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U of I grad Doug Melton is getting closer to a cure for Type 1 diabetes

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences shared that Doug Melton, who graduated in 1975 with a degree in biology, began working on a cure for Type 1 diabetes after his son was diagnosed at six months old. From the New York Times

The disease, which occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-secreting islet cells of the pancreas, often starts around age 13 or 14. Unlike the more common and milder Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is quickly lethal unless patients get injections of insulin. No one spontaneously gets better.

Melton began working with embryonic stem cells with the hopes of turning them into those islet cells, and founded his own company to further his research. He successfully created islet cells from embryonic cells in 2014, and in 2019 pharmaceutical company Vertex acquired Semma and is now in early clinical trial to produce a drug. Early results are promising.

Dr. Melton, normally a calm man, was jittery during what felt like a moment of truth. He had spent decades and all of his passion on this project. By the end of the Vertex team’s presentation, a huge smile broke out on his face; the data were for real.

Here is an interview with Melton about the discovery. 

Top photo by Kris Snibbe of The Harvard Gazette. 

Word

U of I’s Dial-a-Carol kicks off December 9th

The University of Illinois’ beloved Dial-a-Carol kicks off December 9th and continues through December 15th. During that time, U of I and community folk will sing holiday carols for 24 hours a day. You can volunteer your time and vocal abilities, or if you want to take advantage of these amazing volunteers, you can call (217) 332-1882 to hear some carols. 

Here’s some more about this program that has been running for more than 60 years:

Dial-A-Carol is a student-run holiday program at the University of Illinois. Each year the students of Snyder Hall, a University Housing residence hall, host the holiday program Dial-A-Carol. Dial-A-Carol was started in December 1960 by Betty Gordon, an area office secretary, and the residents of Snyder Hall who wanted to spread some holiday cheer around campus.

The idea behind the program is quite simple. Anyone from anywhere can call us and request a holiday tune to be sung over the telephone. Our program runs 24 hours a day for seven days and is held each year during finals week of the first semester.

Top image from the Dial-a-Carol Facebook page.

Word

Langston Allston is designing a custom Bulls hat for a giveaway

The Chicago Bulls are doing their fourth Chicago Artist Hat Series, partnering with All Star Press to give away thousands of custom Bulls hats designed by Chicago artists.

This time around, one of the hats will be designed by Champaign native and U of I grad Langston Allston. In Allston's Instagram story, he revealed his inspiration:

A screen shot with three view of a black baseball cap with white lightning bolts. It says Chicago Bulls in white and has the red Bulls logo in the center. The graphic says Langston Allston, February 24, 2022 in black letters. Screenshot from Instagram. Screenshot from Instagram.

A screenshot of a black hat with white lightening bolts. In the center is the red Bulls logo, and it says 1996 NBA Champs above it. Screenshot from Instagram. Screenshot from Instagram.

Allston's design will be given away to the first 5000 fans through the United Center gates on February 24, 2022. 

Top screenshot from Chicago Bulls Instagram. 

Word

Important: Rainn Wilson tweeted about C-U

Actor Rainn Wilson was thinking about little 'ol C-U tonight (h/t to Carly McCrory-McKay for the heads up on the tweet):

Though Wilson grew up in Washington State, his family moved to Wilmette when he was in high school, so he graduated from New Trier. 

We have reached peak fame. 

Top photo from Rainn Wilson's Facebook page.

Word

Big Thorn’s Winter Welcome is December 18th

Big Thorn Farm & Brewery is hosting a Winter Welcome release party on Saturday, December 18th. Winter Welcome is a dark-style beer (10% ABV) with notes of “hazelnut, clove, and roasted cherry branches”; it’s only available on the farm, where you can buy pours or bottles. You’ll also be able to grab pours of the farm’s 2019 Winter Welcome, though those are very limited so arrive early if you want them.  

There will also be chili, vegan curry tomato soup, and hot mulled cider. Finally, it’s important to note:

Igloo reservations are available online, www.bigthornonlinestore.com, and no reservations are required for Greenhouse Bar seating. Kids are welcome, and dogs are welcome as long as they remain on leashes.

Additional details are available on the Facebook event page

Top image from the Facebook event page.

Audio / Word

An album recorded in Urbana is nominated for a Grammy

SuperBlue, the new album from Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter has been nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 64th Grammy Awards.

The album was recorded and mixed in two weeks by Anthony Gravino over at his studio High Cross Sound in Urbana. You can check out our feature on Gravino and High Cross Sound to learn more. 

You can listen to SuperBlue on Kurt Elling's Bandcamp below.

Top image by Sean Wilkinson
Word

The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign is hosting a holiday kids’ bike giveaway

The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign, in partnership with the U of I Campus Bike Center, is hosting a kids’ bike giveaway at 202 S. Broadway on December 11th from 1 to 3 p.m., or until the bikes run out. The giveaway will be first come, first served, and the child recipient must be present to pick out the bike. 

They are currently accepting donations of all kids’ and teen bikes, regardless of condition. The bikes will be refurbished by Bike Project volunteers. Donations can be made at The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign (202 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana) or at the Campus Bike Center (51 E. Gregory Dr., Champaign). Call (217) 469-5126 or email [email protected] to arrange a donation.

Top photo from The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign Facebook page.

