albino sqThis Saturday marks another Squirrel Appreciation Day! In the town of Olney lies a truly unique colony of albino squirrels. Every year volunteers gather to scavenge the town to get an official tally of how many albino squirrels are left.

Roughly 100 years ago there was an estimate of 800, however with the territorial grey squirrels coming into the parks over the years, the numbers have decreased significantly. The 2022 count noted 886 gray squirrels counted and 64 albino white squirrels. Based on the numbers, the gray to albino ratio in 2021 was 12.46 to 1 compared to the gray to albino ratio in 2022 of 14.38 to 1.

The white squirrels are extremely important to the residents in Olney, and are even protected by law and have the right of way on all streets – which is signified by squirrel crossing signs posted around town. The city encourages residents to set up feeding boxes, and even offers free corn to refill those boxes annually.

Since the 1980s, this volunteer-based squirrel count is held each fall. Both white and gray squirrels are counted as well as stray cats, a natural enemy of the squirrels. Making sure to get all their acorns in a row, the Olney community has made it known that they are working on reviving the albino squirrel colonies in town and ask every resident to pitch in to ensure the continuation of their furry friends.


barack obama 2007Last week, we celebrated the 15-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign announcement, which took place right here in Springfield. On Feb. 10, 2007, Obama announced his presidential campaign at the Old state Capitol Building, and he went on to become the first African American president in American history.

Fifteen years later, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Old State Capitol Foundation announced plans to place a historical marker on the Old State Capitol Lawn to commemorate Obama’s historic moment.

A year and a half after his presidential campaign announcement, Obama returned to the Old State Capitol to announce then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, would be running alongside him. Like his previous announcement, this gained international attention.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. Prior to becoming president, Obama was a U.S. Senator representing Illinois.

 “[Lincoln] chose to announce his candidacy at the Old State Capitol because of its historic ties to Abraham Lincoln, but he was also making history himself,” said David Joens, president of the Old State Capitol Foundation. “That history needs to be recognized, and a permanent marker will do that.” Obama took a historic place and increased its historic significance. 

The historic marker has been completed and will be put into place later this year.

Abraham LincolnFeb. 12 is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln is a historical figure not only in Illinois, but across the country. Today, on what would have been his 213th birthday, we celebrate his impact.

Lincoln was born in 1809 to Nancy Hanks Lincoln and Thomas Lincoln and was one of three children. In 1830, Lincoln and his family moved to Illinois, near Decatur from present-day Gentryville, Indiana.

In 1834, Lincoln joined the Illinois General Assembly, representing Sangamon County as a member of the Whig Party. Two years later, Lincoln received his license to practice law. He became a firm partner to John Todd, who was a cousin to Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd. Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1842 and the following year, Mary gave birth to their first son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Shortly after, Lincoln bought his first home and opened his own law practice in Springfield. In 1846, Lincoln was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1860, Lincoln was selected to represent the Republican National Convention in the 1860 Presidential election. On March 4, 1861 Lincoln was inaugurated into office as the 16th president of the United States. The following year, he issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, and the final version was issued in 1863. Later that year, after the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. This speech became one of the most important speeches in American history.

On April 15, 1865, just days after the end of the civil war, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. Over 150 years after his death, his legacy continues to live on. His home and tomb are located in Springfield as National Historic Sites. Lincoln home is open to the public to visit daily between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. More information can be found here. For more information on visiting the Lincoln tomb read here.

photo of women doing physical activityToday is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. It first began in 1987 with a purpose to express an appreciation for the presence of womanhood in athletics. It was originally established by President Ronald Reagan. In its creation, National Girls and Women in Sports Day initially honored female Olympian and equality advocate Flo Hyman. However, as time progressed, this national holiday began to emphasize the significance of all female roles within sports.

The Olympics is one of the most viewed athletic events in the world. In 1900, women made their first debut at the Paris games. Over a century later, we have had a multitude of women making appearances and winning momentous titles. The following eight women have Illinois ties and major sports achievements:

Lauren Doyle – Springfield-born and Boody-raised rugby player for Team USA, Doyle is a two-time Olympian. She also received fourth place in the 2018 World Championship. She has participated on several teams, including Eastern Illinois University, Chicago Lions, and the Women’s Sevens Residency Program.

Nefeli Papadakis – An Illinois native who began practicing judo at the age of four with her father is now a member of Team USA with aspirations to take the Olympian world by storm. By the age of 17, Papadakis took fifth place at the 2015 Cadet World Championships. She holds consecutive World Championship titles from 2013 to 2019. She has already traveled to 25 countries to compete and train. She continues to pursue judo and expand her fighting capabilities.

Pedrya Seymour – This Olympic hurdler expanded her athletic career while attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Although she has a plethora of achievements and records, she holds the second fastest indoor 60m hurdle time in Illinois history (7.97) and the second-fastest 100m hurdles time in Illinois history (12.64). Seymour is also a three-time All-American and broke the O’Brien facility record twice.

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Image of a woman and her knowledgeJane Addams is recognized annually on Dec. 10 in Illinois for her positive contributions to the lives of women and children. She was born in Cedarville, Illinois, in 1860. As she grew older, she dedicated herself to social work, activism and feminism for women everywhere. She is credited with bringing a Hull House to Chicago to house and educate women in pursuit of social and political reform among the working-class neighborhoods of the city. In addition to being a co-founder of this settlement house, Jane Addams played a formative role in the creation of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, which fight to expand civil liberties to all people regardless of their origin, creed, race or background.

Jane Addams is a global figure as well. She was the second woman in the world to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the first in the U.S. to receive the award. James Addams Day was first recognized in Illinois in 2006, making Addams one of few women to have a commemorative day across the U.S.

To observe Jane Addams Day, visit the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, which offers tours, exhibits and workshops that spark conversations about what can be learned from Jane Addams and icons like her. The museum is located in Hull Home, a national historic landmark and one of the original settlement house buildings founded by Addams. It features programs and events beyond Jane Addams to continue her legacy of social reform. Patrons can learn about gender equality, governmental accountability, access to food and civic engagement.

Information about the museum, its events and programs can be found here.