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2013 Dinner Dance

The Italian American Executives of Transportation will honor attorney Louis Cairo as Man of the Year at their annual dinner dance on Nov. 16 at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison.

Rick Gunderson and Dennis Fiedler will be honored as Humanitarians of the Year at the event, and a Special Recognition Award for Government Service will be presented to State Rep. Lou Lang. (708-212-1051)

Louis C. Cairo

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Louis Cairo is a senior partner at the GWC law firm: Chicago’s largest personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm. Growing up as the son of an Italian immigrant who owned a union construction company in Northern Illinois, Louis acquired considerable experience with and respect for the men and women working in the construction industry. His close family upbringing has played a significant role in developing Louis’ reputation as a compassionate, aggressive trial lawyer in the representation of severely injured individuals, and families suffering from the loss of a loved one in wrongful death cases.

Louis graduated from Marquette University with a Business Degree and then received his law degree at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago in 1983.

He is a distinguished member of the Board of Managers and Executive Committee of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Board of Directors of the Society of Trial Lawyers, Justinian Society of Lawyers, American Association for Justice, Chicago Bar Association and Illinois State Bar Association.

Louis has consistently earned the distinction of being named to the Leading Lawyers Network and to the list of Illinois’ Super Lawyers, and he has been honored by the Italian American Labor Council with its Person of the Year Award, as well as by the Illinois and Wisconsin Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America with their Leonardo da Vinci Award of Excellence in the Law.

Louis has lectured extensively to attorneys through the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and speaks regularly to members of the building trades concerning their legal rights.

His experience as a personal injury trial lawyer includes numerous record-breaking verdicts and settlements for individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries or death as a result of the negligence of others. His areas of expertise include construction litigation accidents, transportation catastrophes, and all types of accident cases involving traumatic brain injuries and other forms of debilitating injuries and death.

Louis has always loved the challenge of taking on a difficult case, or trying a lawsuit in an area that tends to be a conservative venue. Routinely, defense attorneys and judges will say, “This isn’t Cook County, counselor. You’ll never get that kind of money in this county.” These challenges have been overcome by Louis procuring numerous record verdicts and settlements throughout the state in counties deemed to be too conservative to get a seven-figure award for an injured person. In fact, a few years back, his law firm had more $1 million-plus settlements outside of Cook County than any other law firm in Illinois, and Louis personally had more than any other lawyer in the state.

Maximizing the value of his clients’ cases has always been important to him. Louis has done so by fighting some of the biggest insurance companies and most powerful contractors and corporations in the country on behalf of his clients. Louis prides himself, and his law firm, on being the champion for the little guy, representing the Davids against the Goliaths of the world.

In addition to his many accolades as one of the premier trial lawyers in Illinois, Louis also devotes a considerable amount of time and resources to fundraising events for numerous charitable causes. These include sponsoring and running an annual Illinois sporting clay event for the Shoot For a Cure organization, which has raised more than $1.5 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; sitting on the Board of The Michael Matters Foundation, which raises funds for brain cancer research; and being an active donor of the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, as well as many other worthy causes.

When not practicing law or fundraising for charity, Louis spends his time with his wife and three adult children, and participates in all types of upland game hunting and big game safaris throughout the world.

Rick Gunderson and Dennis Fiedler

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Rick Gunderson and Dennis Fiedler have more than a couple things in common. They are big-hearted humanitarians who hold leadership positions in the same industry, and both share a passion for the same cause.

Rick is the president of Gateway Screw & Rivet Inc., a company founded by his grandfather and run by Rick for nearly four decades, and Dennis is the president of Screw Industries, a company he founded in 1983.

But the tie that truly binds Rick and Dennis is the Midwest Council for Children with Disabilities, a charitable endeavor the dynamic duo helped launch in 1997. The idea for the council was conceived over lunch with a handful of other small business owners at table 14 at Demarco’s Restaurant in Itasca.

One of the lunchtime friends brought the sad news that his recently newborn twins had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Over the next several months, the group raised funds to defray the costs of treatment as the friend quickly maxed out his hospitalization cap.

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The group decided to host a golf outing fundraiser to help their friend explore new treatments and therapies to improve the quality of the twins’ lives. The first outing was a success, and by the next year, the growth of the outing allowed MCCD to offer support to another set of twins with the same condition.

Sixteen years later, MCCD has branches in Wisconsin and Ohio, and provides funding for more than 125 children. The all-volunteer organization prides itself on the fact that 100 percent of all funds raised go to providing a brighter future for children with special needs.

Dennis and Rick went on to create the Midwest Center for Children’s Development in 2004 to offer hippo therapy (therapy on horseback) for special needs children. Together they took a 17-acre farm in Crystal Lake and created a truly magical place offering physical, occupational and speech therapies as well as therapeutic horseback riding. The facility is constantly growing and improving as it provides nearly 200 therapy sessions a week for special needs children.

Being strong believers in hippo therapy, Rick and Dennis are board members of Horsefeathers Therapeutic Riding NFP. In addition, Dennis is a founder of the Center for Independent Futures-Evanston, which offers affordable housing to adults with special needs, and he serves as board president of Resources for Community Living, which helps special needs adults live independently.

The IAET is proud to bestow its 2013 Humanitarian of the Year Award on Rick and Dennis for their tireless commitment to improving the lives of children and adults in need.

State Rep. Lou Lang

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Since he was first appointed to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1987, Lou Lang has established himself as one of the legislature’s most outspoken and prolific members, and a leader on issues critical to the people of Illinois. Serving the 16th House District of Illinois (including Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove and most of the 50th Ward in Chicago), Lang has made his mark fighting for seniors, women, working families, the mentally ill and the educational priorities of our state. His record in Springfield has made him a rising star within the Democratic Party, propelling him to House Democratic Floor Leader in 1993, Assistant Majority Leader in 1997 and Deputy Majority Leader in 2009.

Over the years, Lou has received awards and recognition from many prestigious organizations across the state. He was named Legislator of the Year by the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois Council on Senior Citizens, the Service Employees Union, the Illinois Public Action Council, the Independent Voters of Illinois and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and has been honored with the Food for Life Award from Open Hand Chicago, among many others. Lou obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Illinois and a law degree from DePaul University.

The IAET is proud to bestow a Special Recognition Award upon Lou for his many years of public service.

About Fra Noi

Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.