Stories by Kristen Thometz

20-Mile Horse Ride Through Loop Shines a Light on Veteran Suicide

Veterans ride through Washington, D.C. on Sept. 7, 2019 as part of BraveHearts’ “Trail to Zero” campaign. (Courtesy of BraveHearts)

Every day, 20 veterans commit suicide, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This weekend, 14 veterans will ride 20 miles through Chicago on horseback, with each mile representing a life lost to suicide.

10 Things to Do This Weekend: Sept. 26-29

(Photo by Special Events Management)

German brats and beers, aerial acrobats, monster trucks and a bungalow tour usher in the weekend. Here are 10 things to do in and around Chicago.

Find Pumpkin Patches in Chicago and the Suburbs

(webandi / Pixabay)

Sure, you could go to your local grocery store and grab a gourd – but what’s the fun in that? We share a bounty of spots for plucking a pumpkin.

Health Officials: 69 Hospitalizations Linked to Vaping in Illinois

(Vaping360 / Flickr)

Nearly 70 Illinois residents are among 530 people across the country who have been hospitalized and diagnosed with vaping-related breathing illnesses, according to federal and state health officials. That’s up from 380 a week ago.

10 Things to Do This Weekend: Sept. 19-22

(Marcelo Ikeda Tchelão / Pixabay)

International artists, lucha libre wrestling, craft brews and cool jazz usher in the weekend. Here are 10 things to do in Chicago.

Allison Arwady Nominated to Become CDPH Commissioner

Dr. Allison Arwady appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Aug. 20, 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has nominated Dr. Allison Arwady to become the next commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. Arwady has been serving as acting commissioner since June.

Lightfoot Proposes Citywide Ban on Flavored E-Cigarette Products

(lindsayfox / Pixabay)

As underage vaping and hospitalizations linked to vaping continue to rise, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is calling for a citywide ban on flavored e-cigarette products. “The dangers are manifesting themselves literally every day. We must act and we will,” she said.

Suburban Teen With Severe Lung Damage Files Lawsuit Against E-Cigarette Maker Juul

Gurnee resident Adam Hergenreder, 18, right, talks about how he began using e-cigarettes at a Friday, Sept. 13 press conference alongside his attorney Antonio Romanucci. (Kristen Thometz / WTTW News)

Adam Hergenreder, 18, looks like a typical teenager, but his lungs tell a different story. “I’ve been told by medical professionals that my lungs are that of a 70-year-old,” the Gurnee resident said Friday at a press conference.

Health Officials: Hospitalizations in Illinois Linked to Vaping Climbs to 52

(lindsayfox / Pixabay)

The number of people hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness linked to vaping continues to grow in Illinois, with 52 confirmed cases since May, according to new figures released by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Report: Obesity Rates Rising in Illinois, Across the Country

(Tania Dimas / Pixabay)

Nearly a third of adults in Illinois were obese in 2017, compared to roughly 28% seven years ago, according to a new report that offers recommendations to curb the trend – including a sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

10 Things to Do This Weekend: Sept. 12-15

(Photo by James Richards)

Art fairs, rock bands, sweet treats and an early Thanksgiving celebration usher in the weekend. Here are 10 things to do in and around Chicago.

Illinois Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Opioid Distributors, Manufacturers

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Hailey R. Staker)

Opioid manufacturers carried out unfair and deceptive marketing campaigns while distributors flooded Illinois with opioids, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

Sen. Durbin Calls on FDA Commissioner to Act on Vaping Epidemic or Resign

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin calls on the Food and Drug Administration on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, to take action to properly regulate e-cigarettes as the number of vaping-related illnesses and deaths continue to rise across the country. (WTTW News)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is calling on Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless to take “decisive action” against the vaping epidemic that has claimed five lives or resign.

Broadband Access Key to Expanding Telehealth in Illinois Communities

(Pexels / Pixabay)

Telehealth, or the virtual delivery of health-related services, is on the rise. State and federal officials gave an update on investments supporting expansion of such services at an annual conference, including a $420 million expansion of broadband services in Illinois.

Parents Sound Alarm on Vaping After Daughter’s Near-Death Experience

New Lenox residents Tim and Ruby Johnson, left, speak at a press conference Thursday about the recent hospitalization of their daughter, Piper, with their attorney Michael Gallagher, right. (Kristen Thometz / WTTW News)

“We hope that our daughter’s life-threatening ordeal can serve as a warning to parents and teens alike. Vaping is dangerous and can kill you,” said Ruby Johnson, whose daughter, Piper, was hospitalized for a week after vaping.

Cook County Maps Story of Opioid Epidemic with New Website

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Hailey R. Staker)

A newly launched website seeks to convey the seriousness of the opioid epidemic locally while providing resources and honoring those who have died, says Dr. Kiran Joshi of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

10 Things to Do This Weekend: Sept. 5-8

(Photo by

Street festivals, retro tunes, cultural celebrations, opera under the stars and a jump in the river usher in the weekend. Here are 10 things to do in and around Chicago.

Police: Shootings, Murders Fall in August

More than 40 people were shot in Chicago, eight fatally, over Labor Day weekend. Despite that, police say the total number of shootings and murders for August are at their lowest point since 2011.

‘Voices of the City’ Project Captures Chicagoans’ Favorite Spots

(Alyssa Black / Flickr)

From iconic Chicago landmarks to neighborhood parks, 350 Chicago-area residents share their favorite local places in the “Voices of the City” art project. Add your voice to the mix.

Health Officials Report 5 More Cases of Hospitalizations Linked to Vaping

(Diedra Laird, MCT Campus)

Nearly a week after an Illinois resident died following hospitalization for a severe respiratory illness linked to vaping, health officials are reporting an additional five cases in the state.

12 Things to Do This Labor Day Weekend: Aug. 29-Sept. 2

(Photo by Chicago DCASE)

Street festivals, live jazz, handmade gifts, global foods and a football season preview usher in the long weekend. Here are a dozen things to do in and around Chicago.

Illinois Resident Who Was Hospitalized After Vaping Dies

(nomz / Pixabay)

An Illinois resident who was hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness after vaping has died, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. It may be the first death in the country linked to vaping. 

City Reaches Settlements with 16 E-Cigarette Retailers for Selling to Minors

(Diedra Laird, MCT Campus)

The settlement requires the retailers to pay more than $540,000 in fines for illegally selling and marketing e-cigarette products to minors, according to city officials.

Lightfoot Launches Task Force to Combat Sexually Transmitted Infections

(Pedro Szekely / Flickr)

In 2018, Chicago saw an uptick in the number of cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. A new task force will work to develop strategies to curb STIs across the city, starting with syphilis. 

Illinois Attorney General Expands Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Hailey R. Staker)

For years, OxyContin maker Purdue engaged in deceptive marketing practices, according to a lawsuit filed in April by Attorney General Kwame Raoul. Now, Raoul’s office is seeking to add members of the company’s founding family as defendants.