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Illinois Ag News Headlines
Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame to Welcome Burke, DeFord, Drendel
Illinois Ag Connection - 09/13/2021

The Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) Board of Directors announced the selections of John Burke, Jr., Betty DeFord, and Brian Drendel for induction into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

The formal inductions will occur during the annual Illinois Conservation Foundation Gala to be held in spring 2022.

"It is with appreciation that we welcome John Burke Jr., Betty DeFord and Brian Drendel as they join the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame, in recognition of the passion for and commitment to the enjoyment of the outdoors that each of them have shown for many years," said Colleen Callahan, chair of the ICF Board of Directors and Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "These three individuals are leaders in efforts dedicated to preserving, promoting, and enhancing our state's natural resources."

John Burke Jr., Bartelso

The death of his 16-year-old brother in a hunting accident inspired John Burke, Jr. to promote hunting safety and outdoor recreation opportunities through the Jared Burke Foundation, founded in 2015 in southern Illinois. The foundation provides hunts and other outdoor activities for injured veterans, individuals with developmental disabilities, and youth who might otherwise not have access to outdoors adventures. John Burke participates in and speaks at hunter safety courses about the death of his brother during a deer hunt and the importance of safe hunting practices. In addition to hosting injured veterans on hunting and fishing trips, the Jared Burke Foundation provided accessible hunting blinds for use by deer and turkey hunters at Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area.

Betty DeFord, Bath

Betty DeFord, on an Illinois River boat ride, saw a major problem for the waterway up-close when dozens of invasive silver carp flew out of the water and into the boat. Nominators noted that when Betty saw the problems being caused by the spread of invasive silver and bighead carp, she went on the offensive, founding the now-famous Redneck Fishing Tournament on the Illinois River near Bath, Illinois in 2006. DeFord's goal was to encourage netting and removing the dangerous fish -- and raising funds to help homeless veterans. One nominator wrote: "With every tournament...and every media interview, Betty capitalizes on her moment in the spotlight to deliver a message about the vital importance of conservation efforts. Betty DeFord turned an ecological nightmare into a community rally that has drawn people from around the world to this tiny river town, all the while raising awareness of the dangers of invasive species and collecting thousands of dollars to benefit veterans' assistance organizations."

Brian Drendel, Geneva

Batavia High School science teacher Brian Drendel combined his passions for teaching and fishing to help promote the concept of competitive bass fishing activities in Illinois schools. Drendel's advocacy resulted in the Illinois High School Association adding a state bass fishing state series to its sports and activities offerings in 2008. After retiring as Batavia High School wrestling coach, Drendel started the school's fishing club in 2006 and has coached the Batavia High bass fishing team ever since. He is president of the Illinois Bass Fishing Coaches Association, which promotes development of youth fishing clubs and fishing tournament series for girls and boys in which they can improve their skills and earn scholarships. Drendel also hosts a winter casting clinic where coaches and students can work on their fishing techniques, and he promotes youth fishing through an educational website and on YouTube videos.

Since 2002, the ICF has recognized Illinoisans for their significant contributions and unparalleled dedication in preserving, promoting, enhancing or supporting natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities with induction into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

The Illinois Conservation Foundation is an IRS 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1995 to support the programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. For more information on the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame and the ICF, check the ICF website at www.ilconservation.org.


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