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If there ever was a question, this year Glenbard South made Santa's Good List.
Raiders athletic director John Treiber acknowledged Wednesday that an anonymous donor has pledged the critical third of what's expected to be a $1.2-$1.4 million price tag for a new turf football field and accompanying track, possibly completed for use by the upcoming fall football and soccer seasons.
The donor's portion would combine with amounts dedicated by District 87 and the Glenbard South Booster Club. Treiber said he hoped the issue would be put on the agenda for approval at Monday's school board meeting.
Treiber said the donor had been in touch "for the last couple months" with Glenbard South Principal Terri Hanrahan and the athletic staff. The donor "asked what we really could use," Treiber said, "and obviously that's a priority for athletics and our physical education department. It definitely gave us a shot in the arm."
In addition to a new football field and track, plus water retention features, District 87 will pay for a new scoreboard. The donor also is willing to match the school district for funds to build a new press box and expanded home bleachers, Treiber said.
"We're hoping if it gets approved here by the board in January that the project would be put out to bid in February," said the athletic director, who added that construction could begin as soon as late spring.
"Santa Claus was good to us this year, hopefully," Treiber said.
Good man in better health
The second time Jim Danforth fell and couldn't get up, alone in his Carol Stream apartment, he yelled until help arrived.
At that point the Fenton assistant boys basketball coach said, "things changed."
They had to.
Danforth, who as a head boys coach led Driscoll, Dundee-Crown and finally Fenton to regional finals before settling in as an assistant to Dennis Cromer at Fenton in 2004, had health issues that prevented him from getting out of a chair, or up from a table. Danforth had three minor traffic accidents within a two-year period, forcing his three adult children to effectively rescind his driving privileges.
"Ten or 11 years ago I started noticing my legs were really heavy and at times were difficult to move," said Danforth, 65. "I was more tired than normal and my handwriting was getting harder and harder to read."
These problems first surfaced in the latter stages of Danforth's 23-year career teaching and coaching both basketball and football at Dundee-Crown. Placed on disability, the Teachers Retirement System informed him he had to sit out coaching a year to retain disability privileges. That period rolled over into Danforth's subsequent retirement.
Danforth was on disability for Parkinson's disease, the progressive nervous disorder that affects movement. Still, he bounced from neurologist to neurologist without a complete consensus. He finally landed at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, where he was an inpatient for three weeks of psychological counseling and physical exercise.
Opinions ranged from a diagnosis of Parkinson's to conversion disorder, which the Mayo Clinic describes as exhibiting psychological stress in physical ways.
A divorce that ended a 30-year marriage still depresses Danforth, he admits. But having survived prostate cancer only the year before, as well as a cancerous spot on his nose, would seem to find the Melrose Park native clear in his knowledge of mind versus matter.
"They tried to say I had Parkinson's symptoms without actually having Parkinson's," Danforth said. "But then I got a whole lot worse and I went to a seminar and heard about Deep Brain Stimulation."
For the past 20 years an option for Parkinson's patients, DBS therapy includes electrodes implanted into the brain and connected to a pacemaker-like device placed in the chest to regulate electronic impulses.
"They said I was a prime candidate for this," Danforth said. "At that time I was barely functioning as far as moving, and tremors, and all the Michael Fox symptoms you attribute to Parkinson's."
Two years ago Danforth underwent the six-hour procedure to implant the electrode on the left side of his brain affecting the right side of his body.
"They drill a hole in your head to see if you have a brain, I guess," he joked, but everything checked out fine and three months later he had the other side done.
"It hasn't been quite what I hoped it would be, but I've been much better as far as tremors and my ability to walk," Danforth said, who despite some balance problems and mild tremors can pace a half-hour on a treadmill after being unable to go from door to mailbox. He now lives in an apartment complex for seniors in Elk Grove and returns to Marianjoy every three months for checkups.
"If you happen to see me and I have kind of a blank look on my face it's not out of boredom, it's side effects. But I've been able to coach, and I've started to drive again," he said.
Danforth's recovery made for a wondrous sight at the Glenbard West Holiday Classic, where he was not only able to climb up the bleachers to scout an opponent but also traipsed up three staircases to reach the hospitality room for some grub.
Cromer was among several football and basketball coaches who drove their friend to and from practices and games when he couldn't.
"You'd like to do something to correct the situation," Cromer said, "but obviously we weren't able to or in a situation to. When Jim went through the process we were hopeful and maybe a little optimistic, and we couldn't be happier with the way things turned out for him."
Danforth's improved health has him considering returning to gainful employment or finding volunteer work to avoid boredom in the months when he's not coaching.
"It's a huge step forward from what I was and how I was progressing downhill, to the point where I didn't know how long I would be mobile -- and to worry about being a burden on my kids or not being self-sufficient can be a problem," Danforth said. "But I don't worry about those things anymore, they're down the road. People have done well with this process for 10, 12 years with varying degrees of success.
"I was able to play golf last year, whereas last summer I'd just freeze over the ball and the club wouldn't move. Now it moves, but I'm terrible."