The Naperville Jaycees 40th Annual Distinguished Service Awards were presented on April 26 in the Pavilion at Meson Sabika with Chad Pedigo’s serving as Master of Ceremonies.

The Distinguished Service Awards recognize local individuals and organizations for their community spirit and dedication to Naperville. 

This year’s ceremony celebrated kindness, compassion and acceptance while commemorating sacrifice and the many ways the community connects every day to make a difference. Standing ovations, a shout-out to local independent businesses and boisterous applause communicated plenty of appreciation for all the 2018 DSA designees.

During festivities Pedigo introduced the 2018 Distinguished Service Awards Committee Chair Sue Navalgund and her committee, including Michelle Lee Austin, Miranda Barfuss, Kelly Beyer, Matt Chicola, Karen Coleman, Rebecca Cravatta, Margo DeGeeter, Matt Dingeldein, Nina Mayer, Daniel Perez and Greg Siegel.

Pedigo, pictured above with Audrey Bueche, also drew attention to a large poster with more than 400 names that paid tribute to DSA recipients and their contributions to this community since 1979.

Cheers to this year’s recipients and to the Naperville Jaycees!

The following profiles are printed as they were orated on April 26.

2018 Educator – Stephanie Jurkiw, profile by Rebecca Cravatta

Humble. Encouraging. Patient.

Stephanie Jurkiw demonstrates these qualities and many more as a social worker at Highlands Elementary School. Stephanie received both her Bachelors and Masters at Aurora University, contributing to her incredible talent in social work. At Highlands, Stephanie teaches students how to understand and regulate their feelings, educating them on acceptable and expected social behavior. Stephanie emphasizes to students the value of understanding their own mental health, as it is equally important as their daily school subjects. Some examples of her accomplishments include starting a monthly girls group to help build esteem and confidence in the area of social relationships, and a boys group that deals with emotional regulation and managing impulsivities. Her efforts bring cohesion among students, and her room is always a welcoming and safe environment for them to visit.

Stephanie chose to become involved in social work because of her desire to give back and her sympathy for the variety of struggles and hardships that come with being a student. Her lasting goal is to help students feel comfortable and safe, and teach them how to conquer feelings of doubt and anxiety. With over a decade of experience, Stephanie was recognized just last year for the Naperville District 203 “Those Who Excel Award” in the Student Support Personnel category.

In addition to her social work at Highlands Elementary School, Stephanie also makes time for her surrounding community. Every summer she works with DuPage PADS helping prepare weekly meals and participating in their Bike Build event. She also coleads the annual Giving Tree Program, a holiday gift giving event that garners donations during the winter months, has assisted a student in developing a toy drive, and accepts year-round donations of household items for those in need.

2018 Student Volunteer – Jack Mayor, profile by Michelle Lee Austin

Jack Mayor Jack Mayor is a Senior at Neuqua Valley High School where he is involved in Adaptive PE which is dedicated to helping those with special needs to fit in. Outside of school, he enjoys being a part of YoungLife Capernaum which connects children and teens to Christ and helps them to grow in their faith.

Jack was born with Autism. Through Neuqua, Jack became involved in Best Buddies, a non-profit organization, that pairs typical kids with those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. Jack found his voice through Best Buddies and was recently named a Global Ambassador. He travels the country educating others about the organization and the struggles that come from living with a disability.

2018 Public Employee – Emy Trotz, profile by Matt Chicola

A public servant’s job is never done, especially when you are on the front line like Emy Trotz. As the Executive Assistant to the Mayor’s Office for the City of Naperville, Emy is busy fielding calls from residents, listening to their concerns and sharing her vast knowledge of the fifth largest city in the state to help maintain the peace.

“There’s nothing quite like the community spirit in Naperville,” Emy responds when asked what inspires her to overcome the challenges she has encountered over the past 19 years in her role, whether that involves sorting out utility issues or assisting the city through a significant mayoral transition. Emy’s responsibilities read like a veritable “Who’s Who” of activities that make Naperville the city we know and love; however, it is her coordination of the requests for proclamations, which recognize the achievements of other individuals and organizations, that catches the eye most.

Tonight, we celebrate the compassion, dedication, and grace Emy has bestowed on this community; we proclaim her name in thanks of her continued efforts to help uplift others. Emy began her career (and love for this community) as the administrative secretary for the Naperville Chamber of Commerce 25 years ago. Her positive attitude found a natural home at the Exchange Club of Naperville where she served as president as well as the district’s leader. It is clear how much she cares about the betterment of our residents when considering how many projects she has tackled outside of work, though nothing demonstrates the inspiring nature of her spirit quite like her victory over cancer in 2015. Emy is a beacon of hope to all those who have the privilege of interacting with her; she truly is a gift delivered to Naperville by the angels, so let us recognize, together, a job well done.

