Renee Brixie DiBraccio and Chris DiBraccio, both 1991 graduates of Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, were honored in September by the school with the Spirit Award, given annually as part of the institution’s Four Pillar Awards, honoring alumni who have excelled in the areas of academics, service, spirit and unity.

The couple operates Brixie’s Saloon in Brookfield and Imperial Oak Brewing in Willow Springs. In addition, they are involved in the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, where Chis has served as an officer and director. They have also shown their spirit for Nazareth by their willingness to support the school in many ways. 

I’d be honored

At a meeting of the Brookfield village board on Sept. 26, the Brookfield Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association named Officer Robert McGrath its Officer of The Year.

McGrath has been a Brookfield police officer since 2004 and works as a patrolman on the day shift. He was nominated for the award by his supervising sergeant and chosen from among the other candidates by the department’s senior leadership.

In 2009, McGrath received a commendation for excellence for his response to the victim of a shooting near Ehlert Park. His action to provide first aid before paramedics arrived contributed to the victim’s recovery.

McGrath’s work was also key in solving a string of four garage burglaries that spring. By having established a rapport with people in the vicinity of the incidents, a witness was able to help McGrath identify suspects. Two people were arrested, with one charged with three counts of burglary. 

The group also gave special recognition to Officer David Kudla, who is the Citizens Police Academy coordinator, for his interaction and assistance of the alumni group, which among other things raises money to support police operations.

At that same village board meeting, the alumni group presented a check for $1,047.50 to purchase tactical medical kits for every police officer. The kits include a tourniquet, trauma bandage, face shield, rubber gloves, scissors and other emergency essentials.

BrightLeaf Homes, the energy-efficient home-building firm owned by Brookfield resident Scott Sanders, earned a 2016 Housing Innovation Award in the Custom Homes category from the U.S. Department of Energy.

It’s the second straight year the firm has won the award for its buildings in Chicago’s western suburbs.

Lyons Township High School automotive teacher Jordan Engelhardt has been named a finalist for the first-ever Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)-North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) Show Instructor Award.

Engelhardt will be flown out to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November, and he will be recognized at the show’s Student program welcome lunch where the top applications will be revealed.

In his seventh year at LTHS, Engelhardt has helped build the automotive program, teaching Small Engines, Automotive Engineering and Automotive Service and Diagnostics.

“Attending the SEMA Show will allow me to meet industry professional from all over the world at the world’s biggest aftermarket auto show,” Engelhardt said in a press release. “I will be able to create more connections with individuals and companies to further expand opportunities for my students.”

Book it

Former Brookfield and LaGrange Park resident Paul Piche has just published Aloha Shirts, Umbrella Drinks & Island Breezes or PB&J and TV Reruns, a retirement planning book.

A graduate of Riverside-Brookfield High School and Southern Illinois University, Piche has been an insurance underwriter and financial consultant for nearly 40 years, with a special focus on retirement planning. The 134-page book is available from Outskirts Press ( or on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.

Piche now lives in Kerrville, Texas with his wife, Babs.

Biking for a cause

LaGrange Park residents Amy and Anthony Senese in September hosted the inaugural Bike ‘r Bar fundraiser, which drew more than 50 people on bicycles and two on motorcycles, to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The event raised more than $2,500 in the name of Leon Glowacki, Amy’s father. The participants biked to five Brookfield bars – Joe’s Saloon, Ryan’s Public House, Phil’s Sports Bar and Grill, Grand Tavern and Off Broadway Pub – which supported and sponsored the event. The event wrapped up with a barbecue with food donated by Don Jaros and Eric Shilney of Salinas Catering. T-shirts were donated by Jimmy Dastice of Art-Flo Screen Printing and Embroidery.

On stage

A number of Brookfield residents appeared on stage in Lyons Township High School Theater Board productions recently.

Earlier this month, junior Justin Monarrez, senior Connor Trimborn, sophomore Mark Deweese and freshman Ann-Marie Mitchell were in the cast of Robin Hoode of Sherwood, a play written and directed by LTHS faculty member Eugene O’Reilly.

Monarrez played the role of Much Millerson, one of Robin’s men. Trimborn played the Captain of the Guard, while Deweese and Mitchell played soldiers.

In September, junior Taylor Koc and senior Elizabeth Strzelczyk were members of the cast for the theater board’s improv show So __: You’ll __ 8: Fill in the __.

And on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 22 at 3 p.m., Brookfield senior Isabel Isais will be among the students performing in the theater board’s Showcase 2016: Finding a Light Switch in Poetry.

The performances are in the North Campus Reber Center, 100 S. Brainard Ave. in LaGrange.  Tickets at the box office are $10 ($5 children/seniors) and free with LTHS student ID. 

On campus

Riverside-Brookfield High School student Natalia Zhukova was named a Commended Student by the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program. She was recognized for performance on the PSAT/NMSQT, which was among the top five percent of more than 1.6 million students who entered the competition. 

Riverside-Brookfield High School’s homecoming king and queen and their court were announced at the homecoming pep rally in September at the school. The king and queen were Zach Mieczkowski and Lyndsey Hoyd.

Named to the court were Madison Darcy, Jalen Brooks, Athena Haralambous, Jack Jurgens, Coco Murray, Keenan Scott, Maggie Shereck and Raphael Siordia.

The Class of 2020 at Riverside-Brookfield High School elected its class officers earlier this school year. Those chosen included Kathe Pribyl-Pierdinock, president; Cameron Winkler, vice president; Avery Bowen, secretary; Taylor Jurgens, treasurer; and Mary Filec and Lily Lockwood, elected officials.

The following Riverside-Brookfield High School students were named to Modern Music Masters, a national honors organization that recognizes leadership and service in music students. The executive board is Matthew Michaelson, president; Kaitlin Gaynor, vice president; Samantha Miezio, secretary; Natalie Lisl, treasurer; and Natalie Baiochi, public relations.

Vasara Kulbis, Migle Medelis and Elona Selenica, all students at Riverside-Brookfield High School, were selected as 2016 Certificate of Distinction recipients of the Award for Aspirations in Computing, sponsored by the NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology). 

The award honors young women whose application essays portrayed experience, passion, and creativity. The award gives all three students access to information about opportunities for scholarships, internships, and networking through CWIT.