Photo of the Day - November 27, 2020

Rylee Walsh and Ella Miller calculate football stats

Counting it up

Statisticians Rylee Walsh (left) and Erinn Miller tally the St. Joseph-Ogden game stats after the football team's 2017 opener at home on August 28 against St. Thomas More. The Spartans kicked off the season dominating the visiting Sabers, 54-7.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day - November 26, 2020

Christian Butler makes a catch

Stretch to catch

Unity's Christian Butler reaches out for a catch in center field in team's final home game of season against Sullivan on May 10, 2008. The Rockets, unable to plate a run in seven innings, fell to the visiting Redskins, 7-0.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

We're collecting letters for Santa

The turkey is in the oven and the delicious aroma of fresh-baked pie is in the air. That means Christmas is just around the corner.

Letters to Santa Letters to Santa first began regularly appearing in newspapers around the 1880s. Every December since then, newspapers across the nation have published children’s requests for the gifts they want most. Entering our third year of covering news and sports in our part of Champaign county, The Sentinel is ready to join the tradition this year by publishing Letters to Santa from readers in the six villages we cover.

In a one-on-one Zoom meeting two weeks ago, Santa was delighted The Sentinel volunteered to help collect some of the millions and millions of letters he receives this time of the year, sort them and make sure he gets them on time. In the newspaper business, deadlines are just another day at the office.

Starting today, Letters to Santa will be accepted via email until noon on December 18. That gives us plenty of time to publish as many copies of the letters as we can before forwarding them to the Jolly Ole Elf at the North Pole.

Write your list early so Santa can make sure he packs his sleigh with all the gifts he needs to drop off on Christmas Eve to all the good little boys and girls your house. With his permission, we created a new email address at The Sentinel to make sure we get every letter and can forward them on to our new partner up north.

Please include in the body of an email after the letter your name or the child’s name, age and town where he or she lives. Email your letter to You can also submit a handwritten copy of any letter to St. Nick by sending a sharp, clear copy of the letter taken with your smartphone.

The Sentinel looks forward to sharing the letters and lists from kids in your hometown.

Christmas lights contest in Tolono

The Tolono Fun Days committee is sponsoring a holiday lighting contest next month. Winning lighting displays and holiday scenes will be eligible to win gift card prizes provied by local business and the committee.

To enter, Tolono residents that wish to participate in the contest will need to turn their outdoor holiday displays and lights on by 6p on Friday, December 4. There are three categories that will be award prizes at the village tree lighting ceremony on Saturday.

The three divisions are the Fuse Buster, Frosty's Pick and Low Watt.

Fuse Busters are big, bold bright displays "that is spinning the watt meter" according to the flyer circulated by the committee on Facebook. The Frosty's Pick award will go to the best display that features a snowman. The Low Watt entries will be judged for the best display with a few lights.

The Tolono Fun Days committee asks that residents bring a non-fragile, weather-proof ornament for the village tree lighting at the police station 6p on December 5.

"Join us for a social distancing event to bring in the holidays."

Basic Photography
Beginning photography classes coming soon!

Photo of the Day - November 24, 2020

Unity senior Karson Ewerks
Rockets stall in road trip at Rantoul
Surrounded by opposing players under the basket, Unity's Karson Ewerks looses control of the ball thanks to Rantoul's KeJuan Carodine behind him while going up for a put back in the paint during their Illini Prairie Conference road game earlier this year. The team's second leading scorer in the contest, Ewerks, a senior, finished the night contributing nine points in the 49-37 loss on January 21. Unity finished the 2019-20 season with a 1-8 conference record while Eagles' wrapped it up one step above with two wins, seven losses in the Illini Prairie Conference.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Unity East offers preschool screening next month

Unity East Elementary is offering Spectrum preschool screening for new students on December 10.

Developmental screening is a play-based assessment designed to identify problems or delays during normal childhood development. It systematically looks for signs that a young child may have a delay in one or more areas. Normally, the process does not establish a diagnosis, rather it helps teachers and specialists determine whether more in-depth assessment is needed.

Screenings for all three and four-year-old children not already enrolled in the Spectrum program will be held between 8:30-11:30 am at Unity East Grade School, located at 1638 County Road 1000N in Philo.

Contact Jennifer Hastings at (217) 469-2291 ext. 126 or email her at for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Seven questions with Tolono's Susan Plackett

October 31 has come and gone, but the memories from this year's celebration in Tolono will live on thanks to the collection of photos shot by long time resident Susan Plackett at this year's Halloween parade.

Participants stretch for blocks as they make their way through town during the Tolono Halloween parade on October 31.
(Photo courtesy of Susan Plackett)

Born and raised in Tolono, Plackett enjoys making memories for those growing up in Tolono like many of the members of the community did for her during her childhood.

"There is nothing more uplifting in these times than seeing families and children having fun," she said.

The Halloween parade was a first for Tolono according Plackett and the third parade in the village this year. With the annual Tolono Fun Day festival canceled due to restriction on large public gatherings in Illinois to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, a 4th of July parade was put together at the last minute she said because "everyone was missing not having Fun Day the weekend before."

"The Tolono Fun Days committee is trying to give the community something to do during the pandemic," Plackett said. "We had 18 participate 4th of July and 20 participants at the September 4 golf cart parade. [For the] Halloween [parade] there were over 40 vehicles and I don’t know how many walkers."

She shared 146 photos from the parade on Facebook from the parade. Here's a look at some of her photos from three weeks ago and a little bit about her Halloween memories.

