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Photography project about Urbana couple featured on Upworthy

Local photographer Justine Bursoni has been embarking on a photography project of late, capturing the life of ALS victim and Urbana resident Ray Spooner (and his wife, Rae). Today, an extremely moving story about the couple was featured on, including an article and a ton of Bursoni's photography. 

Ray is truly an inspiration, and this story highlights this extremely emotional diagnosis by showing what a true joy Ray Spooner was, and will continue to be.

To read the full feature, click over to Upworthy, or check out their Facebook post below:


Psychic Twin announces debut, Strange Diary, out September 9th on Polyvinyl

Psychic Twin, Erin Fein's electro pop project (formerly of Headlights, Absinthe Blind), has announced her debut LP out on September 9th on Polvyinyl Records — Strange Diary. Listen to the brand new single "Lose Myself" here. Preorder the album here.

UPDATE 9:43 a.m.: Shortly after I posted this, I realized it was announced/debuted on Stereogum — which you can check out here.

Here's the cover art and track listing:

  1. Heart Divided (2:17)
  2. Strangers (4:50)
  3. Running in the Dark (3:48)
  4. Stop In Time (4:46)
  5. Unlock Yr Heart (3:55)
  6. Hopeless (I won't take part of you) (4:20)
  7. Lose Myself (3:44)
  8. Chase You (5:35)
  9. The Deepest Part (4:23)

Fein has been busy as of late, releasing a collab with Chrome Sparks last month, and announcing the signing to C-U's own Polyvinyl. Not to mention this tour with Ladyhawke. Things are looking good for this C-U native.


Kowabunga! Kid announces tour; Stream the new album Wasting My Time

This is really awesome — local punk rock outfit Kowabunga! Kid has announced a slew of tour dates, most of them on the west coast. They were recently featured on The A.V. Club as well.

Really nice work. They were recently announced on this year's Pygmalion Festival lineup in September.

Stream the new record below:


U of I Community Credit Union accepting applications for Orange & Blue Scholarship Program

If you're a freshly-graduated former high school student in C-U (or know of one), this may be of some use: The University of Illinois Community Credit Union's Orange & Blue Scholarship Program is accepting applications through June 30th. The program is only open to college-bound high school seniors. Seven winners will be chosen for up to $1,000 each.

More info on the scholarship (including the application itself) can be found here, and below:

U of I Community Credit Union is devoted to supporting higher education and encouraging the academic excellence of today’s youth.

With this commitment in mind, U of I Community Credit Union has developed a higher education scholarship program called the Orange & Blue Scholarship Program.

Available to members who are college-bound high school seniors, the scholarships are designed to benefit students attending the University of Illinois, Parkland College, and other Illinois colleges and universities.

Through seven one-time scholarships annually, the Orange & Blue Scholarship Program will award selected high school seniors up to $1,000 based on the Illinois college of their choice for the 2016-2017 academic year.


First Federal hosting Sprouts at the Market for kids this Saturday

The good people over at First Federal bank have announced that their Sprouts at the Market will be in full swing this Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m for kids aged 3-8 at Urbana's Market at the Square

This Saturday's edition is called "Farmers in training" and will teach the benefits of local food, as opposed to food that has travelled great distances to consumers.

As if this free educational event wasn't enough, free prizes will also be given away. For more info, check out First Federal's Facebook post below:


Amtrak announces new carry-on pet policy

Everyone loves dogs. I love dogs, you love dogs, and now, Amtrak also officially loves dogs. Including on their service throughout Illinois, Amtrak will now allow you to take your dog or cat (provided that it is 20 pounds or less) on the train with you for the low cost of $25. Now you never have to be separated from your pup when you go up to Chicago!

For the full list of routes that allow this new pet carry-on policy, check out Amtrak's website, and get more details below:

To make a reservation for you and your pet on your next Amtrak trip, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit a staffed Amtrak station.

Important Information

Making Reservations

  • Pet reservations can only be made with a reservation agent at 1-800-USA-RAIL or at a staffed station.
  • Pet reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis, and may sell out quickly, so we strongly encourage you to make your pet reservations in advance.
  • Pets are only permitted in Coach Class.
  • Only one pet per passenger will be allowed, and no more than five pets are reserved per train. Service animals do not count towards this limitation.
  • The pet fare is $25.00 for each travel segment.
  • Pets are not permitted to travel on multi-ride tickets, Amtrak Guest Rewards redemption reservations, Thruway bus services or with unaccompanied minors.
  • In the event of a service disruption, Amtrak will make reasonable efforts to seek (but cannot guarantee) pet friendly hotel accommodations, if sheltering is necessary.

Pet Check-In

At staffed stations, passengers must check in at the ticket office no later than 30 minutes before departure to allow sufficient time to confirm pet eligibility and complete a Release and Indemnification Agreement. At unstaffed stations, the conductor will confirm pet eligibility and provide passengers with a Release and Indemnification Agreement to sign. Before your trip, find your station and check to see if it staffed.

A waiver must be completed for each leg of travel.

