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Massages, baked goods are recipe for perfect holiday fundraiser in Grayslake

Prairie Crossing resident Beth Allen fills ByrColby Barn with songs seasduring 18th annual Cookie Walk Bake Sale Grayslake. | DAN

Prairie Crossing resident Beth Allen fills the Byron Colby Barn with songs of the season during the 18th annual Cookie Walk and Bake Sale in Grayslake. | DAN MORAN/SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:24AM

If you need evidence that stress builds up during the holiday season, Ellen Winick can find it in your shoulders and back.

“We store stress in our bodies — some people more than others,” said Winick, who runs Release Massage Therapy out of her home in the Prairie Crossing neighborhood in Grayslake. “Some people can kind of let it go, and some people, that’s where it goes. And if we can release it from the muscles, then we can emotionally release it, as well.”

Speaking as she kneaded the shoulders of Barbara Provost, Winick, who has been a massage therapist for 17 years, confirmed that December is her busiest time of year.

“Sales-wise, it is (higher) this time of year, because people are buying gift certificates,” she said. “In fact, when the economy was really bad, I thought the business would suffer, but it was the opposite. People found money to get massages for self-care.”

On Sunday Winick was offering her services for free to visitors at the 18th annual Prairie Crossing Cookie Walk and Bake Sale, which drew a crowd of both neighborhood residents and last-minute shoppers looking to polish off their to-do lists.

In fact, the flow of customers was such that all of the cookies provided by some 25 donors were sold out within the first 45 minutes of the two-hour event — a good problem to have, given that the sale is always geared to benefit more than one charity.

According to Prairie Crossing resident Elizabeth Stearns, who chaired the event for 2013, the recipients this year included the Avon Township Food Pantry and the Prairie Crossing Volunteer Corps, which, among other services, helps deliver goods and services to area residents in need.

A third recipient was the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Greater Illinois, selected by Stearns in honor of her 2-year-old granddaughter Adele Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with the chronic lung and digestive-system disease shortly after birth.

Stearns said the 2012 event took in $1,500, and a similar amount was hoped for this year from visitors paying $7 per plastic restaurant-style container to take home the cookies or baked items.

Also featured were about a dozen local vendors, primarily entrepreneurs and artisans that included Judi Hendricks, a meditation teacher who offered prayer feathers made from the plumage of pheasant, turkey and peacocks.

In keeping with the season, Hendricks said the feathers can also be used to wave away any tension that piles up during the hustle and bustle of December.

“The feather is a symbol of spirit and upliftment for when people have something in their life that might (stress) them,” she said, pointing out that no feathers from eagles, hawks or other protected species are used. “There’s a lot of people now who are breeding turkeys to have the feather qualities of the raptors — we call them ‘legal eagle,’ because people are so interested in this sort of thing.”

As a steady crowd came in from a snowy landscape, Stearns said the event’s proximity to Christmas might have had something to do with the cookies running low so quickly.

“It’s a great way to get fresh-baked goods for the holiday with a huge variety, (and) this is the closest we’ve ever had it to Christmas,” she said, adding that “when you think about it, isn’t that the best-case scenario?”

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