2018 Nonprofit Organization – Alive Center, profile by Daniel Perez

The first of its kind, The Alive Center is Naperville’s teen center. Alive’s mission was written by their student board and is the heart behind the center. Their mission is to be a teen-led, teen-driven center focused on empowering the youth of today to become the impassioned, resilient leaders of tomorrow.

The Alive Center offers a diverse range of programming designed to empower teens, foster physical & emotional well-being and inspire personal growth. The Alive Center is one of the first teen centers in the country to support both junior high and high school students as well as privileged and at-risk kids through one unique peer tutoring, teen-led model. It is a powerful peer model of teens helping teens where they all become empowered in the process. For more information visit

2018 Business – Dog Patch Pet and Feed, profile by Karen Coleman

For 40 years Dog Patch and Feed has been an integral part of Naperville. From the start, the business was dedicated to making the lives of animals better.

In December 2011, owner Greg Gordon announced the discontinuation of the relationships between Dog Patch and puppy or kitten breeders; paving the way for new standards in Naperville.

Since this transition, the business works to rescue, rehabilitate, and find either foster or permanent placement for nearly a thousand animals a year. Though their dedication and hard work, the people at Dog Patch are recognized not only locally, but throughout Illinois and the nation as the model for an independent animal rescue and placement facility.

2018 Healthcare Professional – Dr. Leona DiAmore, profile by Greg Siegel

Dr. Leona Di Amore began her quest for healthy living while serving in the United States Navy as a medic for the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Special Forces. It was there that she decided that using alternative treatments to medication was something she was passionate about. In 1990 Dr. Di Amore enrolled in massage school. After completing her national certification for massage therapy she went on to become an Instructor of Massage Therapy.

In 1996, Dr. Di Amore was selected out of over 800 candidates worldwide to serve the Olympic athletes in the Atlanta games as a massage therapist. Her next step was to pursue her Doctor of Chiropractic degree. She graduated from Life University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998 and opened a private practice in rural Georgia. From 2002 to 2006, Dr. Di Amore was one of only six chiropractors in the country appointed to serve on a federal advisory panel as a chiropractic expert for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Dr. Di Amore also began lecturing at conferences on the value of chiropractic health care.

Dr. Di Amore has been a resident of Naperville since 2003. She is the proud mother of Alexis (19 years) and Devan (18 years) and a red Labrador named Dublin. She spends her time as Director and Owner of Leona’s Healing Place, a holistic health center. The intention of The Healing Place is to educate people on how to get healthy and stay healthy. Leona enjoys public speaking, spiritual studies, current events, reading, travel, gardening, and cooking. She is also a student of the martial arts and a Harley Davidson enthusiast.

On May 1, 2017, while visiting her daughter at the University of Texas, Leona was a first responder to a student who had just suffered a knife attack by a fellow student. With a sense of panic, everyone else was running away from the incident. Dr. Di Amore ran toward the injured student. She identified a deep and life threatening neck wound. Her trauma training kicked in and she was able to stabilize and keep the student alive until the paramedics arrived. The student’s life was saved. While she says she is not a hero, Leona would like her experience to serve as a reminder for everyone to participate in basic humanity and kindness. It does not cost us anything, but the benefits we get in return are priceless. “Showing kindness to others is how we are going to change the world.”

2018 Community Leader – Sun Kwok, profile by Miranda Barfuss

Sun Kwok has been blessed with a brain that works in the service of good, at high octane, all day and every day. He comfortably inhabits the space outside the box and makes those important quality-enhancing moves that make all the difference in taking something from good to great.

As an early business owner, Sun’s company, Integral Corporation, joined the Naperville Chamber of Commerce. He got involved. He ascended to a role on the Chamber Board of Directors and was Vice Chair in 2005. Seeing a need for a young person’s organization that focused on business growth and professional development, he joined with several other young colleagues to be a founding member of the Naperville Chamber’s Young Professional Network. This YPN is now one of the largest and most successful young professional entities in the region. Sun was part of the team that helped the Chamber of Commerce earn its very first Five Star accreditation, a laborious task that improved quality across the entire organization. He demonstrated leadership over the Chamber’s 2020 Strategic Plan and led a team for the Extreme Business Makeover Projects, which helped local businesses transform their practice.

