Top of the Morning, April 29, 2014

Top of the Morning, April 29, 2014

Most in the overflow crowd at Monday's Champaign Rotary Club luncheon didn't know exactly what was on the agenda. So imagine their surprise when Champaign Mayor Don Gerard showed up with a proclamation honoring the hundreds of volunteers who planted trees in tornado-ravaged Gifford earlier this month.

"It was an emotional, powerful moment," Champaign Rotary president John Calderon said. "To be able to help our neighbors in Gifford is what it was all about. It was priceless."

The mayor proclaimed April 5 "Let's Get Growing Gifford, Illinois Again! Day," as a tip-of-the-hat to Champaign Rotary Club, Champaign County Farm Bureau, Rantoul Rotary Club, Piatt County Provisional Rotary Club, Ludwig Landscaping and everyone else who pitched in. More than 230 trees were planted April 5.

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They didn't win the National Science Bowl. But the kids from Champaign's Next Generation School didn't disappoint, either, in their first appearance at the U.S. Department of Energy's showcase in Washington, D.C.

"It was a terrific learning experience," first-year coach Brenda Searby said Monday.

The kids, who are due back in school today, would have pocketed $1,000 for Next Generation's science department with a top-eight finish. But a bad draw and some sharp competition did the middle schoolers in. Still, Robert Nagel, Albert Ostoja- Starzewski, Tim Cho, Tony Cosomini and Dylan Patel enjoyed the royal treatment.

"Two of my five members will be back at Next Generation next year," Searby said. "They are already saying they want to come back. It really was an amazing experience."

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Those sets of C Section seats, ripped from the upper deck at State Farm Center, have been selling.

UI assistant AD Marty Kaufmann said about 200 sets have been purchased since they went on sale earlier this month. The school planned to make about 650 sets available for $325 plus a $99 shipping charge.

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