Smile Politely

Celebrating C-U life

There are forces that are bigger than life, that can move mountains, and inspire the uninspired. If you’re lucky enough to meet someone like this, pay close attention — they can offer you great perspective and invaluable insight. In Champaign-Urbana there are many people like this to know. The focus of this column is to introduce readers to these gems of the community. You can learn more about who they are, what they do, and what motivates them.

On a beautiful May morning a man sits in a downtown café enjoying a cup of coffee. He looks over a flyer he’s brought for a local musical performance his band, Catcher’s Hollow, will be doing on Memorial Day Weekend. A love for music is just one of Bill Dicker’s passions.

Bill grew up with a solid Catholic foundation. He jokes that his mother wanted him to become a priest. Dicker stuck with his faith, but didn’t go the route of priesthood. Instead he devoted 20 years to the food service industry in the Ann Arbor School System where he provided for 36 schools. The weeks were long and while he enjoyed work that involved children eventually he felt it was time for a change. In 1999 he changed to a job where he could directly work with students. During his time at Spring Arbor College he also devoted time to working on himself. Through prayer and his spirituality, he started to find a new direction for the work wanted to do. 

With a Master’s Degree in Education Bill branched out to become a substitute teacher at an alternative school. His work would allow him a chance to contribute to the charter of the school. During his 3 years of subbing Dicker took an interest in service learning with a focus on juvenile justice. He found that the basic needs of students were not being met. Helping students find the right resources was important in Dicker’s eyes and with that he had the first glimpse at what would be his new direction with his career.

In his mid 40s he once again switched things up by moving to Champaign. He reconnected with his high school sweetheart which led to a beautiful union with a woman who inspires him daily. During his first years in Champaign he did construction work. The hours and the physical toll it took on him motivated him to once again find a new direction. He began working for Prairie Center. Initially working on a project that focused on addiction to methamphetamines his work evolved into field work in schools. Once again finding his way back to working with students Dicker focused on this type of work. That led him to a position with The Pavilion. He started by leading milieu groups and eventually became a case manager.

Returning to what he learned from his years in Michigan, Dicker worked on providing resources to children who were wards of the state. Through the Department of Children and Family Services the adolescents were placed at the facility and would call The Pavilion their home. Dicker encouraged DCFS to try new things when it came to providing care for the residents. He has been described as having a way with patients. He seems to have ease with creating a relationship with even the most troubled teen. For patients that relationship can make the difference in the success of their treatment. This isn’t a surprise, though. Dicker has a great appreciation for providing quality care to mental health patients.

Case management is important to the success of a patient. Dicker now works on the addiction recovery unit at The Pavilion. The focus has not changed, though. He continues to work on providing patients with resources to ensure their success. The resources provided are based on the patient. This can mean assistance with medication, follow-up on services, and even working with families to create a supportive system for the patient. Case management is a holistic approach Dicker believes. Sending a patient out into the world unarmed with the necessary resources is doing that patient a disservice. This is why case managers are so essential to a patient’s treatment plan.

Dicker acknowledges that there are varying opinions when it comes to the world of mental health. Some celebrities have gone on record saying that mental health patients are over-medicated. Dicker’s response to this is that there are many ways to offer healing for patients. He states that the mind is a powerful thing, and can be an integral part of a patient’s healing process. However, Dicker also believes that modern medicine should be an option for patients. He respects the beliefs of all patients and works with patients to provide the best aftercare plans to help them continue their success with addiction recovery.

Work in the mental health field can be stressful. Music is one of his outlets for stress. Dicker describes the music he performs now as positive and spiritual. Music has always been a part of his life whether it was at church or just a local performance around town. His band Catcher’s Hollow can be found performing at different venues around the community. The group began as a family band with his children. After the children grew up and moved on to college he and his wife Suellen continued their music at church. A friend then came to them and asked about restarting a band with him. With an inclusion of multiple instruments the band took off and as they say the rest is history.

Music is not his only talent that he shares with the community. Dicker also has a holiday gig. It came from a party he attended. He seemed to be the perfect Santa. From there he grew a beard, bought a Santa suit, and added his signature talent of music. Singing Christmas carols and playing the Jolly Old Elf, Dicker brings Christmas to life. Dicker enjoys the element he can provide to parties and gatherings during the holiday season with his rendition of St. Nick. And who wouldn’t love a visit from Santa Claus during one of the best holiday seasons?

Dicker comments that self-care is so important for anyone and everyone. “No one is perfect,” he adds. He himself has had his own learning experiences that have guided him to where he is now. He jokes that “the universe comes with a 2×4.” Sometimes you figure things out, and sometimes you need a divine (and heavy-handed) intervention to show you the way. Dicker lives his life for himself based on what he believes is happiness. When you live for others you add unnecessary stress. He encourages others to do the same. Mental health is important, and care for mental health patients is a necessary component of any community.

Dicker gathers his things and makes his way out into the Spring weather. He mentions that he’s had a few days of playing grandpa and is now headed to meet his family for lunch. Always a supportive person, before he goes, he offers encouraging words and best wishes on things to come. With a jolly smile and a friendly wave he makes his way up the street. 

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