In the course of his work and volunteerism with the Chamber, Sun heard that our local school district was going to be retiring all of their computers. He leaped at the chance to speak to them about refurbishing the computers and using them for another purpose. He founded the Computer Redeployment Project, which take the computers destined for recycling and uses student volunteers to refurbish them. The computers are then given back to our community and kids in need. Since the program began in 2008, a total of 2,784 computers have been refurbished and returned to our community. The Computer Redeployment Project has been recognized with many local awards, and was also featured in a national Future Ready video by the U.S. Office of Education. Sun was awarded a “Those Who Excel” Award of Excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education as well as the Silver President’s Volunteer Service Award by the President of the United States in 2014.

Sun has also dedicated his time to the Naperville Public Library Board of Trustees, for whom he served as President 2009-2011 and the Rotary Club of Naperville, serving as President 2011-2012. He was awarded Rotarian of the Year in 2008 and has participated in countless international relief efforts through Rotary to impact communities around the world. He also served on the Soups On! Committee, helping to raise almost $900,000 over eight years to help fight local hunger and homelessness here at home. He is a taekwondo 4th degree black belt instructor and is now focused on his son’s Boy Scout Troop 597, serving on the Troop Committee, as Popcorn Kernel, Activities Coordinator and Venture Advisor. The Naperville Jaycees are more than honored to present this energetic and inspiring leader, Sun Kwok, with the 2018 Distinguished Service Award for a Community Leader.

2018 Charles “Chuck” Bueche Lifetime Achievement Award – Naperville Memorial Day Parade Committee profile by Matt Dingeldein, Jaycees President

The first Memorial Day parade in Naperville was held in 1928. For many years the parade was something that a committee member describes as “perhaps more of a reaction than an organized event.”

The 1967 parade was less than successful. As a result, Paul “Bud” Boecker spoke to representatives of the Municipal Band, Naperville’s two veterans’ organizations (Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 and the American Legion Post 43), and the Naperville Fire and Police Departments with the message that Memorial Day should emphasize the real purpose of the day. The holiday is set aside every year to honor military men, women and families that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedoms.

The result of these meetings was the formation of the Naperville Memorial Day Parade Committee. Ron Keller was named Chairman and has been involved with the parade committee ever since. The Naperville Memorial Day Parade Committee has been responsible for organizing the Memorial Day events, the parade line up and to encourage participation throughout the community.

Through the years, as Naperville has grown, the committee’s responsibilities have grown proportionally. The committee went from filling out a simple one page request to now filing a SECA grant application, special event permit, screening participation applications, and arranging transportation for veterans. The American Legion and VFW alternate taking turns as the host organization of the parade every year. The 20-plus member committee has a combined parade-planning experience that approaches 200 years.

One of the committee’s most important and meaningful activities is to encourage youth involvement. The committee has been successful in getting recruits from Great Lakes Recruit Training Command, the Navy Band Midwest, and the University of Illinois NROTC Color Guard, along with the many school bands from District 203 and 204 and YMCA Adventure Guides, the Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

The Naperville Memorial Day Parade committee keeps the heart of Memorial Day, front and center. Their focus is on remembering and honoring all of the veterans who died in the service as well as those who died afterward for their sacrifices, “so that we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have in this, the greatest country on Earth.”

The Naperville Jaycees are thrilled to present the Charles “Chuck” Bueche Lifetime Achievement Award to the Naperville Memorial Day Parade Committee. Their dedication to this labor of love for our community has supplied generations of fond memories and built a cherished tradition that we value and honor tonight. As a Past Commander of American Legion Post 43, we think Chuck Bueche would agree.

Editor’s Note: The 2018 Memorial Day Parade Committee has been led again this year by Terry Jelinek. The festivities are nonpartisan, nonpolitical and noncommercial. Everybody is welcome. Thank you.

Naperville Jaycees Fun & Fundraising

Widely-known for the Last Fling and Labor Day Parade, a four-day family festival held for fun, live concerts and tradition over Labor Day Weekend, the Naperville Jaycees is a nonprofit service organization with more than 120 young people dedicated to personal development through community service.

The organization provides Naperville area residents with the opportunity to better themselves and to grow personally and professionally while giving through community service and fund raising efforts. Through their fund raising efforts, the Naperville Jaycees are able to donate funds to nonprofit organizations in the community and throughout DuPage County.

Jaycees Creed

We believe: That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life;

That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations;

That economic justice can best be won by free man through free enterprise;

That government should be of laws rather than of man;

That Earth’s great treasure lies in human personality;

And that service to humanity is the best work of life.