is not just goodbye and just move on. We should do something.”
A funny thing, Hudek recalls, since he had always known his sister was a school social worker. He just didn’t realize until her funeral the wide impact her life had on her students and their families.
The money donated in Carrie’s name has paid for nine scholarships so far, Hudek said, mostly to colleges but now for students going to trade schools, too. He’s had help from the Jeffrey LaMorte Salon and Day Spa in Frankfort and Capri Beauty College in Mokena.
“My sister worked with the kids who weren’t going to a traditional four-year school,” he said.