10 McHenry County women honored as 2023 Women of Distinction

Prominent women in their communities honored Wednesday by the Northwest Herald for their work

Award recipient Debbie Gallagher speaks during the Northwest Herald's Women of Distinction award luncheon Wednesday June 7, 2023, at Boulder Ridge Country Club, in Lake in the Hills. The luncheon recognized 10 women in the community as Women of Distinction.

After Lisa Orris lost her eldest son eight years ago to a car crash, her need for solitude and space to grieve inspired her to open a retreat in Oakwood Hills.

The Silver Lake Retreat is a nonprofit that helps people experiencing grief by offering private and community retreats that provide solitude.

It was this work that led to the Northwest Herald naming her one of the 2023 McHenry County Women of Distinction. Also recognized this year were Kelsey Adams, Nancy Binger, Leslie Blake, Carol Lynn DeFiore, Laura Dzielski-Johnson, Nicole Eisenrich, Debbie Gallagher, Wendy Piersall and Carol Waggoner.

More than 200 people gathered Wednesday afternoon at Boulder Ridge Country Club in Lake in the Hills to celebrate the award recipients.

“One thing that the next generation of female leaders need to have, whether it be from their workplace or their family and friends, is their community. So to encourage and support and inspire them to succeed is why I give back,” said Dzielski-Johnson, an attorney in North Barrington and board member for the Crystal Lake BREAK youth center.

Winners were nominated by friends, family or community members and were chosen by a team of judges from Shaw Media.

“McHenry County is a county full of people of distinction who are willing to collaborate and give their time.”

—  Woman of Distinction award recipient Carol Waggoner

“The best part of the job is always getting to know the people who make things happen,” said Dennis Anderson, Shaw Media vice president of news operations and Northwest Herald editor.

Among the winners were Adams, a photographer in McHenry; Gallagher, a longtime Crystal Lake community member who sits on the Crystal Lake Park District; Binger, executive director of the Huntley Area Chamber of Commerce; Eisenrich, a Lake in the Hills resident who supports veterans; and Piersall, a Woodstock writer and former council member.

“McHenry County is a county full of people of distinction who are willing to collaborate and give their time,” said Waggoner, public health nurse for the McHenry County Department of Health.

Blake, executive director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, said she was on a vacation in Spain when she received the call that she got the award. Later that day, she fell off a cliff while horseback riding.

“To say that this accident has seriously shaped how I’ve experienced this award and how I am going to move forward with my life is a fair assessment because the honest truth is that it could have been so much worse,” Blake said.

Kathleen Caldwell of Caldwell Consulting Group and 2012 Women of Distinction honoree introduced each of the women, who all gave a speech. The room was filled with Women of Distinction winners from past years, sponsors and community members.

“I am so blessed and grateful to be doing a job that I love,” said DeFiore, owner of DeFiore Funeral and Cremation Services in Huntley. “As a funeral director, I get to help people at one of the worst times of their lives, and they let me help them and they trust me.”

Sponsors that supported this event were BMO Harris Bank; the Community Foundation for McHenry County; Caldwell Consulting Group; McHenry County College Education to Empowerment; Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery and Garden Center; Tricoci Salon & Spa; Wakeman Law Group; the city of Woodstock; and Janet Kay.