Word

The Station Theatre is hosting a holiday pop-up shop

Add the Station Theatre to your list of shopping stops this holiday season. On December 12th, from 4 to 7 p.m., you can find items from art vendors Olly Greer, Laro Designs, Fun Time Bootleg Toys by Les, Holodeck Moriarty, and VivKrishArt

There will also be music and festive drinks!

For more local shopping ideas, be sure to check out our annual shopping guide

Top photo by Patrick Singer. 

Word

Rodney Davis is running in IL-15

Now that Governor Pritzker has officially signed the new congressional maps into law, Rodney Davis has declared that he will not run for governor and will run for Congress in IL-15. The new map places Davis' hometown of Taylorville in IL-15 rather than IL-13, and gives him a pretty clear path to maintain his place in Congress. His new district does not have nearly as many pesky Democrats. 

This statement from Davis is funny:

I’ve been proud to fight hard for and work on behalf of central Illinois families in this district for many years, both as a member of Congress and as a staffer to my good friend and mentor, former Congressman John Shimkus.

Funny, because he never really seemed to be interested in even acknowledging half of his constituents. 

What's really important though, is that he has very defined policy goals for the next term:

Democrats in Washington have put our nation in crisis with their big government, socialist schemes and dreams. Republicans are primed to retake the House next year, and I’m ready to work with a new Republican majority to finally fire Nancy Pelosi and hold the Biden Administration accountable for their massive failures. I look forward to campaigning hard and earning every vote in this district over the next year.

While it's unfortunate that he will likely still be a member of Congress, at least he won't be ours. Peace out Rodney. Thanks for nothing. 

Top photo from Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

Photo / Word

You can get a tasty lunch at Urbana’s VFW #630’s restaurant for cheap

The VFW #630 in Urbana, a club for veterans, is open to the public, and now has a restaurant serving lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Inside the VFW #630, there are several long white tables with white folding chairs. On the wall, several golden plaques line the white wall. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Adorning the walls of the restaurant were a variety of plaques, framed photos, and glass shadow boxes of memorabilia and medals. Along the dining room walls, there were flags and a POW/MIA table, a table set up in honor of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members. I even heard one diner talking to a veteran about his upcoming 100 year birthday party.

From the dining room, there is a hallway that leads to a dark room with games and a bar. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I stopped by for lunch on Friday to try the new restaurant's lunch. Parking is plentiful, and I walked through two doors to enter the bar. Through the bar, I walked to the well-lit dining room of white tables. I wanted to try a variety from the new menu, so I ordered the Friday special of fried fish sandwich, a cheeseburger with fries, and an appetizer.

An overhead photo shows the author's lunch: a burger meal, a fish sandwich meal, and a basket of fried green beans. There is a can of Bud Light and a plastic cup with Coke. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

All of this food was $17, and the two drinks (a beer and a mixed drink) were $6.25. It was quite an affordable — and huge — lunch.

On a light brown plate, there is a cheeseburger with pickles sticking out and a side of fries. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I ordered the cheeseburger ($6), and it came with pickles and onions plus a side of fries. The burger had two patties, smashed with lacy edges, with two slices of melty American cheese. The flavor was fantastic. The long pickles and raw onion gave a great crunch to the burger. It was piping hot and everything I want from a burger. The fries were delicious and plentiful.

On a light brown plate, there is a fish sandwich with a filet of fish that sticks out both sides, a side of coleslaw with a plastic fork stuck in it, and a side of fries. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My husband ordered the Friday lunch special: a fried fish sandwich ($7.50). The fish was so big that it stuck out both sides. The coleslaw was sweet, and the tartar sauce was good. The crispy, light batter on the fish was incredible. This fish special is definitely worth trying. The special came with a huge side of coleslaw and a side of fries. This was a ton of food for $7.50, and it was so tasty.

In a red plastic basket, there is a serving of fried green beans on parchment paper. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

We also ordered a side of fried green beans ($3.50), and they were really good. There were interesting sides like fried pickle spears and cheese curds in addition to sides of fries, coleslaw, and potato salad.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The excellent food is no surprise when you learn who is running the kitchen. Cooks Zachary Bronson and Katrina Downes are a pair from the kitchen of Radio Maria where Bronson was the sous chef and Downes was a cook and bartender.

The manager of the bar and restaurant is Brad Gould, former State Commander. Check out the full menu and peep those low prices.

The VFW #630 restaurant menu includes specials, sides, burgers, and more. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo provided by VFW #630.

Sauces were also available, and a handwritten list of the ten available sauces ranged from ranch to buffalo to sweet and sour. 

On a wooden bar, there is a cash register with a white piece of paper. The paper has a handwritten note: No Food at the Machines. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Remember to bring cash as no cards are accepted; the restaurant and bar are both cash only. It's a great little spot to go for a weekday meal. The VFW #630 has good food at cheap prices, and it's a nice place to go to remember the service of our veterans.

VFW 630
1303 E Main St
Urbana
T 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.
W-Th 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. + 5 to 8 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Word

Habitat for Humanity is looking for gift wrappers

Each year, Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County provides gift wrapping for donations at Marketplace Mall. They are looking for folks who love to wrap gifts, and would like a way to give back this holiday season, to volunteer for gift wrapping shifts. 

Three-hour shifts are available December 15-24, and you can sign up on the Habitat website.

If you are not adept at gift-wrapping, you can support Habitat by bring your purchases for wrapping to the booth at the mall and donating to the cause. They suggest $3 per gift, though it's always great to give more. Here is the wrapping schedule:

Image from Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County website.

Top photo by Seth Fein.