Illinois Valley Living honors Women of Distinction

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OGLESBY — There were flowers and linen tablecloths. There was plenty of laughter and smiles, mixed with a few tears. There was insight and reflection. There was food and fun and all the makings for a day to remember ...

The Bureau County Republican’s Illinois Valley Living Magazine sponsored its long-awaited Women of Distinction Award luncheon Thursday at Deer Park Country Club in Oglesby. A packed house — comprised mostly of women and a handful of fellows — spent the afternoon to help honor the 10 women chosen as the inaugural Women of Distinction in the Illinois Valley: Kim Abel of Mendota; Kathy Casstevens of Utica; Mary Ann Cernovich of Sheffield; Lisa Clinton of Cherry; Dawn Conerton of Magnolia; Pat Schou, Nedda Simon, Loretta Volker and Teresa Zearing, all of Princeton; and Judith Wilkins Wright of rural Tiskilwa.

Each Woman of Distinction spoke to the crowd, many sharing anecdotes and experiences about their roles in their respective communities. They were stories of volunteerism, strength, challenges and kindness. They spoke passionately about what they do, and their uplifting messages — without exception — were inspirational to those in attendance. The women received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the event.

Keynote speaker Kathy O’Malley, a Princeton resident who is the co-host of WGN’s “Kathy and Judy Show” wowed the crowd with an address mixed with humor, personal experiences and considerable fun, but easily turned her words into statements full of impact that spoke of women, their bonds, their strength.

Michele King, vice president and retail manager for Heartland Bank and Trust Co. of Peru, also welcomed the group and presented trophies to the Women of Distinction. Heartland Bank and Trust was the presenting sponsor of the event.

Major sponsors were St. Margaret’s Health of Spring Valley, Flowers by Julia of Princeton, Illinois Valley Community College of Oglesby, Liberty Village of Princeton, Peru and Streator; and Illinois Valley Community Hospital of Peru. The keynote sponsor was Perry Memorial Hospital of Princeton.

Illinois Valley Living/Bureau County Republican Editor Terri Simon emceed the event.

“It was a wonderful day,” Simon said after the awards luncheon. “Deer Park was a beautiful venue, completely befitting the 10 Women of Distinction we honored on Thursday.

“As I listened to the stories these women told, I was and continue to be humbled by not just their ambition, but also their commitment in going the extra mile for others. I think our judges selected the perfect women to comprise our first Women of Distinction Awards event. These ladies are clearly an inspiration to all of us,” Simon said.

The day concluded with an introduction of Illinois Valley Living staff and 20-plus door prizes, featuring a myriad of businesses from the Illinois Valley.

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