Penn State

Posted: November 13, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays this blog examine intersections of work and life in “Sabbath.”]

People Who Help and Save

Last week, like people across the country, I was sickened by the news coming out of Penn State.  This wasn’t a sports story even though it dealt with a top football program.  It was about a man who hurt children and the many people who looked the other way to protect their careers – and income.  The events at Penn State also made me think about some people I know who have spent their careers and a lot of time off the clock helping children. 

Tom Schneider has been a Juvenile Parole Officer in Cook County for over 20 years.  He works hard to put kids on the right path.  Some of his clients are beyond his or anyone’s help.  They have experienced lives no one would want and are themselves warped for life.  Tom has been able to help many young people who made mistakes.  Some people really do make the most of a second chance.

Before she retired a few years ago, Demetra Soter was a doctor at Cook County Hospital.  She specialized in case of child abuse which involved physical (non-sexual) violence.  Beyond her duties as a doctor, Demetra was often an advocate for her patients working with prosecutors to protect those who were at risk.  It wasn’t unusual to see Demetra take a call during a social event or party.  Her service to children was 24/7.

 My friends from Kiwanis John Stephan and Oscar Roman also run the Boys and Girls Club in Logan Square.  They offer neighborhood kids services that often go beyond sports and recreation.  John has been very involved in school safety programs and gang intervention.  I saw Oscar’s commitment first hand during a Kiwanis meeting that took place at the Boys and Girls Club.  There was a noise outside that sounded like a gun shot.  Everyone froze – except Oscar.  He ran outside to see if anyone was hurt.  When he came back, he said it was probably a car backfiring.  Still, he had the courage to move toward the problem and try to solve it, the kind of courage that was lacking at Penn State.

For every example of the abuser and those who cover the crime up, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of good people who are working to help children and protect.  It’s easy to feel outrage at people and institutions who do nothing.  We should be angry.  However, it’s equally important to remember the people who are committing themselves to keeping children safe.  Their work deserves our highest respect.