Paying It Forward

Some people know from a very early age what they want to be when they grow up, but most of us need more time to figure things out. We all have dreams, but to make them come true, we usually need the support of others, and we must be willing to put in the time and hard work to make it happen.

A professional actor on Broadway, off Broadway and beyond, Bart Shatto’s star is on the rise. According to his uncle, local historian Norm Kelly, the native Peorian always knew that “Broadway was his destination." Because of the strong support of his family and friends in community theater—and the “hours and hours preparing for his many auditions”—Shatto was able to realize his dream… and it seems he’s just getting started.

Soon after signing up for his first lesson at 13, Metamora native Adam Bockler “knew he wanted to evolve into a karate master." It was a vision that required many years of training, and culminated with a grueling exam. “I had never put in that much work to get anything in my life up to that point,” he reflects. Today, Bockler is not only a second-degree black belt; he’s also the owner of Metamora Martial Arts—an entrepreneur at just 23, passing on his knowledge and craft to others.

“Drawn to art at an early age,” glass artist Jeremie Draper was encouraged in her creative endeavors by her mother and both grandmothers. Her many years of dedication paid off when Dave Alwan, her boss at Echo Valley Meats (and recent Shark Tank contestant!), took notice of her passion for glass and offered his assistance. In doing so, he asked just one thing of Draper: “When you see someone in need and have an opportunity to help, I want you to help them.”

Richard Pryor’s escape from a tragic childhood and meteoric rise to international fame is another case in point. Growing up with few opportunities and plenty of disadvantages, he discovered his gifts for storytelling early on. His passion for making people laugh, coupled with hard work and spurred on by the loving encouragement of Juliette Whitaker, produced a legendary, rags-to-riches success story that continues to resonate with admirers around the world.

Great accomplishments don’t just happen, and vibrant communities don’t arise on their own. A dream, a vision, a passion—no matter how brilliant—is rarely enough. Hard work and dedication will take you far, but so often it’s the support and encouragement of others that is the “special sauce,” transforming dreams into reality. Whether from family, friends and peers, or the community at large, that support can make all the difference in the world. a&s