PP0111When the weather gets cold we tend to find ourselves spending more time indoors, snuggled up with a hot beverage. Although that sounds like bliss, getting out and enjoying events that only happen during the winter season can be just as fun, and support a good cause!

If you have never experienced ice sculptures or ice sculpting competitions, Rockford holds the High School and State Competitions. You can walk through and watch the ice sculptors, or you can drive through and view from the warmth of your car. The competitions are held at Sinnissippi Park. Admission is free and you can see ice sculptors creating their master pieces from sunrise until about 10:30 p.m. This is an activity the entire family can enjoy.

The High School Competition is held Jan. 18-20 and the State Championship will be held Jan. 17-20. For more information about this event, click here.

Another fun winter activity that you may have heard of is the Polar Plunge. This event supports the Special Olympics in Illinois by raising money for the events and programming the organization provides for the 42,000 athletes across the state. Participants raise a minimum of $100 in exchange for jumping into cold waters in the middle of winter. All the proceeds benefit the Special Olympic Athletes.

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Lewis UniversityLewis University has been named one of the best colleges for veterans, ranking fifth in the United States and first in Illinois, by College Choice, an independent ranking organization that utilizes data-driven research and methodology to help students and families find the best schools.

College Choice reviews a number of factors including institutional excellence, student satisfaction and return on investment to help develop its rankings.

Located in Romeoville, Lewis University offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, including options for Air Force ROTC through the Aerospace Studies program and Army ROTC through the Military Studies program. The university has also partnered with the Department of Defense to provide affordable, high-quality education globally.

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Northwestern UniversityUniversity Hall Northwestern is leading the way in helping its students avoid crippling college debt, a move that has already helped it recruit students from lower-income families and encouraged them to avoid borrowing too much.

Northwestern University’s “no-loan” policy means that colleges will strive to cover each family’s “demonstrated financial need,” which is based on information collected through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The “no-loan” institutions remove student loans from their financial aid packages and only feature grants, scholarships, work-study aid and other components.

By doing this, Northwestern is increasing its financial aid and offering university-funded scholarships. The funds for the additional financial assistance will come from gifts to the University, endowment earnings and other sources.

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Villa ParkVilla Park has recently been named one of the best places to raise a family in the United States, according to Money Magazine.

Located 20 miles west of Chicago and home to more than 22,000 residents, Villa Park is ranked 8th on the list due to its low crime rates, reasonable housing prices and a variety of local amenities.

The magazine ranked cities based on different thresholds for convenience, excellence and affordability. They also focused on safety, economic health, diversity and placed an emphasis on education and child-friendly amenities like libraries and parks.

Incorporated in 1914, Villa Park boomed as a company town for workers at the nearby Ovaltine chocolate factory. Although the Ovaltine factory closed in 1988, the village continued to grow and now boasts incomes at the top of the state median and moderate unemployment rates.

Earlier this year, Money Magazine also ranked Villa Park as one of the best places to live in the country. Their list used eight categories to evaluate 2,400 cities and towns with populations between 10,000 and 100,000 people.

Other Illinois towns that made the top 100 include:

No. 9 – Schaumburg

No. 27 – Wheaton

No. 28 – Villa Park

No. 35 – Des Plaines

fossils programThe Illinois State Museum is hosting a Kid’s Day on Saturday, January 6 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Lewistown at the Dickson Mounds Museum (10956 N. Dickson Mounds Rd., Lewistown, Illinois 62542).

This event is a fun opportunity for kids to learn about the variety of rocks, minerals and fossils by viewing different collections from area experts and local clubs. Children will be able to view specimens from the Illinois State Museum collection.

Children must be 5 years and older and be accompanied by an adult. Registration is not required and it is free for kids to learn and participate with experts in this field. Although this program is free, donations to the museum are appreciated.

There will also be other hands-on activities for children to participate in as well as crafts to take home.

Kid’s Day is guaranteed to be a fun experience for the entire family. For more information and directions, click here. You can also get updates and notifications about Kid’s Day from our Facebook event.