Ashley Cherney

Ashley Cherney, of Kankakee, plays Mary Poppins in the Small Town Theatrics' performance of "Mary Poppins" on July 24-26 in Coal City.

I've had years to get used to this fact, but it still amazes me how much of life remains hidden when a reporter thinks he's captured the full image of something that might make a good story. Oh, we try our best to ask enough questions to get a complete account, but no complete story really fits in those 18-column-inch features that I tend to produce.

One of those hidden gems was missing from a story that ran in Tuesday's edition. I wrote about the Small Town Theatrics' cast and crew in tornado-ravaged Coal City. They're going to present "Mary Poppins" on July 24-26. And I witnessed something special in a group that would continue their project, despite the devastation around them.

Along the way, though, I discovered the tale of Ashley Cherney, of Kankakee. She's an Olivet Nazarene University grad. She has the very challenging title role, but in true theater-geek fashion, she noted: "Who wouldn't want to be Julie Andrews."

The singing comes naturally, but the dancing requires extra attention for Ashley. I thought she was in sync with her "Dick VanDyke" — Kevin Soto, of Coal City — but she assured me she has a lot of work ahead of her.

That's not the whole story, though. The hidden element here is when this show is over, Ashley will say goodbye to Coal City, her home in Kankakee, and the United States. On July 30, she will move to Valencia, Spain. Her husband is enrolled in a university there. He's going to study the art of writing musical scores for movies and video games.

Of course, there are other layers of other stories that I have yet to uncover. For example, I wrote a story about Sarah Wellman and Gabe Askew, two teens who were on a date before an accident sent them to the intensive care unit at Riverside Medical Center.

I thought it was a heartwarming story, and they're each doing better these days. But the surprising part of the story came from Sarah's mother, Sue. She told me about the business her husband, Terry, runs out of their home in the village of Claytonville, a collection of homes on about five short streets, east of Cissna Park.

His business, St. Charles Model Works, sells coal, scrap iron and other products that might be shipped by rail — by model railroaders to be more precise. He conducts a lot of business with the world's model railroaders online, where a load of coal might go for $9.50.

Terry's motto: "If your trains aren't loaded, your railroad isn't working."

It looks like cool stuff and I have to know more about that story. Look for this one on an upcoming business page.

Finally, there are stories from the Kankakee County Speedway that don't belong on the sports pages. I discovered a portion of a news feature when I talked to recent feature winner Luke Gash, of Chebanse. I knew he was a May grad at ONU and I asked about his job prospects. I was only hoping that he wasn't going to get some big accounting job that took him away from his pursuit of a national points championship.

But what he told me was a story of frustration. The degree might open some doors, but he says every prospective employer wants experience he doesn't have, yet. And then, he noted the essence of every new college grad's strategy: He's networking.

"You know Jay Morris [a stock car driver and businessman from southern Iroquois County], he's helping me meet some people," Gash said. "That's how you get your foot in the door."

So, sure, there's another story there. There's another story or two attached to every story we do. So don't worry about me running out of content for news, sports, business or these catch-all columns.

Dennis Yohnka is an award-winning reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at 815-937-3384 or