Susan Plackett photo
Susan Plackett photo
Susan Plackett photo
Photos courtesy of Susan Packett
Click on any photo view larger
Susan Plackett photo
Susan Plackett photo
Susan Plackett photo
Susan Plackett photo
Photos courtesy of Susan Packett
Click on any photo view larger
Looking back, what is your favorite trick-or-treat childhood memory?
"I am too old to remember my own but I do remember my daughter, Veronica’s Halloweens. My husband and I always made her costumes. Until one year she asked if she could please get a store costume. She still loves Halloween and I still take her picture in her costumes."
What is your favorite Halloween movie? How many times have you seen it?
"My brother (John Dodds) and I used to watch Creature Feature every Friday night in the 70’s. There was a different movie every week. Though we watched the movies in the dark our Dad would get upset because every light would be on in the house after the movie. My brother is a chicken. LOL..."
Describe the best costume you wore as an adult?
"My husband and I usually build floats for parades, but we did make a two man cow from an old white blanket and a Papier-mache’ head for a party we were invited to."
You probably saw hundreds of costumes on Saturday at the parade. What was your favorite costume of the day and why?
"I loved all the costumes. This little guy spooked me when he peeked out while I was taking pictures. I think next year there needs to be a pet costume contest The second link of a ketchup bottle costume with the dog as a hot dog. LOVED that one."
Earlier, we asked about your favorite trick-or-treat story. What year was your absolute worse Halloween and how did it end up like that?
"Oh, there is no such thing as a bad day or being bored in our house. My daughter was so disappointed when she was sick and missed the Halloween party and parade at school. Her whole class showed up all through the night to give her candy. The most trick-or-treaters we have ever had here on Daggy Street. LOL And just like that her gloom turned into joy!"
On Facebook, there were several people who said they did not have many trick-or-treaters. Did you have many stop by your house? Do you think the pandemic limited participation this year and why?
"The Pandemic may have had some to do with the low trick-or-treaters. We do not normally get trick-or-treaters because the location of our home and there are not many children in our neighborhood. Door to door trick or treating has declined for the past several years. I think parents take their kids to the newer subdivisions where there is better lighting and sidewalks and trunk or treat events."
Are you a professional photographer? When did you start taking pictures and what do you like about it?
"No, I am not a professional photographer. I have been taking photos since I was a little girl. My first camera was a pocket camera that I earned from selling things door to door.

I don’t normally take posed shots but at the request from a close friend several years ago I started to taking senior photos for family and friends. I just like taking action shots. I like catching the moment or a memory. "

According to Susan, this is the Plackett's all-time best Halloween costume. Photo provided.
I almost always have my camera around my neck during all special events I attend. I remember going to a high school play without my camera and caught myself several times reaching for it. Yes, photography withdraw is very real. LOL ... Can you believe I was restricted from having my camera at my daughters wedding. LOL ... I did capture a couple special moments behind the scene with my cell phone but I had to sneak it. Best thing ever when they put a camera in a cell phone.

I make memories beyond the camera by being involved in the school, my church and several organizations in town.

See the rest of Plackett's Halloween parade gallery on Facebook.

Who's making a difference in your town? Let us know

The Sentinel is searching for regular folks who are making a difference in the lives of others in the communities we cover. Among the 11,000 people among us are angels and we want to share their stories.

We are talking about your friends and neighbors who you know that quietly work small miracles for those around them. They make small ripples that become swells making your community stronger.

The Sentinel wants to find such people, the heroes and heroines, to highlight their acts of kindness and compassion as we approach the holidays. If you know such a person, let The Sentinel know. Email us at with the person's name and contact info (email or phone number).

Please limit suggestions to people who have strong ties to the six villages we serve. If they grew up here, work here or live here, we want to recognize their efforts in making our lives just a little bit better.

Poll: Will you be vaccinated?

The Food & Drug Administration will meet on December 10th to review Pfizer's request for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its Covid-19 vaccine. Pfizer, with their German partner BioNTech, released promising final results that show their vaccine is 95% effective and protects elderly adults who are most at risk of dying.

This week's poll asks if approved for use after the meeting next month, will you get vaccinated? Use the comment section below to tell us why you will or will not.

Poll results

Photo of the Day - November 22, 2020

Rockets secure another home win

Unity's Jeremy Gallivan communicates with teammates while playing defense during his team's home game against Monticello on September 29, 2017. Scoring a touchdown in each of the four quarters, the Rockets prevailed with a 30-13 Illini Prairie Conference victory. Unity went capped the season with at 9-2 record and never lost a home game during the campaign.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day - November 21, 2020

Rachael Graham dribbles the ball in 2008

On this day

On this day 12 years ago, St. Joseph-Ogden's Rachael Graham dribbles the ball down the court despite the defensive efforts of a Williamsville defender during first quarter action at the Riverton Early Bird Tournament on November 21, 2008. The Spartans fought off the Lady Bullets to net a 42-38 victory on Friday night.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

support us please!

Survey says, We're doing Zoomgiving

Last Tuesday, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 rose to an all-time of 142 cases in the six villages.

With that in mind, we asked the obvious question in our very first online poll: "Considering the rising number of Coronavirus cases, do you plan to attend or host a large family gathering with ten or more people this Thanksgiving?"

The results are in. Out the possible 11,108 residents (that number based on the 2018 census) in the six communities this news site covers, we had a whopping 16 responses. The overwhelming insignifant response from 63% of the participants choose, "No freakin' way, Jay. We're doing Zoomgiving!!!"

Whatever your Thanksgiving holiday plans may be, The Sentinel sincerely wishes a safe and happy celebration. If you haven't seen it, The Illinois Department of Public Health has published a comprehensive and informative PDF with tips to make your holiday stress free and to keep family and guests healthy as head into the Christmas season.

