In a world where selfishness is too common, the citizens of one Illinois town set themselves apart. Abiding by a four-point system designed to help newcomers, they helped a fellow neighbor, father, friend, and police officer when he fell ill but refused to stop working in order to support his family.
The town came together in a way that is not seen in many places in the U.S. — they even received national recognition for it. Here’s what it’s like in North Riverside, Illinois, a place where being kind is “in its DNA.”
A police department in the suburbs of Chicago put out a 1078, which means a police officer needs emergency assistance. The code was in regards to a fairly new officer with the Riverside Police Department in Illinois.
Riverside Police Officer
Chris Kudla has been with the police force since March 2017. He previously worked for the Village of Lyons as a police officer from 2003 to 2014, and then the Montgomery Police Department until March 2017. But just eight months after starting his new position at Riverside, Chris received some disparaging news…
On November 25, 2017, just one day before his 46th birthday, Chris was diagnosed with cancer. His official diagnosis being stage four metastatic papillary renal cell carcinoma. After noticing a lump on his neck and going to the doctor, Chris received a CT scan which showed a baseball-sized tumor on his right kidney.
Stage 4 Cancer
The cancer was also spreading through most of the lymph nodes in his body. This particular form of cancer is extremely rare and possibly genetic, and Chris’ siblings and children were also suggested to get tested to see if they’re OK. Chris lives in Romeoville with his wife Tricia and his two daughters Amanda and Ashley.
Concerned About His Family
When Chris’s fellow officers first spoke to him about his diagnosis, they learned that his first concern was his family. He didn’t want them burdened by any financial strain or medical bills. But as Chris was in the early stages of treatment, it was unclear what the financial strain would ultimately be.
Grim Prognosis, Great Attitude
After receiving the diagnosis, Chris’s attitude remained great. He was determined to be strong and stay in peak condition so that he could do his job. The chief of the Riverside police force Tom Weitzel told CBS News, “From the first day [Chris] came in and met with me and told me about his diagnosis, he told me, ‘Chief, I’m not stopping working.’” And he hasn’t…
Through all the doctors appointments and twice a month chemotherapy, Chris stayed on the beat. But because of his short time with the Riverside police force, he earned far fewer sick days than he would need to manage his appointments and keep his job.
The Chief’s Reaction
Chris recalls that his chief’s reaction right off the bat was, “Let’s see what we could do to help you out.” The response was overwhelming. As a means of helping their police brother, fellow cops decided to donate all of their sick days to Chris.
Donating Sick Days
Then, municipality workers, local civil servants, and staff members all joined together in donating their sick days to him. “They want to donate, they could,” explained Weitzel. With all the help, Chris was able to receive roughly six months worth of sick days.
The Entire Town Stepped Up
“Everybody without hesitation stepped up to help out,” Chris told CBS News. “Sometimes when you start to lose faith in humanity and you think that this world’s gone down the wrong path and there ain’t no coming back, something like this happens.” Additionally, the police department started raising money to support Chris’s family through a GoFundMe campaign. This may seem like a rare case of neighborhood altruism, but what many don’t know is…
The Golden Rule
Riverside is notorious for helping out those in need. In fact, there is often no competition when it comes to the village of North Riverside, where strangers and village staff are more than just fun and friendly. For more than 25 years, residents have made the Golden Rule the town mantra and it has changed many lives.
North Riverside, Illinois
The population in Riverside is about 6,500 people and they are some of the most caring people in the U.S. The town has an active neighborhood services committee that helps all residents in need and they even wrote a manual on how to do so.
The Art of Caring
An excerpt from the manual reads: “The Art of Caring truly can transform any town or organization. However, the transformation does not happen overnight. Instead, the experience has to be … heard again and again as a group.”
Transforming a Town
“Sharing positive stories together at every meeting gives the captains the courage to care because they know they are not alone. Then all can go ahead with hope and perseverance. They try to care concretely about each neighbor each day.” The four points the neighborhood abides by “lead to reciprocal caring and the spirit of family.” The points are…
‘Be the First to Reach Out’
The first point is that they encourage citizens to be the first to reach out. The community gives welcome bags to new residents, sometimes with homemade cookies. The block captains (one assigned to each block) also give little decorated trees at Christmas to one person on a block each year. “Through this network, we have truly tried to reach every single person in our village,” the manual explains.
‘Reach Out to Everyone’
In the town, the captains knock at everyone’s door on their block, including those who are not easy to meet or know. The captain also presents residents with resource handouts, which are distributed once or twice a year. Handouts which include the dates of garage sales or block parties, and no one is left out, not even the mailman…
‘Be One With Your Neighbor- Sharing Their Joys And Sorrows as if They are Your Own’
The third point is to be as caring toward neighbors as you would be toward your own family. If a resident or a block captain is sick or worried, neighbors are encouraged to send cards, bring food, or just listen. One time, the village’s former mayor called because he was worried about a resident that he met that was depressed.
Former Mayor’s Concern
He asked for the community leaders to call and offer resources because he couldn’t get the depressed woman out of his thoughts. He was so concerned for her that even if she didn’t accept the help, at least he did his best. The community feels for one another and those that are suffering and then make use of emails to share concerns or communicate to the captains if someone is in trouble.
“Be Concrete in Caring”
The fourth point North Riverside lives by is to be concrete in caring. They offer residents informational handouts on health, safety, and financial resources. They even have speakers at their neighborhood services meetings to inform captains of services they can share with their neighbors. “Very often, those who have experienced this type of caring then turn around and show it to others.”
Practice What They Preach
Being that North Riverside is such a kindhearted and warm place, they’ve received recognition from Reader’s Digest, where they were nominated as one of the “Top 10 Nicest Places in America.” Reader’s Digest wrote, “North Riverside, Illinois: Where being kind to neighbors is part of the town’s DNA — they even wrote a book on the topic.”