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Kaneland Connection: BIG WALK crew conquers mosquitoes on 70-mile hikeBIG WALK crew conquers mosquitoes on 70-mile hike

ELBURN – A tennis ball-sized spider, “gigantic” flies and mosquitoes “so bad, we didn’t notice the flies.”

Ben Westfall was describing the conditions encountered during a recent effort, The BIG WALK – a 70-mile hike to raise funds for the Kaneland Harter Middle School jazz band.

Westfall, 31, co-owner of Da Capo Music Studio in Elburn, was part of a group that walked from a lighthouse on the shores of Lake Michigan to the coast of Lake Superior. He was joined by Bob Cates, 45, Chris Goddard, 45, and David Mannia, 37. Kristin Paxinos, the other co-owner of Da Capo, joined the group and drove a support vehicle.

Denise Blaszynski, president of the Kaneland Performing Arts Boosters, said the effort has raised almost $500. The men on the trip were connected through Da Capo. Cates and his daughters have taken lessons there. Goddard and Mannia also are fathers of Da Capo students. Westfall said he enjoys tackling such efforts, and all said they wanted to help raise funds for the Kaneland music program. They said they enjoyed getting to know each other more while on the trip, and they embraced the challenges, including one of being chased by what they thought was a wild turkey.

They said the weather was OK, but the bugs provided the greatest challenges. Westfall said at one break that he had 17 ticks covering his socks, but he added that “the mosquitoes were worse.” The others agreed.

“There would be 50 or 100 mosquitoes,” Mannia said. “And it was like a cloud. It was unreal.”

“You couldn’t stop,” Cates said. “There was no lunch break. The mosquitoes were so bad.”

Instead, they said, they relied on beef jerky from Ream’s Elburn Market and gummy bears. But they did enjoy breakfast made by Paxinos each day. At times, they said, there were some injuries to fight through. But they said they were proud of making the trip in four days – they originally had planned to do it in five. Westfall said it was harder than a 24-day bike trip he once did.

“It was man vs. nature, and it was man vs. himself, mentally,” Westfall said.

Westfall said he already has plans for another project next year – a bicycle ride from St. Louis to Elburn. He said it likely would be another fundraiser, with the recipient to be determined. At least one member of the crew sounded ready to join him.

“I would do it again,” Cates said.

Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at

Know more

Those looking to follow the effort on Facebook can visit Donations can be mailed to Kaneland Performing Arts Boosters, PO Box 611, Elburn, IL 60019.

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