Junior Joseph Knudtson of Lombard was honored with an award for his character of 'caring' at the 2018 Lombard John Egan Distinguished Service Awards. The event was held on May 8th at Lombard's Village Hall. The annual celebration recognizes the outstanding character of exceptional citizens who have positively influenced Lombard with their commitment to excellence. Since 1952, individuals who demonstrate the Pillars of Character - Caring, Citizenship, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility and Trustworthiness, have been granted the honor of being nominated for the John Egan Distinguished Service Award. "The tradition allows us a unique opportunity to recognize the efforts put forth by individuals who make a positive impact in our community," said Village President, Keith Giagnorio in his greeting for the evening.
Joseph, a member of St. Pius X Parish, was nominated for the honor by Lombard citizen, Nicole Tyszkiewicz (with Joseph, left photo). Nicole is the mother of little McKenna, who was a 'micro-preemie' born 11 weeks early and was severely disabled with a rare chromosomal disorder. She tragically passed away at the young age of 11 during the summer of 2018 - but not before leaving an impact on every life she touched, especially Joseph's. "Our daughter could not walk, talk or see, but had a message to be shared," said Nicole in her letter nominating Joseph for the award. "During his entire life, Joey, has seemed to have a special way of thinking of others and truly connecting with them. Personally, he acted as McKenna's foot soldier of kindness. Their souls of pure goodness were an even match."
Joey alerted his friends at Montini about McKenna and got them involved in painting pink rocks in her memory. "We told Montini about how Joey lost someone very special to him. Immediately (Theology teacher and Lasallian Youth leader) Mr. (Denis) Block got the school's Peer Ministry team involved in painting the rocks," said mother, Lia Knudtson. "I've always known Joey chose the right school, but when these students got involved for someone they didn't know personally, but knew she meant the world to Joey, my heart just melted."
"From the day he was born I always knew Joey had an old soul and the world needed him," added Lia. "When he was only 7 he saw a little boy with a little arm that was not developed. He walked right up to him and asked, 'what happened to your arm?' The boy responded, 'I was born this way,' and Joey said, 'well it would be boring if God made us all the same!' I guess that describes him the best."
"When McKenna came into this world she taught us 'caring' and I truly believe she shaped Joey's life and still does," added Lia. "This makes me so proud that someone saw in him what we see. Raising an good person that truly cares is the ultimate gift a child can give to their parents. We are so grateful for this honor as well."
"Joey really took the time to connect with McKenna," said Nicole. "Not only during her lifetime did Joey carry her story of goodness to everyone he knew, he will continue to do so throughout his own lifetime. He truly connects with the person, the individual and their story. This is a rarity in the world today and deserves to be honored."
"I am honored to congratulate recipient Joseph Knudtson," concluded President Giagnorio. "Every time you make the choice to be truthful and honest, respectful and accepting, fair and compassionate, responsible and accountable, you show the rest of us what it means to be a good neighbor and noble citizen."