click to enlarge In 2011, students of The Hope Institute for Children and Families enjoy guitar playing and songs with former music therapist Rachel Rambach. - PHOTO BY DAVID HINE
In 2011, students of The Hope Institute for Children and Families enjoy guitar playing and songs with former music therapist Rachel Rambach.
In 2011, students of The Hope Institute for Children and Families enjoy guitar playing and songs with former music therapist Rachel Rambach.


I am writing in support of The Hope Institute for Children and Families and the caring, compassionate staff that care for the children there.

A few years ago my wife, Linda, and I became aware of Hope and the great work being done there. We purchased a load of toys and drove out to the Institute to drop them off for the children. To our surprise two senior staff members heard we were there with the toys and came out to meet us. Clint Paul and Mary Miller met us at the door, thanked us for the toys and then offered to give us a tour of the facilities.

We toured the whole campus. The buildings were very clean, and all had a comfortable feeling. We were able to see where the kids were being taught to read and write by the very caring and patient teachers, and we saw the gym where coaching staff were holding basketball relays. The visit to the vocational unit gave us an opportunity to meet a young man who couldn’t wait to explain to us what he did while working for a janitorial company. Linda and I watched kids rehearsing for the school musical, and before I realized it, they had us singing with them. We saw artwork being done in a classroom, kids tending to a garden, an indoor swimming pool, along with an outdoor gaming area.

This fall I offered a visit to my farm for the Hope kids and staff to see my animals and equipment. At least 50 kids got to spend two days petting animals, looking at equipment, getting in and out of my stagecoach, making butter and touring the barns. The staff of Hope spent a large amount of time and effort to ensure the kids got all the enjoyment out of this visit they could. The visit was not all easy, and we knew it wouldn’t be, but the staff handled any special need at the farm in the same way I saw them at the Institute – with care and devotion.

Any agency that provides care to clients who face so many challenges in life, struggles to deal with youth whom, because of their disabilities, have violent outbursts, self-injury and whom damage property. These children can be a danger to themselves, to other children and to the staff who care for them. I have been providing care to the elderly and infirm for more than 34 years so I understand all the problems that Hope faces.

This community can be proud of the work done by The Hope Institute, and from my first hand observation, should have every confidence that the safety of all children is the first priority.

As caregivers, we felt we should share our experience and would hope the public would like to know how The Hope Institute cares for their clients.

Frank J. Vala

I am shocked even dismayed that the local police are dismantling the Fourth and Sixth Amendments of our Constitution by using dogs that can help police locate drugs in only one of four searches. (“Drug dogs fail the sniff test,” Patrick Yeagle, Jan. 9.)

Here’s the deal. A dog’s sense of smell is more than a thousand times better than a human’s. It is fairly easy to train a dog to locate something, for instance, birds. (I train hunting dogs as a hobby.) You can’t always train the bird to stay where you put it. However, if you know what you are looking for the dog will give you a clear indication of where that bird was.

The missing drugs that the dogs indicated in the other three-out-of-four instances may have been in the car earlier, or in the case of a dog with a truly great nose, may have been in the possession of someone the driver had contact with. I would think the dogs are right about the scent located 80 or 90 percent of the time.

They are reacting to very minute particles not the pounds of this stuff that Illinois Times must be smoking every week. I would also bet the Sangamon county dog handlers whose dogs were right 100 percent of the time, are as good at reading people as they are at reading their drug dogs.

Matthew Vernau

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