Remember to protect the ones you love by limiting physical contact, social distance as much as possible, wear your mask - two is better than one - and washing your hands frequently to prevent the spread of the virus to our friends and neighbors.

New classes starting Tuesday, December 1. Details coming soon!

Photo of the Day - November 20, 2020

Drummer Brad Champ

Keepin' the beat

SJO pep band drummer Brad Champ plays while the band performs 'Hey Jude' during halftime at SJO's non-conference game against Unity at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on December 7, 2008. The Spartans fell 53-49 to the Rockets on the floor home to the Indiana Pacers. Unity's pep band also performed at the game in the facility now called Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Former SJO softball star honored with Impact Award at ISU

Andrea Coursey, a four-year varsity starter at third base for the St. Joseph-Ogden softball team was recently recognized for her commitment to excellence with the Impact Award. Illinois State's annual academic excellence awards ceremony, The Reggies, was not held this fall due to the mitigation measures in place to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Coursey, a Redbird softball player, and several other recipients of the awards sponsored by State Farm were announced Friday.

SJO Alumni News
The Impact Award is given to the student-athlete that has a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others around them and in the community. It recognizes individuals who posses exceptional leadership skills, a strong commitment to academics and engages in community service activities.

Coursey started in all 18 games she was available for the Redbirds this season shortened by the pandemic. She earned a MVC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention for the second-straight year and hit the team's first home run of the season in a 9-3 victory over USF in the Redbirds' season opener on Feburary 6. She enters her senior year having taken the field for ISU 101 times.

While at SJO she broke the state and school record for career RBIs in a season collecting 244 between 2014 and 2017. Coursey, who also played volleyball in high school, is tied for second in the all-time IHSA records for Most Grand Slam Home Runs in a season (3) and rose to #3 in prep softball history for the most RBIs in a single game. She pounded a pair of them back in May of 2015 during a non-conference game against Danville.

Academically, Coursey was four-year academic letterwinner, class valedictorian and was inducted into the National Honor Society.

Guest Commentary: Keep away the Christmas Blues

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

I love Elvis' song Blue Christmas, but I don't want to have one. In the best of times holiday blues strike most people. Now is the time to develop your plan for avoiding a blue holiday season and having a merry holiday one.

If you are missing a significant person in your life the blues are inevitable. You miss them sitting at your table. You miss them coming in your home. You are reminded of how much that person meant to you. Holiday shows don't often help. While some are festive, they often remind us of the voids we have in our lives. We don't always enjoy songs like I'll be home for Christmas because we know that often home is a past memory. Being reminded of the past is not always warm and fuzzy.

Social isolation will only make this year tougher. The best in life are the friends, family and positive relationships we have. Talking on the telephone, video chats, and good human relationship connections are important for your spirit.

Churches, groups, fraternal organizations and et cetera need to think about reaching out to people this season. Real, actual communication is the key. People don't need more Robocalls, more Facebook videos or mail to read. People need real human interaction and this may be the toughest December in our modern history to have this.

Sunday school classes, senior adult organizations, school organizations, classes, teams, should coordinate efforts to reach out to each other and to others. Letting others know you are thinking about them with positive reinforcement will be critical this holiday season.

Suicides occurs much too often during the holiday season. With Covid-19, unemployment and so many issues facing our planet, the environment for an upsurge of suicide is ripe. People can be saved from this by us all helping each other.

Make a holiday telephone list of people you are going to call often between now and January 1. You may call them every week. Or, it may be someone who needs a call every two or three days. Keep the calls brief. Often five or ten minutes will be a boost to someone. If you text message or video chat then commit to connecting with others with occasional chats and brief hellos.

One of the ways to boost your spirit is to be helpful. Who can you help this holiday? How can you help your local school? How can you help someone who is hurting more than you? How can you help a local human aid group or senior citizen's group?

You may know people who have lost loved ones. If you do, it helps to talk to others and say, "I know how you feel and what you are going through." There are people all around who may not be suffering as much as you. When you take your mind off yourself to help someone else, then you will find your load will be a little lighter and your spirit brighter.

The blues may sneak up on us this season. However, begin making your game plan now for overcoming and moving beyond them.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Covid pushes start of youth wrestling season to April 2021

The Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation met this past Sunday and revised their plans for overseeing the 2020-21 season.

Originally, the organization had hoped to resume practice and competition for young wrestlers like those in the St. Joseph Youth Wrestling Club after the Christmas holiday this coming January. Looking at more realistic timetable to return to the mat, the IKWF tentatively announced plans to resume practices starting April 5, 2021.

"We are hopeful that all of the craziness that we have all experienced throughout this year will start to take a turn for the better, and that we will be able to have a season sometime early next year," head coach Billy Gallo said in a letter to parents on Facebook. "We understand that there will be conflicts with kids participating in other sports and other commitments, but we plan to still start with a season at that time. Again, maybe we will see some improvement with this pandemic via vaccination/treatment sooner than April, and we will be able to start before then."

Meanwhile, the club will continue work on the new facility in the former Jim Clingan Auction building north of the Interstate.

"We can't wait to get the wrestlers in there," Gallo said. "We appreciate all of your patience and understanding throughout all of this, and we will continue to send out any updates as we get them."

He also said that registration fees will be returned to those families who have paid and all registration information will be kept on file for when the program can resume. As soon as plans are solidified, the club plans to email to members in future as soon the can have weekly open gym nights.

The IKWF says there will be no sanctioned events during the 2020-21 IKWF season until the CDC and IDPH guidelines and policies change to allow such competitions. The organization expects members to follow the guidance and guidelines provided by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Clubs in violation of state and federal mandates were reminded in a release form organizing body that programs could face penalties by the IDPH and local health departments.

