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Naperville welcomes home another Olympian
By Melissa Jenco | Daily Herald Staff

Naperville Mayor George Pradel declares April 3, 2010 as Molly Schaus Day and gives the Olympic silver medalist a key to the city during a reception Saturday.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Molly Schaus' former neighbors from her Naperville days turned out to greet the Olympic silver medalist Saturday.

 

Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/4/2010 12:00 AM

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The kids in Naperville's Brookwood Trace neighborhood don't need the latest hockey equipment.

They've got the gear of Olympic silver medalist Molly Schaus.

Schaus, a goalie on the U.S. women's hockey team in Vancouver, reunited with friends, family and even some of that old gear Saturday as the city she considers her hometown welcomed her back with a reception at Rosebud Italian Specialties and Pizzeria.

"We're all proud of her and it's a big big accomplishment," said former neighbor Jody Factor. "We knew her when she was a little kid and she always had her head on straight, a very smart girl, focused. She's a real good example for kids to follow and not just because she went to the Olympics."

Factor, a former hockey player himself, said Schaus could stop his slapshots when she was just 13. He brought Schaus' old hockey stick to the reception Saturday and said his children and others in the neighborhood still take turns using her equipment when playing street hockey.

Schaus lived in Naperville from age 7 until her sophomore year of high school, attending Spring Brook Elementary, Gregory Middle School and freshman year at Benet Academy. She now attends Boston College.

"I'm so pleased and proud to have her with us back home in Naperville," Mayor George Pradel said Saturday. "She's a wonderful, wonderful girl, very personable, very easy to talk to."

He gave Schaus a key to the city and also declared April 3, 2010 as Molly Schaus Day in Naperville.

"Everywhere you go today they're going to say, 'What day is it?'" Pradel said.

"Molly Schaus Day!" the group of about two dozen shouted.

Schaus said she appreciates Naperville's support.

"Throughout the Olympics I'd get text messages and e-mails from people back in Naperville and it really meant a lot and it's unbelievable to be here today," she said. "I had a lot of fun memories this year but this is up there, this is one of the most special days in the whole process."

Schaus's aunt, Julie Galbato of Geneva, said she is not surprised someone so focused was able to achieve her dreams.

"We couldn't be prouder of her," Galbato said. "You don't find too many teenagers who have the motivation and dedication to achieve this."

It was hard not to be in Vancouver to watch Schaus play, Galbato said, but the family is hoping to be there for the 2014 Games in Sochi.

"The Schaus family is going to Russia, that's the slogan," she declared.

Two of Schaus' closest friends from Naperville, Jacqueline Gargaro and Jenny Braun, wished they could have been in Vancouver too. They have been cheering Schaus on since they were kids and said there was a lot of screaming at the TV as they watched their friend compete in the Olympics.

"She's talked about it since we've known her when she was 7 or 8, and to see it happen was pretty crazy," Braun said.

The two say Schaus hasn't changed since her Naperville days and is just as laid back and humble as ever.

"We have to yell at her to be like, 'Let us see your medal, show us your jersey,'" Gargaro said.

"She's not very flashy about it," Braun said. "She's very modest."

Schaus will be asked to show off her medal again Monday as she visits both Spring Brook and Gregory.

The two schools recently celebrated another alumnus who brought home some Olympic hardware. Evan Lysacek won Olympic gold in figure skating and returned to Naperville for a rally and school visits on March 26. He too received a key to the city.