Stories by Kristen Thometz

SPARKfest Strives to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Stacy Stoltz performs in “Walk A Mile.” (Credit: Mali Anderson)

A new theater festival takes the stage in September to share true stories about addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues related to mental health. 

New Bike Law Legalizes ‘Common’ Motorist, Cyclist Traffic Practices

(Azri / Flickr)

Drivers in Illinois will soon be allowed to pass cyclists in no-passing zones, and bicycling on the shoulder of the road will also be legal. Learn more.

Instagram Plastic Surgery Ads Can Be Misleading, Study Finds

In addition to luscious food pics and contoured abs, users of the popular photo-sharing app can find a bevy of advertisements for plastic surgery. But a new study finds that many providers are not board-certified plastic surgeons. And that, they say, is an issue.

Brushes with Cancer Celebrates Life, Art

Breast cancer survivor Janet Polson at the last year’s Brushes with Cancer gala. (Ben Kurstin)

Everyone who has been touched by cancer has a story to tell. Through Brushes with Cancer, artists find inspiration from those stories to create reflective works of art.

Welcome Blanket Knits Together Immigrant Support, Activism

(Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago)

To counter the divisiveness of President Trump’s proposed border wall, artist and Pussyhat Project co-founder Jayna Zweiman is seeking the public’s help to create 2,000 miles of welcome blankets to give to new immigrants.

Obama Library Construction Bids Must Include Minority, Local Enterprises

(Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Construction management teams bidding for a leading role in the Obama Presidential Center must commit to specific diversity and inclusion goals, the Obama Foundation announced Thursday.

6 Labor Day Weekend Ideas for a Summer Road Trip or Chicago Staycation

A waterfall in Starved Rock State Park. (Arturo Hurtado / Flickr)

The holiday weekend is almost upon us. Still haven’t made plans? We share our favorite local activities and weekend getaways. 

New Law Requires Food Allergen Safety Training for Restaurants

Illinois joins a handful of states that require restaurants to provide some form of food allergen awareness and safety training. Learn about the new rules.

NIU Student Develops Health Care Website for Immigrants

“My main hope is to make it easier for people to access health care,” said Yosue Perez, whose website maps health care providers in Illinois that serve people regardless of their immigration status.

Cook County Urges Vaccination of Pets After Rabid Kitten Found

Pet owners should not panic, local health officials say, but take precautions after a rabid kitten was found in Carroll County.

New Law Paves the Way for Noise Monitors on Lake Shore Drive

(Jason Mrachina / Flickr)

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a measure this week allowing the city to install noise monitors along the scenic expressway, following residents’ complaints.

CDC Links Backyard Chickens to Nationwide Salmonella Outbreaks

As more people flock to the backyard poultry trend, the number of salmonella infections are likely to increase, says Illinois Department of Public Health veterinarian Dr. Connie Austin.

Eclipse Trips to Carbondale Come With Traffic Jam Hangovers

(Elizabeth Brackett / Chicago Tonight)

Thousands of people swarmed to Carbondale to watch the solar eclipse on Monday. And thousands hit the road as soon as the celestial event was over.

Pediatricians Warn About Rapid Weight Changes in Youth Athletes

“Sometimes, children and teens in certain sports believe they need to achieve a particular body type to be successful,” said Dr. Rebecca Carl. “Unless they have a healthy strategy to work toward their goals, however, they can end up defeating themselves and causing health problems.”

CDC: Teen Drug Overdose Deaths Increased in 2015

Following years of steady decreases, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a significant rise in teen overdose deaths in 2015. “It’s disappointing,” said Renee Manworren, a local researcher.

Solar Eclipse Chicago: 12 Watch Parties on Aug. 21

A total solar eclipse, which is when the Moon completely covers the Sun, will occur across 14 states in the continental U.S. on Aug 21, 2017. (Credit: NASA)

Join us online for live coverage from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium starting at 11:40 a.m. Heading outside? Here are 12 places in and around Chicago where you can celebrate the eclipse. 

Study: Cost, Severity of Opioid Overdose Admissions to ICU Rising

For years, critical care doctors have noticed an increase in patients suffering from opioid overdoses. A new study confirms their observations and details the staggering cost of treatment.

Media Depictions of Pregnancy, Post-Baby Bodies ‘Unrealistic,’ Studies Find

“A lot of women said it sets an unrealistic standard when they see Beyoncé in a magazine and she looks fantastic,” said researcher Toni Liechty. “If those are the images you’re seeing, you think that it’s common.”

Illinois Eliminates Statutes of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse Crimes

(Meagan Davis / Wikimedia Commons)

“This law sends a message to survivors of felony child sex crimes that it is not too late to come forward,” said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, in a statement.

Chicago Entrepreneurs Shine Light on Preventing Elderly Falls

(Luna Lights, Inc.)

Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults. How one local company is trying to prevent them from occurring, while allowing older adults to maintain their independence.

Illinois Expands Organ Donor Registry to Teens

Under a new law, Illinois residents as young as 16 years old can sign up to become organ and tissue donors when they receive their driver’s license or state ID cards. 

Budget Impasse Hit Women, Children Hardest, Report Says

“The impact it had on people will likely last for far more than two years, and not just from the past two years but also going into the future,” said Mitch Lifson, one of the report’s co-authors.

Report: Despite Progress, Illinois Can Improve Cancer-Fighting Policies

While Illinois was lauded in a new report for its smoke-free laws and rules on indoor tanning devices, the state is “exceptionally” far behind on comprehensive tobacco-control programs, according to a national cancer advocacy organization.

Chicago Leads Nation in Reducing Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Deaths

(Giuseppe Milo / Flickr)

For black women in Chicago, a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003 meant you were 68 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman. A new study shows that gap is closing.

Broccoli, Kale Could Slow Cognitive Decline, Study Finds

Your mother was right to tell you to eat your broccoli. Eating nutrient-rich foods like broccoli, spinach and kale could slow age-related cognitive decline, according to a new study.