Photo of the Day - November 19, 2020

St. Joseph-Ogden dance team

Spartans take center stage at state

Members of the St. Joseph-Ogden Dance Team compete the IHSA Competitive Dance State Finals in January. Despite an excellent performance and a score of 76.88, the Spartans did not advance to Saturday's championship round after finishing in 21st place after the first day of Class 1A competition.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The wait is over, winter high school sports season officially on hold

The Illinois High School Association met once again in a virtual meeting to discuss how to proceed as the state enters Tier 3 of the Governor JB Pritzker's Resurgence Mitigation plan. Thousands of Illinois high school athletes will have to wait just a little longer to make to break a school record, make three-point shots or earn that 15 second pin on the wrestling mat this winter.

Earlier today the prep sports association announced that all IHSA sports and activities will cease as of Friday, November 20, until the state's COVID-19 positivity returns to a level safe enough that the governor will return the state to Tier 1 of its pandemic response plan.

Below is the complete release from the IHSA.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for a special virtual meeting on Thursday, November 19, 2020, where the Board provided an update on winter sports.

To maintain compliance with the most recent mitigations issued by Governor Pritzker that take effect on November 20, the IHSA Board issued guidance to pause all IHSA winter sports and activities by November 20.

"All IHSA sports and activities will cease by November 20 for what we hope is a short-term pause," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "Given the rising COVID-19 cases in our state and region, we support the Governor’s mitigations and believe it is imperative for everyone in the state to do their part in following them so that we can return to high school sports participation as soon as possible."

Ella Armstrong lines up a free throw shot earlier this year
St. Joseph-Ogden's Ella Armstrong lines up a shot from the free throw line back in February against Tuscola. Armstrong and the Spartans will not be piling up wins until maybe sometime in 2021.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

The Board will revisit the status of winter sports at their update discussion on December 2, and again at their regularly scheduled meeting on December 14 if necessary.

"Taking into account the current state mitigations, the Board believes that early to mid-December will be the most reasonable target to review the status of winter IHSA sports and activities," said Anderson. "The Board is sensitive to the scheduling difficulties these delays create for athletic directors and coaches. However, our experiences this summer and fall lead us to believe that setting arbitrary start dates hinders the process even more. We realize it may seem redundant, but we have to preach patience as we await more data and direction from the state. Despite the obstacles this unprecedented school year has presented, the Board’s vision to provide participation opportunities in all IHSA sports has not wavered."

The Board was steadfast in their desire to remind all athletes and athletic programs that adhering to the mitigations is vital to the hopes of safely playing high school sports in Illinois as soon as possible.

"I believe there is a misconception that IHSA and non-school athletic programs have an adversarial relationship," said Anderson. "In my time at the IHSA, I have not found that to be the case at all. More so, I think there is a mutual respect for the opportunities that each provide for athletes. IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic and we are calling upon non-school programs to hold themselves to that same standard. As school and non-school sports temporarily cease in Illinois, and throughout the Midwest, it is a great reminder that putting the health and safety of our fellow citizens at the forefront in the short-term will allow all levels of athletics to thrive in the long-term."

The Board provided the following participation clarifications to member schools:

Winter Season Start Date: Given the timing of the Governor’s new mitigations, November 16 will not be recognized as the start date of the winter season, regardless of whether winter sport teams conducted any official tryouts or practices. A new start date will be established for each sport once winter sports can be conducted again.

Conditioning & Weight Training: Conditioning and weight training before and after school are paused. Local schools will decide if conditioning and weight training programs that are a part of their academic curriculums continue or are ceased.

Open Gyms: Are paused and cannot be conducted at this time.

Outdoor Workouts: Outdoor workouts may be conducted in any sport in groups of 10 or less with masks and social distancing. Coaches are counted toward the 10. Use of sport-specific equipment is allowable with proper sanitizing practices.

One-on-One Skill Work: Per Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigations and with school approval, one-on-one skill work between a coach and student-athlete is permitted for winter sports only, but is limited to one coach and one student-athlete per facility.

Activities: Practices and competitions may only be conducted virtually.

Non-School Participation: All sports organizations in the state, school or non-school, have been directed to abide by the Governor’s mitigations. IHSA coaches cannot organize non-school participation in any fashion. IHSA by-law 3.100 will be in effect once winter sport seasons begin following this pause.

SJO Fan Club fundraiser orders due November 24

There are just four days left to take advantage of the annual St. Joseph-Ogden High School fan club $10 T-shirt sale. If you haven't ordered yours yet, order today to help support all the athletic programs at the high school.

"It's the only fundraiser fan club is doing this year. Because of Covid and the uncertainty of sports seasons, there was no good way to do the all athletic fundraisers that we've done the past few years," Tammy Vallee said. "I know I'd never be able to complete the list of what the funds are spent on, but each sport receives funds to spend on items they need. The fan club purchases larger items as they become needed as well, such as weight room updates and equipment that were added this past year."

With Christmas just around the corner, Spartan fans can email their name, email address, cell phone number and shirt sizes to or via Facebook Messenger. Payment can then be mailed or dropped off at 800 East Lincoln, St Joseph, IL, 61873. Checks must be made payable to SJO Fan Club. All payment and orders must be received by Tuesday, November 24.

Shirts can also be ordered with a student at the high school, who can submit orders and deposit payments at the check-in doors when they arrive at school in the morning.

The fan club expects T-shirt orders to be available for pickup the week of December 14.

The $10 T-shirts are available in sizes from youth through adult XL are available for $10 each. Extended sizes are also available at slightly higher prices with 2XL at $12 each and 3XL at $13 apiece. The fan club reminds fans who order to make sure to specify YOUTH in their email or messages when ordering a children's sizes.

