The Wheaton City Council honored this year’s recipients of the Good Citizens Awards at the May 15, 2023, Council meeting. Highlighting some outstanding students and adults who have made a difference in the community, the awards are coordinated by the Wheaton Community Relations Commission and recognize residents for their acts of selflessness, generosity and service to Wheaton.
The following individuals received the 2023 Good Citizens Awards:
- Charlie Surber, an 8th grader at Franklin Middle School, for his history of helping neighbors. As a child, Charlie shoveled sidewalks from his house to Lowell Elementary School and helped on garbage day by returning trash cans to the curb. Charlie also assisted with Lowell's snow removal and landscaping and set up for school events. After he moved to another Wheaton neighborhood, he continued his service by clearing snow and helping an elderly neighbor with her garbage and landscaping.
- Jacob Halter, a junior at Wheaton North High School, for a variety of volunteer work. He led groups during Prairie Path clean ups, volunteered at the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, organized food drives as a Boy Scout, and completed his Eagle Scout project independently despite the obstacles of doing so during the pandemic. Jacob also serves as a religious education teacher at St. Michael Catholic Church and is a member of the new B.R. Ryall YMCA Teen advisory board.
- Dylan Ochs, a senior at Wheaton Academy, for her role as a youth group leader for the junior high school students at her church. Dylan is also a member of the service club at Wheaton Academy, where she mentors younger students and provides tours to prospective families. She has participated in multiple mission trips to the Dominican Republic, partnering with Kids’ Alive Ministry. This fall Dylan will attend Hope College where she plans to major in mathematics.
- Scott Brady for his involvement and leadership in the local chapter of the Christian Service Brigade at Wheaton-Wesleyan Church (now One Line Church). The Brigade imparts the value of community service and teamwork to boys between 2nd and 12th grades. First involved in the program as a 6th grader at Edison, Brady has led this weekly program for decades. The Brigade meetings include team-building activities, games, community service, and scripture readings that relate to day-to-day life. More than 30 years ago, Brady also co-founded the Brigade’s biannual food drive that helps those in need at Thanksgiving and in the spring.
- Betty Johnson-Berkun (posthumous award) for her longtime service with the Family Shelter Services of Metropolitan Family Services DuPage. As a hotline volunteer, Betty spoke to thousands of women faced with domestic abuse, violence, and homelessness. She helped guide them to the agency’s resources including counseling, trauma care, emergency shelter, and legal assistance. Johnson received a Heart of Gold award from the agency and also served as president of the Wheaton League of Metropolitan Family Services. A Stephen leader at First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, she provided one-on-one compassionate care for fellow congregants who were facing life difficulties.
- Elizabeth Karnik for more than a decade of volunteer service on the Jefferson Early Childhood and Whittier Elementary school PTAs. In her role at Whittier, she has served on numerous committees and often steps up to run committees that otherwise may have disbanded. She coordinated a Bottle Caps to Benches drive during which more than 2,100 caps – about the weight of a small car – were donated to be recycled into benches and ADA-compliant picnic tables. She also organized a popular school-wide outing to a Chicago Wolves hockey game, including raffle prizes and giveaways.
- Rudy Keller for the establishment of the Field of Honor, a moving display of 2,000 American flags, which is now an annual event that takes place around the Fourth of July. The event first took place at Memorial Park but moved to Seven Gables Park. The flags honor individuals currently serving in the military, veterans, first responders, and other hometown heroes. Keller also leads Wheaton United, a new youth soccer program in cooperation with the Wheaton Park District.
- Brad Kerr for his volunteer work at the People’s Resource Center (PRC). In his more than 5 years as a volunteer, Kerr has dedicated 1,100 hours to PRC programs. He first served as a computer training instructor, computer service representative, and a job coach. When the pandemic occurred, he began working in the food pantry program and is now a vital member of that team. A client and staff favorite, Keller is often the first point of contact for people utilizing the PRC pantry. He welcomes them warmly as he provides items and guides clients through the distribution queue.
The Wheaton Community Relations Commission strives to foster and promote understanding, mutual respect, cooperation, and positive relations in a diverse inclusive community through such programs as the Good Citizens Awards. For more than 20 years, the awards have honored residents who go above and beyond to serve the Wheaton community.