DWIGHT – Three years ago, two Dwight Township High School seniors decided to help a homeless man walking through Dwight in a blizzard. with no jacket.
The students – Ryan Kodat and Luke Arnold – gave the man clothes, a jacket and money for a train ticket to Springfield so he could see his father. The man’s father later passed away.
Unbeknownst to the man, Wade Herter, his father left behind an estate of $1.2 million. Herter has since moved to Santa Monica, California, but not without sending a gift to Dwight High School.
District 230 Superintendent Dr. Richard Jancek learned Feb. 26 in a letter from Herter the school would receive $10,000 from Herter in memory of his father, Warren Herter. The only request was the school honor his father with the donation.
Jancek asked the board to consider giving two students, in each graduating class for the next 10 years, $500 awards for acts of humanitarianism. The board gladly agreed and soon the school will post on its website an application form for students to apply for the awards.
“Applicants will be asked to describe a time when they went above and beyond to help a friend, family member or stranger, and expected nothing in return,” Jancek said.
Applicants will then explain in detail both how their good deed helped someone and what they themselves learned from it.
But the lasting impression from the good deed that started all of this, according to Jancek, Village of Dwight President Jared Anderson and Dwight Police Chief Tim Henson – who is also a school board member – is that Kodat and Arnold expected nothing in return. Neither Jancek, Anderson or Henson knew of the story until Herter contacted the school.
All three men said it was a reminder that every community, but particularly Dwight, has good kids.
“It instills faith in humanity that our younger generation will pick up where their fathers, mothers and grandparents left off,” Henson said.
Jancek said the media tends to sensationalize negative stories involving the youth, and people can lose faith in future generations because of it.
“While this is a positive, uplifting and exciting story, it’s not unique in that there are great things being done by young people all over this country,” Jancek said. “The problem comes in when we only hear about bad things.”
Jancek spoke to Kodat recently and discussed the idea of Kodat and Arnold helping judge the applications for the Warren Herter Pay It Forward Award. He said Kodat still doesn’t want recognition, he just wants to do the right thing.
“He said, ‘You don’t have to put my name on anything’,” Jancek recalled from their conversation. “ ‘We did it because it was the right thing to do, not to get an award. If the same thing happened tomorrow, we’d do it again’.”
The award is not considered a scholarship because it is given for an act of kindness, Jancek said. It doesn’t matter if the recipients are going to college, the military or working. The money is meant to help with expenses associated with the students’ next step after graduation.
“It could go toward the cost of clothes for work,” Jancek said.
Meanwhile, Herter is in California doing writing and film work in addition to stand up comedy. Jancek said he can be found on YouTube.
“He said he grew up in the Kankakee area and went to Herscher High School,” Jancek said. “He talked about being a drifter, and sort of looking for his niche. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell.”
In fact, Herter’s mom and sister passed away, and his father was in a nursing home – but he still had no idea the money his father had saved. Herter told Jancek he sent part of his earnings from a job to his father for assistance, thinking he needed it.
He wanted to help his father, but in the end, he and his father are helping the community that helped them meet once again.