The SJO Fan Club is an organization of parents, staff and community members who actively help every athletic program at the high school with fundraising and volunteers when needed.

Mean Mugz Bar & Grill opens in Ogden

Mean Mugz Bar and Grill opened for their first full day of business today at their new location in Ogden on 121 S East Avenue. The establishment will be open until 9pm today.

Village of Ogden
Moving into the location formerly home of The Vault in the old bank, the establishment features a Cajun inspired menu complete with catfish, shrimp and, of course, alligator. They also offer hamburgers, Philly Steak, chicken sandwiches, salads and variety of side dishes.

Carry-out is available. For more information call (217) 582-8029. Hours this weekend are Saturday 11am - 9pm and Sunday 12pm - 9pm.

Advertise with the Sentinel

This story was later updated with the hours of operation at 9:40p.

Photo of the Day - November 18, 2020

SJO's Kiel Duval tries to turn a double play
SJO wins tourney title

After securing the forced out at second, St. Joseph-Ogden's Kiel Duval attempts to throw the batter out at first during his team's championship game at the Spartan Invite on May 8, 2004. The Spartans won the four-team baseball invite after beating Tuscola in the title game. The former three-sport athlete, now a mathematics instructor at the SJO, is school's head basketball coach.

PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Winter sports season takes a pause across the state

The high school basketball was suppose to start on Monday. St. Joseph-Ogden, Unity and basketball programs from around the state were suppose to begin team practices to prepare to play competitive games starting on November 30.

Hoping to "flatten the curve" of a surge in COVID-19 cases that started nearly a week ago, Governor JB Pritzker announced yesterday that the state would enter a level three of the state's resurgence mitigation plan on Friday. Some of the restrictions that go into effect that will affect athletics at all levels until the state's positivity numbers regress include:

• Pause all indoor group sporting and recreational activities including youth and adult recreational sports, individual training may remain (with facility reservation)

• This includes park districts and travel leagues play

• Locker rooms should be closed

Under the plan outdoor sports and recreation activities may continue. Groups and practices outdoors is limited to 10 persons or less with social distancing, face coverings required for all activities at all times and locker rooms should be closed to the public.

The pause also applied to high school sports putting basketball, wrestling, dance and competitive cheerleading activities on hold until sometime after the start of the new year or perhaps beyond.

"The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) recognizes that today’s announcement by Governor Pritzker will temporarily pause the IHSA’s winter sports season," said in a statement from IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "We remain optimistic that these new mitigations, coupled with the emergence of a vaccine, will aid in creating participation opportunities in the New Year for IHSA student-athletes in winter, spring, and summer sports."

Anderson and the IHSA Board of Directors will meet tomorrow, November 19, 2020, to consider how to proceed for the remainder of the academic year. While they won't be at the upcoming meeting, the IHSA extended invitations to to Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz and Dr. Ngozi Ezike to future meetings with the hope of developing a plans so that high school sports and activities can resume as soon as possible.

"IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic," Anderson said. "We hope that non-school programs will hold themselves to the same standard as we all put the long-term health and safety of our fellow citizens ahead of short-term athletic competition."

Photo of the Day - November 17, 2020

Catcher Hannah Bowen


SJO catcher Hannah Bowen takes a hard pitch from Jenna Slifer (not pictured) on the arm during her team's road game at St. Thomas More in 2009.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Photo of the Day - November 16, 2020

SJO's Luke Renfrew in his last prep football game

Spartan playoff advance blocked

Luke Renfrew (left) and Jaden Miller (right) try to plug a hole in their defensive line during their 2019 first round playoff game against Williamsville. Despite the St. Joseph-Ogden seniors' best effort, their season came to an end after a 54-26 loss to the eventual Class 3A state champion Bullets. The Spartans finished the season with a record of five wins against five losses.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Sentinel Poll: What's your plan for Thanksgiving?

There are currently 772 patients, down 46 from Sunday following a four-day surge, who have tested positive for the Coronavirus in Champaign County. There another 1,348 in quarantine due to having been in contact with a COVID-positive individual.

With the recent rise in positivity and another possible stay-at-home lockdown on the horizon, what are your plans for sharing this Thanksgiving with family and friends?

For many of us it will be a difficult decision and others a no-brainer. After you vote, leave a comment (kid safe and SFW friendly please) with what led to your decision or which way your are leaning at the moment.

bike trails

Poll closes Friday, November 20, 2020

Active COVID case count rises to 69

The number of active confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area has risen to 69 as of this morning according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District dashboard. The combined total is an all-time high for the viral infection in the six communities The Sentinel covers.

With the exception of Philo, each of the five other communities saw at least one new positive case in a 24 hour period. The CUPHD currently reports Ogden, St. Joseph and Royal added one additional case in each village. Meanwhile, Sidney added 2 additional cases for a total of five and Tolono's case count is now at 29, up four from 25 on Saturday. There are six active cases in Ogden, 19 in St. Joseph and Royal's new case is the first in several weeks.

The pandemic continues to surge as countywide there are now 818 active confirmed cases and 1,449 additional individuals under quarantine who may have been in contact with an infected individual today. Yesterday, there 749 active cases with 1,166 residents under close contact quarantine.

The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to ask residents of the state to limit their contact with others, wear a mask and wash their hands frequently to help stop the spread of the virus that has claimed 39 lives locally and 10,670 Illinoisans.

