Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch honors Paralympic athlete

Guest speakers at the Monday Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch meeting included Cook County Sheriff’s Police officials and state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-11th), but Kennedy High School student-athlete Stella McMillan got the biggest ovation when the group presented her with an award for her achievements.

Stella, a wheelchair athlete and honor student who is going into her senior year at Kennedy, was joined by her parents, Brian and Jen, and older sister, Michelle. The meeting was held at Kennedy High School.

Being born without legs did not stop her from competing in multiple adaptive sports, including basketball and track and field. She is a seven-time state champion in track and field, and is the current record-holder in the shotput, discus, and 100-, 200- and 800-meter races.

“Her determination and dedication is an inspiration to us all,” said GRNW President Al Cacciattolo.

“I believe everyone has a disability or flaw of some kind, and it is the way we overcome them that makes the difference,” she said, adding that being an inspiration to others is what keeps her competing.

Cacciattolo said that GRNW will be donating $250 in Stella’s name to U.S. Paralympics Team, which she hopes to be competing on in the near future.

Sandoval spoke briefly about the ongoing budget problems in Springfield, and handed out certificates of recognition to the GRNW board members.

“You are the premiere neighborhood watch program,” he told the group. “No one has the right to destroy your neighborhood.”

Sandoval also passed out blue lapel ribbons to show support for police, who he said have been unfairly “vilified” nationally in recent months.

Noting that he was heading back to Springfield the following day for a special session of the Legislature, he called the budget crisis “really quite disgusting.”

He said Chicago cannot afford to pay Chicago Public Schools pension payments due July 1, and CPS schools may not open on time in the fall if money is not found. Sandoval said Mayor Emanuel asked the Legislature to change the payment due date to Aug. 15, to allow more time for the budget to be sorted out.