Cool canine story features a WIU student

Warning: If you’re a dog-lover, this might give you the chills. (The good kind, of course!) Or maybe even teary eyes. Not that that happened to this blogger or anything…(sniffle!)

As if it wasn’t cool enough that this organization helps people with disabilities, on top of that, it involves finding homes for shelter dogs, too.

This story from features WIU student Adam Cale of Macomb, a double major in graphic communication and Spanish, who uses a wheelchair. As the story explains, Cale is in the process of training his service dog, Chester, who he was partnered with through a not-for-profit organization called Paws Giving Independence. The organization trains dogs and places them with people in need. Chester will be able to assist Cale with daily tasks that many of us take for granted:

“He’ll turn on lights for me, pick things up for me and open doors that I can’t,” Cale said. “He’ll just make my life easier.”

Read the full story here!

Western grad opens heart, home to Haitian children

WIU graduate Patrick Leyendeckers and his wife, Mervi, were inspired to consider international adoption for a number of reasons. One of those factors can at least partially be credited to Patrick’s time at Western.

“One of the things the instructors always instilled in us was to try to look at things from a global perspective, and … it’s always in the back of my mind,” said Leyendeckers, who graduated from WIU from 1998 with a degree in accounting. “[Another factor was] my wife and I came to the conclusion, before we started this process, that we can’t change the world, but, we can change the world for two or three kids. That’s kind of what got us to where we are.”

picture of Leyendeckers family

Patrick, far right, with Kenlley, Mervi, Dieunika, and Modeline at Dieunika's 13th-birthday celebration

Patrick came to WIU as a non-traditional student. After graduating from high school, he joined the Navy, an experience that ultimately led to the Leyendeckers’ marriage.

“After three years active duty, I bought one of those two-month rail passes around Europe, and that’s when I met Mervi. She’s from Finland,” he explained.

Patrick earned a degree in industrial technology from Buffalo State College in New York. After he and Mervi relocated to Quincy (IL), their son, Derrick, was born. Patrick enrolled at WIU soon after, taking classes part-time so he could help with raising his son on the days when he didn’t have classes. His degree in accounting led to work as an auditor for the IL Agriculture Auditing Association. Today, Patrick works for a trucking company, a career switch he made in part to have more flexible hours to accommodate his new family life.

“We had always talked about adoption,” he explained. “My wife [went to Haiti in 2006], and it was  life-changing for her. There were literally orphans all over the place. And keep in mind that was long before the earthquake.”

picture of Leyendeckers family

To find out more of Patrick Leyendeckers’ story—including how their family was impacted by the devastating earthquake— look for a feature in the upcoming issue of Western News, the quarterly newsletter for alumni and friends. The June issue will arrive in mailboxes soon, and will also be posted online here.