Photo of the Day - November 15, 2020

Unity's Jon Decker dribbles around Jack Cook

Rockets fall in OVC battle at home

Unity's Jon Decker attempts to dribble his way into the paint past St. Joseph-Ogden's Jack Cook in their conference rival game on January 6, 2017. After a 15-all first quarter start, the Rockets fell at home to the Spartans by 30 points, 79-49.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Willowdale Winter Wonderland coming in December

When Lacey Smith moved into the Willowdale Subdivision with her husband and three kids in 2015, she heard tales from the past when residents would lavishly decorate their homes for the holidays.

"I love Christmas and we have a fantastic neighborhood!" said Smith, who has lived in St. Joseph since 2012. "The idea just popped in my head that one day I would like to organize this for the community."

She had a lot of wonderful memories of visiting Candlestick Lane in Urbana, the source of her inspiration, as a child. She decided she wanted to try and build a similar tradition.

Last fall while hosting a bonfire for neighbors, Smith casually brought the idea up.

"Everyone was interested and plans began to form for the Willowdale Winter Wonderland!" Smith said.

After the initial positive response that evening, she made flyers to spread the word with the subdivision community. With the help of Tonya Yeazel and the subdivision's Facebook group page, it didn't take much effort for residents to join forces on transforming the neighborhood into a Christmas-inspired holiday oasis on the prairie.

Starting Friday, December 4, Willowdale will become a Winter Wonderland. Visitors will be able drive through the unique three-block neighborhood surrounded by corn and bean fields to enjoy dozens of decorated homes. It hasn't been confirmed, but Smith said that they are hoping that Santa will make an early visit to the Wonderland on December 12 to say hello to all the good little boys and girls.

"Stay tuned for confirmation once we hear back from the North Pole," she said. "Spread the word. I hope you and your family can come on out for a drive through Willowdale Winter Wonderland!"

Smith said she and her neighbors are a pretty tight-knit group.

"Covid has really brought many of us closer, too," she said, explaining the support and their shared sense of community. "None of us knew when we said we wanted to launch this in 2020, that we would be in the middle of a global pandemic. Now we feel like this is a great opportunity for us to spread some cheer and give kids something to look forward to this year."

Photo of the Day - November 14, 2020

St. Joseph mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges hands out medals

First Santa 5K a success

St. Joseph Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges helps hand out medals and greet runners crossing the finish line at the Ho Ho Ho 5K in December of 2018. There were more than 300 participants and nearly that number in spectators, family members and well-wishers along the 5k course the first year. The annual race, now called St. Joe Santa 5K, will run this year as virtual race in its the third installment due to Coronavirus pandemic.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Guest Commentary: Keep Thanksgiving alive in your heart

By Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator

Joe Biden or Donald Trump will never visit me in my home, stand beside me at the funeral home or dance at my wedding. I will not be receiving any calls from either of them to pray for me during sickness or to check on how my children are doing. I probably will never sit in a room with them to visit, laugh and tell funny stories or just to hang out over a cup of coffee.

I do not personally know either one. I welcome the opportunity to visit with either of them, but doubt it will happen.

I feel like I know them because I have seen them on television my entire life and heard them speak. I have been very emotional about them these last few months and felt very convicted about my vote.

I have written words, spoken words and stood on the firing line for my candidate. Most importantly, I voted. I have also received my share of emails, and real mail from people just as adamant about their candidate, often expressed in very colorful words.

Sadly, over the last few months, I have seen people who, I have known for many years, take as strong or stronger stance than I've taken. The distance between us has grown farther and the climate colder. Acquaintances, life-friends, school buddies and even family.

Both of our candidates have campaigned in their own, and different ways. The issues have been heatedly debated and argued.

As a nation, we have stressed ourselves to the max over these political candidates. And, while our vision for our nation has not changed, or our love and support for our preferred candidate has probably not dwindled, we must make a concerted effort to keep friends, family and the hopes and spirit of Thanksgiving alive.

As strongly as I feel about our nation and our leadership, I will not throw my friends and loved ones under the bus.

My father was a Republican and my mother was a Democrat. They both voted and life went on. They were married for over 60 years. They did pretty well. They didn't divorce over an election or politics. I do not remember them even arguing about an election.

This election was important to all of us, but I'm not going to stab my mother in the back or cut my father's throat for Joe Biden or Donald Trump. By the same token, I have played sports with people all through school, sang in choirs, danced with friends, prayed and wept with people at hospitals and funerals, baptized thousands of young and old people alike. I'm not going to throw these people in the lake or smash somebody's car. I am not going to try to destroy somebody's business or life for Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Nor will I attend any Thanksgiving or other holiday meals refusing to be civil and gracious because of opposing political feelings and beliefs in the room. Why would any of us? For Joe Biden or Donald Trump?

I refuse to let this election kill Thanksgiving or any of the friendships and relationships that I share with real people in my life. Life, our friendships, our relationship with God and the personal work and service of being a good human being are most important to me.

The Thanksgiving season is here. Life doesn't always go our way, but we all have a lot to be thankful for this year. Keep this good season alive with gratitude. Most of all extend Thanksgiving to all others. If it's not reciprocated, then it's on them. Keep Thanksgiving alive in your heart.


Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of American Issues, Every American Has An Opinion and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.


This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of PhotoNews Media. We welcome comments and views from our readers.


Christmas Parade in Philo December 4

A group of four women in Philo are pooling their collective talents to organize the first annual Village of Philo Christmas Parade. Julie Pioletti, Lisa Quinn, Cindy Schweighart and Lori Donovan are working together to bring a few hours of holiday cheer to friends and neighbors in the village.

The parade will make its way through town starting at 7 p.m. on December 4. Organizers are tying up one last detail before releasing the official route, which should be announced in the next week.