Onboard Guidelines

  • Pets are only permitted in Coach Class.
  • Passengers must remain with pets at all times and pets must remain inside carriers while in stations and onboard trains.
  • Passengers must keep their pet carrier under their own seat. Pet carriers are not permitted under the seat in front of you.

Approved Pet Carriers

Pet owners must provide their own pet carrier, which counts as one piece of carry-on baggage.

The maximum size for pet carriers is 19" long x 14" wide x 10.5" high. Maximum weight of pet with carrier is 20 pounds.

Carrier may be hard or soft sided but must be leak proof and well ventilated.
For your pet's safety, all pets must be able to comfortably sit and lie down without touching the sides of the carrier.

Pet Age & Health
Pet must be at least eight weeks old and be odorless, harmless, not disruptive and require no attention during travel.

Amtrak maintains the right to refuse acceptance of or remove from the train any pet exhibiting these issues.

Passengers will be required to certify that the pet is up to date on all vaccinations and accepts liability for animal.

Amtrak will not accept liability for the health and well-being of pets.
Train-Specific Information

Illinois Service

Pet service in Illinois is available on Carl Sandburg, Illinois Zephyr, Illini and Saluki. Pet service is not available on Lincoln Service (Chicago - St. Louis)

Each train will have one Coach class car designated for passengers with their pets.

Photo from Amtrak


You can help pick a new name for the Illinois Reentry Guide

The Illinois Reentry Guide Initiative and the Education Justice Project of UIUC want your help in naming the guide! The purpose of the guide is to help people leaving prison make a successful return and transition to their Illinois communities. 

From the contest website

We're having a naming contest for a permanent name for the Illinois Reentry Guide! This is a 100+ page resource for individuals leaving prison, used by them, their families, and service providers. We've learned that the term "reentry" is confusing to some. We're looking a name that is clear, helpful, and welcoming. Share your ideas!

Entries should be limited to 16 characters, reflect the humanizing tone and purpose of the guide, be easily understood by the guide’s target audience (currently and formerly incarcerated people, their family members, and service providers), be original, not cause confusion with any other similar business or enterprise, and not be the trademark, trade name or property of any other person or entity.

There is no prize-- just the satisfaction of being selected and helping make this valuable resource more accessible.

To check out the current edition of the Illinois Reentry Guide and learn more about the Education Justice Project, visit


One People seeking volunteers for summer arts camp

If you are artistically inclined and feel like giving back to the community this month, One People C-U has you covered. Their Summer Arts Camp is entirely run by volunteers, at zero cost to the Champaign-Urbana community.

For more info on how you can help out, check ou the press release below:

Your time is your most valuable resource.  By volunteering at One People's Summer Arts Camp you are investing your time in the community's youth. 

Launched in summer 2014, One People’s Summer Arts Camp provides youth-centered and community-based arts education at $0 cost to youth in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Volunteer in one of the art groups (drumming, visual arts, vocal performance, dance, or creative writing) or help with registration, food, set up/tear down, or as a floater.  The camp is 100% donation-based and volunteer operated. 

All volunteers must complete a background check and attend a fun and interactive 2-day workshop, June 10 & 11.  Food will be provided!  Learn more and sign up online at

With your help, One People’s Summer Arts Camp aims to inspire creativity, affirm individuality, and build community.


Japan House releases mobile garden guide

There may be no more serene place in Champaign-Urbana than Japan House, whose gardens are as fascinating as they are calming. Just in time for summer, they've rolled out their new mobile garden guide, which offers a self-guided tour narrated by gardener Jim Bier, to make your experience more informative, educational or fun.

For more info on the project, check out the press release from Japan House below:

We are thrilled to announce our new garden guide for your cell phone. No need to download an app----just go to our website on your cell phone and click the MOBILE GUIDE link on the bottom right. Then hit VIEW GUIDE and you are on your way to a self guided tour narrated by our beloved gardener, 88 year old Jim Bier!

A garden tour any time you want...right in the peace and beauty of the Japan House Lorene and James Bier Gardens.

You will also find a lengthy interview with Jim (video coming soon) in which he answers questions ranging from brutal Illinois winters to his favorite parts of the garden. Then just tap VIEW VEGETATION INFO and you'll have detailed maps for the dry and tea gardens with specific plant info including latin names and the species origin.

Thanks to our intrepid Japan House Interns for making this happen. Kudos go to interns Anna Piazza, Alexis Pokorney, Stephen Salerno, Hana Yaginuma and our Program Coordinator Debbie Kim. Most of all, of course, our humble thanks go to Jim Bier!


Champaign Unit 4 School District announces summer food programs

Earlier this month, we mentioned how Urbana's schools will be offering free meals to those 18 and under this coming summer, and today, the good news just keeps on coming, as Champaign's Unit 4 School District has announced a similar program.

Though the schedule differs, breakfast and lunch will be available from at least one of Champaign's schools from May 31st to August 12th to help students whose parents are working during the day and aid the hunger that many face when school lunches go on hiatus for the summer.

For more information, check out the full calendar below or click over to Unit 4's website: