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McCaleb: Fire a reminder to count your blessings daily

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It’s easy to take each day for granted until something happens that puts life in perspective.

With no immediate relatives in the area, my wife and I decided for the second straight Thanksgiving to take our two children to KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark in Gurnee.

We left early Wednesday afternoon. Our son, 11, and daughter, 9, had a great time Wednesday evening and Thursday morning in the water park and the video arcade. We left to make the 50-minute-or-so drive home shortly after noon Thursday so we – OK, my wife – could start cooking our modest Thanksgiving dinner.

About halfway through the drive home, my wife received a concerning text from one of our neighbors.

“I don’t know if you guys are home, but I wanted to let you know that the corner house on the street caught on fire,” the text read. “The garage is burned pretty bad. I just wanted to let you know because I know [your daughter] is friends with them.”

My daughter, in fact, is great friends with one of the girls who lives there. We confirmed through subsequent texts that everyone at the home was OK, but my 9-year-old worried the rest of the way home nonetheless.

As we drove into our neighborhood, we could smell the smoke. The turn onto our street was blocked by a fire engine, so we circled the block and entered from the other side.

After pulling into our driveway, we walked over and saw the charred remains of the garage and other fire damage to the house. A turkey fryer had caused the fire. From the outside, it looked pretty bad. We saw our neighbors and had a brief conversation, making sure they were OK and offering any assistance.

My daughter found her friend, and they spent the next hour or so together. Everything was going to be fine, thankfully.

Later Thursday, we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. As has been tradition at our house for quite a while, we went around the table before digging in, telling each other what we were thankful for.

The first thing my daughter said when it was her turn was that she was thankful that her friend and her friend’s family were OK despite the fire. I’m thankful for that, too.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. And remember to count your blessings every day.

• • •

Who’s your hero?: For the second consecutive year, the Northwest Herald will honor those in McHenry County communities who go above and beyond in volunteering their time to help out neighbors who are most in need.

In February, we published “Everyday Heroes,” a special, tab-sized magazine that featured 50 McHenry County residents who share their time and expertise helping others to improve their lives.

We started seeking nominations from our readers in November, and the response was overwhelming. There were so many worthwhile nominees who didn’t make last year’s publication that we knew we had to do it again.

Everyday heroes do not perform good deeds because they are motivated by money or prestige. They are motivated by love for their fellow human beings, and they have a deep desire to help others.

If you know someone like this, please nominate them. You can do so by filling out the entry form on page 9 of today’s Sports section and sending it in or submitting one online at

Help us honor those heroes who deserve recognition but don’t seek it out.

• • •

Cyber Monday: Black Friday has come and gone for another year, but Cyber Monday is tomorrow. That’s when online retailers offer special deals to lure Christmas shoppers to their websites.

If you plan to do some online shopping tomorrow, remember your local retailers. Speaking of local retailers, the Northwest Herald’s entertainment and shopping website,, will host a Cyber Monday auction all day tomorrow.

Among the auction items from local merchants are an 18k rose gold ring, a Weber gas grill, an electric guitar with lessons and a kayak.

Check it out to see what other items you can bid on.

• • •

Surveys are back: Beginning Saturday, readers of will be asked to answer a simple survey question or two before reading their first full story.

We introduced these surveys in June, but because of some glitches that frustrated readers, we took them down after a few days. We’ve worked those glitches out and will bring the surveys back.

When you first visit, you’ll see our home page as normal. But when you click on your first headline, a question will pop up. After answering the question, maybe two questions, the full story will appear. This will happen only on your first story of the day. Any other headlines you click into that day will take you straight to the story.

Registered users of our site have the option of logging in rather than answering the questions. Or you can like the story on Facebook to bypass the question.

The survey is hosted by Google. All surveys will be completely anonymous, and Google will not use any data collected for their own ad targeting.

• • •

Great season: Congratulations to the Cary-Grove Trojans on a great season, They fell just short of a second state title Saturday, losing in the IHSA 6A state championship game to Crete-Monee, 33-26.

But they battled all season, and represented the Fox Valley Conference and McHenry County well. Thanks for the thrilling ride.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at


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