"We selected a route that allows for plenty of parking and open spaces to allow for social distancing," Pioletti said. "We need to confirm that we can use one more space before the map is posted."

The organizers want to light up the streets of Philo to put fellow residents in a festive, holiday mood and infuse the Christmas spirit throughout the village.

"We would like to take this time to invite you to participate in what we believe will be an exciting and memorable parade!" organizers said in a release. "We hope you will take the opportunity to decorate your golf cart, car, etc. with lights and festive decorations!"

It is not too late for your business or organization to register a float for the parade. There is no fee for this year's participants as there will not be a judged competition or entry contests.

The applications for entries are due November 20. All parade motorized entries must have a "lighted component to the float". In the event of severe and potentially dangerous weather - ice or snowstorm, driving rain with lightning - the parade will be cancelled.

One more thing - Santa imposters will not be permitted on parade entries. The official Santa Claus will be there and will appear at the end of the procession.

For more information contact Julie Pioletti at or call 217.649.2156.

Spectators are asked to observe the current public health recommendations during the parade.

Statewide stay-at-home order, not if but when

Repeatedly this week, Governor J.B. Pritzker has put the citizens of Illinois on notice that he may have no choice but to issue a second statewide lockdown if the COVID-19 metrics continue to rise at an alarming rate. It is clearly obvious by the accelerated surge in positive cases he will in all likelihood announce another mandated shelter-in-place order in days ahead.

"The numbers don't lie. If things don't take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point when some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order will be all that is left," Governor Pritzker said. "With every fiber of my being, I do not want us to get there. But, right now, that seems where we are headed."

Hospitalizations are at an all-time high with cases increasing by 459% since October 1. As of Wednesday night, there were 5,258 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state. Almost 1,000 individuals, 956 were being cared for in ICUs with 438 of them on ventilators.

In a preemptive move to reduce a possible strain on treatment and the spread of COVID-19, the City of Chicago issued its own stay-at-home advisory starting Monday.

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from November 5-11 exceeds the 8% mitigation trigger point established in the governor's Restore Illinois plan which is now at 13.9%.

On Tuesday, as cases in The Sentinel's area of coverage in Champaign County fell to a two-week low of 23, the Illinois Department of Public Health began asking residents to enter a voluntary a quasi-quarantine by working from home if possible and to only go out for essential activities - such as grocery shopping, visiting a pharmacy or getting a COVID-19 test. The state agency also asked people to limit travel especially to areas experiencing high positivity rates and to limit gatherings - even small groups - that mix households for the next three weeks, including through the Thanksgiving holiday.

As of today, there 43 active cases in the communities The Sentinel serves and and another 600 in Champaign County. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is reporting two new additional COVID-19 deaths bringing the total to 39.

The news comes three days after the district agency reported eight deaths between November 5 and 11, including a female and a male patient in their 50s, a female in her 60s, two women in their 70s, two men in their 80s and a 90 year-old male succumbed to the viral infection.

Champaign County, which is in Region 6 in the IDPH COVID-19 Resurgence data tracking, is showing a 7-day rolling average of 2.0. Subtracting out the testing from the University of Illinois' rigorous testing protocols, the county's positivity is at 8.7.

As of Monday only Moultrie County was showing a rolling positivity rate below Champaign's number.

Clark County was at 12.1, Clay 18.1, Coles 12.4, Crawford 9.9, Cumberland 14.7, DeWitt 12.7, Douglas 12.2, Edgar 13.6, Effingham 21.7, Fayette 26.7, Ford 11.6, Iroquois 18.2, Jasper 11.8, Lawrence 11.3, Macon 16, Moultrie 8.6, Piatt 12.6, Richland 16, Shelby 14.2 and Vermilion County was at 12.2 on Monday.

Fayette County record some of the highest single-day positivity in the county with four days between October 30 and November 9 above 30.0.

Last Friday, 15 tests performed in Crawford County yielded seven confirmed cases for the highest single-day positivity of 46.7.

On Tuesday Pritzker asked his constituents to show restraint and do the right thing voluntarily to fight the surge and need for him to issue another shelter-in-place order.

"It's critical to remember that nothing makes a bigger deterrence in this pandemic than when a community decides to protect your own by wearing masks, by avoiding gatherings, by temporarily closing high-risk, high-exposure business until we get to a place where it opens again."

Photo of the Day - November 13, 2020

Orion Ciota dances in the end zone


Showtime with Ciota

Orion Ciota, a three-sport athlete, celebrates a touchdown during St. Joseph-Ogden's home playoff football game against PORTA at what would later become Dick Duval Field. Behind Ciota's two touchdowns and 166-yard night, SJO advanced to the next round eliminating the Blue Jays (6-4) from the postseason in the first round, 43-25. The Spartans (11-3) finished the season as the Class 3A runner-up after marching through the playoffs to a title game showdown that was decided in overtime against Stillman Valley.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Blood Services seeks convalescent plasma donors, save a life

Patients that have recovered from a COVID-19 infection may be able to help treat others and ease the pain of a neighbor in their fight with the disease by generously donating their plasma.

The Community Blood Services of Illinois, which is the provider of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma to hospitals in Champaign County and the surrounding region, collects plasma from county residents who have fully recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Plasma from recovered citizens contain antibodies from the virus that can be transfused to patients who are currently hospitalized with the Coronavirus.

Donations must be scheduled at least 28 days after the last date the donor experienced symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, fatigue, or body ache), but interested donars can start the process by speaking with the Blood Center about their eligibility at anytime. Potential donors can complete the Blood Center’s online referral form or call (833) 610-1025. .

According to the blood center website, locally and nationally, there is only a two to three day supply of type O red blood cells as well as a supply of AB plasma and Convalescent Plasma.

