Benefit to aid family of train victim

Thursday, June 22, 2006

By Clare Walters, The Star

Crete Area Jaycees will host a benefit dinner and dance Saturday in memory of a "future leader" who was killed by a freight train in Steger last month.

The Jaycees hope to raise $5,000 for the family of Marielle Anderson, a Bloom Trail High School senior who was killed by a Union Pacific train May 23 on East 34th Street.

Jaycee event organizer Karen Haney said the money will offset Anderson's final expenses, including funeral and medical costs.

Haney, who lives near the family, said she watched Anderson grow up.

"She was a rising star," Haney said. "She had so much going for her. She was a future leader."

Anderson was riding her bike to work at a Steger video store when she was struck and killed by the train. It was one day before the honors student was set to graduate.

Crossing gates for vehicular traffic were operational; however, there are no safety gates across the sidewalk where Anderson rode her bicycle.

Since the accident, residents have petitioned Union Pacific for installation of safety gates for pedestrians at the crossing.

News of Anderson's death also spurred the involvement of a budding Lombard-based community group that is calling for the installation of fencing adjacent to railroad tracks in heavily populated areas.

The group is orchestrating a bus trip from the western suburb to Anderson's benefit.

Ray Zukowski, who has developed a Web site for the group's cause, said he's been to Steger a couple of times since Anderson's death to help the family and community.

Zukowski has become a railroad safety advocate since his 14-year-old daughter, Kristen Bowen, was killed in February by a freight train in Villa Park.

"It's two young girls, and we feel both of their deaths could have been prevented," he said.

The Marielle Anderson Memorial Benefit will be from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Steger VFW Hall, 3332 Chicago Road.

Tickets can be purchased at the door. The cost is $15 for adults and $7 for children age 12 and younger.

A live band and DJ will provide entertainment.

For more information about the event, interested people may phone Haney at (708) 351-0546 or visit Zukowski's Web site, www.kristenslaw.org.

Reprinted with permission from the The Star Newspaper

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