The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Aug. 31, 2014
From Little League baseball to Little Miss Sweetcorn, 4-Hers to 4-footers, small children have been doing mighty big things this summer.
So, we asked our panel of 10, what were you up to during your 15 minutes of childhood fame?
JIMMY JOHN LIAUTAUD
Founder and CEO, Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
"I was in sixth grade at Maplewood Elementary School in Cary. There was a science contest. I decided I would invent a hot dog cooker.
"I took a piece of 2-by-4 lumber and pounded two large nails through it. Then, I took an extension cord and cut off the female end. I took each wire and wrapped it around the butt end of each nail and I pounded it in the rest of the way. I covered the nail with electrical tape on both sides of the 2-by-4. Then I covered the contraption in aluminum foil.
"It worked. I put a hot dog on the nail tips, plugged it in, electrocuted the hot dog. It heated up, popped and burnt. I put it on a bun with ketchup and there I had it.
"I entered the contest and served hot dogs cooked on this thing. I won — but the principal asked me if he could take the device and put it in a safe place.
"Don't try this at home, please."
Drug court coordinator, Champaign County
"I was a 13-year-old eighth-grader, playing basketball on St. Malachy's lightweight team during the 1964-65 season. The game was against St. Mary's of C-U and I was lucky enough to make a game-winning shot.
"The drama behind this story is that I didn't even see the shot go in. It was taken off the dribble from around halfcourt. It took all my strength to heave the ball to the rim, causing me to fall headfirst to the floor. Hearing the crowd go nuts and getting mobbed by teammates and fans was a moment in time I'll never forget."
Dean of students, Parkland College
"I remember the moment because it became one of my dad's treasures, as he called them. I'm no great artist, but I made a small pottery grouping in my eighth-grade class. My teacher, Jim Peterson, entered it into the school art fair competition and it won second place. My dad always kept his change and keys in it on top of his chest of drawers."
RABBI ALAN COOK
Sinai Temple, Champaign
"I was a TV-obsessed kid growing up in Miami, Fla. When I was in first grade, my father — also a rabbi, now retired — was asked to take his turn on a Sunday morning religion show explaining one of the Jewish holidays. He invited me and some of my friends to sing some songs as part of the episode.
"I was a bit underwhelmed by the local NBC affiliate where we filmed; I guess I expected that the stars of all my favorite shows would be milling about. While we were singing, though, my friend saw her father making goofy faces at her from off camera. So she stuck out her tongue at him — just as the camera was panning past me and her. It was not the most auspicious of TV debuts."
Director, Rantoul Public Library
"I wrote a play when I was in grade school. I think it was when I was in sixth grade. My teacher liked it so much that she had our entire class act it out.
"Unfortunately, I no longer have the script and can't recall the plot. All I remember is that it involved a royal family and some macaroni and cheese."
Teacher, building and trades, Villa Grove High
"I remember the time I was asked to sub for a Little League team at shortstop. I was a 9-year-old in farm league at the time, and I can remember how nervous I was the whole game. I struck out three times, but I helped the team out by making three plays and throwing all three out at first — including the final out of the game, which helped the team win.
"I guess they wanted me for my glove. Anyway, I remember lots of slaps on the back from the other players and hugs from some moms and how good it felt."
Senior pastor, Vineyard Church, Urbana
"Freshman year, Richwoods High School in Peoria. I was selected to represent the varsity speech team in an important multischool contest. I won first place for my dramatic presentation — an excerpt from the play 'Long Day's Journey Into Night,' by Eugene O'Neill. Our coach treated us to a steak dinner at the pricey Lariat Club.
"While I still have the golden trophy, I'm most grateful for the vision this event gave me for passionately communicating to an audience. This vision is realized now, many years later, in my job leading the preaching team at the Vineyard Church. Quite a difference but just as much fun."
Owner, St. Joseph's Gallo Dance Studio
"August 6th, 1976. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. I was in Miami Beach, Fla., at the United States Twirling Association Nationals. I was 10. I'd been a baton twirler and competed at state and national competitions from the time I was 2. I was representing the state of Illinois in the USTA international pageant, in which I competed against contestants from each of the 50 states and British Columbia.
"They were announcing the winners — fourth runner-up ... third ... second ... first runner-up — and I didn't hear my name. And then they announced: '... and our 1976 USTA Juvenile Miss International is Jan Phillips.' I just stood there. Did not move. Miss Texas had to take me to the front of the stage. I was interviewed while still in Florida and when we returned back home, there was a front-page article and a picture of me, twirling on the beach, in our newspaper."
Athletic Director, PBL Junior High
"I was the first girl at Burlington (Iowa) High School to win the Rick O'Daniels Four-Sport Award. It was established in honor of one of the best athletes in our school's history and was given to only seniors who lettered in four varsity sports. I lettered in volleyball, basketball, track and softball.
"The day I accepted the award was the first time I ever had to give a speech in front of a crowd of people. It seems funny now to think how nervous I was since speaking in front of people is now a part of my everyday job. I look back and realize how much being involved in sports has shaped my life. Today, I teach physical education, coach volleyball and softball, and am the athletic director."
2013 Champaign Rotarian of the Year
"I can vividly remember an infamous moment in my youth. I was playing Little League baseball and was at shortstop. A hard line drive was hit my way. It knocked me down — my cap flew one way and the baseball went in another direction.
"I quickly got up, retrieved my cap, put it on and then picked up the baseball and threw to second base. Needless to say, the coach and many of my teammates reminded me that I had the order all wrong."
Principal, Urbana Middle School
"I ran cross-country and track all through high school. I won a cross-country race one time, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do once I was in the lead. It was a strange feeling not to be following someone.
"This was the only cross-country race I ever won. Even though it was a JV race at an invitational, it was still pretty exciting for me at the time."
Owner, Sleepy Creek Vineyards
"My shining moment happened when I was a student at Southern Illinois University. I was taking a design course where our final exam was to build a boat entirely out of cardboard and enter it into the International Cardboard Boat Regatta, an annual event that has been going on for over 40 years.
"Being a student of the SIU aviation program and someone known to take on projects larger than I should, I decided to build a cardboard seaplane. It was a thing of beauty. It held two people, had a 20-foot wingspan and two functioning propellers — all made entirely out of cardboard. It took several weeks to build but all the hard work would pay off. On the day of the race, it was awarded the Pride of the Regatta trophy.
"Had I just a little more time, I believe I could have gotten the 'Paper Pelican' to actually fly, just like Howard Hughes' 'Spruce Goose.'"
Drama director, Unity High School
"One of the highlights of my younger days happened when I was a senior at Mattoon High School. I got involved in drama, and it consumed my time and energy. Due to this devotion, Mrs. Witmer named me the Outstanding Thespian of the Year. I was given this award at the annual theatre banquet, and I remember the feeling of being accepted and honored that Mrs. Witmer has chosen me."