"We are calling for all healthy members of the public to step up and support care for patients. Blood donation is safe and essential!" says a message on their website today. "Recent changes to donor eligibility criteria will permit donations by many donors previously deferred."

For more information, see

Keep your friends and neighbors informed

The Sentinel believes an informed community is a stronger, more vibrant community.

Reaching more than 500 readers a day, The Sentinel is mission is to keep people we care about informed by sharing local news and views to the readers in the communities we serve. We encourage village board and committees, school superintendents, and local organizations in the six villages we cover to send us your press releases, latest news and special event announcements.

To the village government and civic organizations who have put us on your contact list, thank you and keep the news coming. To the schools that have proudly send us honor roll and National Honor Society announcements, a high-five.

Email press releases, meeting agenda/minutes and your letters to the editor to

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Photo of the Day - November 12, 2020

SJO's Taylor Barnes sinks 18 points on Sages

SJO's Barnes leading scorer in conference win over Monticello

Taylor Barnes looks for a Spartan teammate to pass the ball during the St. Joseph-Ogden girls home basketball game against Monticello back on January 20. Making seven of her nine free throw attempts, Barnes, a senior, dropped an game-high 18 points on the Sages en route to a 47-39 conference win.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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Winter sports still on hold, IHSA to host pandemic Pow-Wow

The winter sports season is virtually on hold. Maybe, in another eight days, a number of high school coaches, athletes and fans will learn if they will be on the floor on November 30 playing their first games of the season. That's the news after the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors held a special virtual update session earlier today.

In a statement released by the IHSA, the Board also announced that schools who plan to begin basketball practice on November 16 should adhere to the Level 1 mitigations from the IDPH All Sports Policy until at least November 19. The high school sports association invited the representatives from Governor Pritzker’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and representatives from "a coalition of nearly 200 school superintendents who recently contacted the Governor regarding school sports during the 2020-21 school year" for pandemic sports pow-wow.

"The Board hopes to create a dialogue and build a more collaborative relationship with all the entities involved with developing sports policy in our state as everyone tries to navigate the myriad issues caused by the pandemic," Craig Anderson, IHSA Executive Director, said in the statement. "The Board’s decision to move forward with the IHSA basketball season was not meant to be adversarial. It was rooted in a desire to receive more direct communication and data from our state partners. They hope all the groups will see the mutual benefit of increased discourse and be represented at the meeting on November 19."

Adopting a noticeably softer tone, the IHSA says they will be able to provide more direction on basketball practices and games following the meeting for their 813 member schools.

Nearly two weeks ago Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that sports, normally played from November to March, would start their season in March. The recent rise in COVID-19 cases statewide and the governor's response toward mitigating the spread of the virus thus far makes it likely that if the season did get off to a start, it would have been short-lived.

In a survey with 546 schools who responded, nearly 300 IHSA schools do not plan to start basketball on November 16, and another 212 schools remain unsure of their status leaving roughly one-third of the organization in the pool of willing to play.

At a quick glance, the major drawback to districts ignoring the governor's guidance and moving confidently forward with the IHSA plan was the inability to secure insurance coverage. According to multiple sources, insurers were not willing to to cover schools that went against the IDPH and ISBE.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell issued a statement highlighting the liability exposure.

"The decision was made based on both the system and individual legal liabilities as determined by the GCMS School District attorneys and insurance providers," he said in a story in The News-Gazette. "Recently, both Governor Pritzker and Dr. Carmen Ayala (State Superintendent of Schools) have clearly stated that any district that directly defies the recommendations of IDPH, as it pertains to winter sports (basketball), would knowingly be putting their districts at risk both legally and financially."

The Peoria school board voted 5-1 to postpone the season according to the Peoria Journal Star.

"It’s not me desire to take anything away from the kids," Board President Doug Shaw was quoted saying prior to the board's vote. "But it seems it would be irresponsible from my point of view (to continue with a winter schedule). It’s an unpopular decision, but it’s the way we need to go."

The foreshadows in Anderson's final comment carries a bushel of uncertainty on a number of different levels.

"The Board recognizes the difficult decisions they have placed on member schools regarding basketball," said Anderson. "With a limited number of schools set to begin their season on November 16, they believe it is prudent to adhere to IDPH guidance as they work with state officials to gain greater clarity on the metrics and mitigations required to conduct certain high school sports throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year."

St. Joseph-Ogden commemorates Veterans Day

St. Joseph-Ogden High School created a video tribute commemorating this year's Veterans Day with a video featuring Commander Patrick Gegg. The video was played at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, for students who were in class today. The video will be played again for the other half of the student body tomorrow (November 12) that did not have class today.

Gegg is a 1994 St. Joseph-Ogden graduate and is an officer in the United States Navy. The 25-year veteran is the Executive Assistant to the Commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven and former commanding officer of Patrol Squadron Ten.

"Commander Gegg spoke at our Academic Assembly a couple of years back and was phenomenal, Principal Gary Page said. "Gegg is a very distinguished alumni and even better human being."

The 20 minute video also features thoughts and salutations from members of the SJO student body.

If the video does not appear in the space above, please use this link to view the SJO Veterans Day tribute.

Photo of the Day - November 11, 2020

Jack Cook earns all-tournament recognition in 2018

Cook receives all-tournament nod

St. Joseph-Ogden senior Jack Cook steps forward to receive Toyota of Danville All-Tournament player award in 2018 from Justin Franzen. Moments earlier the Spartans fell 66-37 to the Timberwolves of Cissna Park in the holiday tournament's title game. The starting forward scored 10 of the SJO program's total scoring output.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)