Like the majority of Illinois residents, I live closer to Lake Michigan than to Cairo and have since the day I was born. Hearing about Little Egypt along the Ohio River as a child stoked a considerable amount of curiosity. When I finally encountered Little Egypt in my twenties, I was blown away that a place in the state looked so different than anything near Kendall County, where I grew up.

In one of my younger years, our family played host to an Italian exchange student who was amazed by the width of the Fox River. Years later, I would spend a year living in Macomb, Illinois, which is a lot more similar to Kendall County although the ground covered in an hour’s drive is much different. An hour South West of Macomb is Keokuk, Iowa where I’d travel for the occasional change of pace. Every time I went, I wondered what Berto would have said about the wondrous width of the Mighty Mississippi!

Around 2010, I was thumbing through an almanac that listed every village, town, and city in the US and, of course, scanned the Illinois list first. There sure are some interestingly named places in our state. Particularly, I noticed a town called Bone Gap, Illinois in the South East corner not far from the Wabash River. Curiosity about Bone Gap nibbled at me for a few weeks before I packed a bag and hit the road to go explore the small town and learn what I could about it.

I’m sure most people reading this have never heard of Bone Gap, Illinois. Earlier, French explorers had named a nearby creek, Bonpas Creek. In French, “bon pas,” means, “good way.” Today it’s amusing given how little any of us know about the town, but the city chose that name as a sort of marketing gimmick. At the time of its founding, the Cumberland Gap was famously the surest way for settlers to make their way West and they thought Bone Gap may share in that reflected glory.

I’ve spent a little time all over Illinois and every time I return home to Kendall County, which I affectionately refer to as Incredible Kendall, I’m left with a newfound appreciation for where I’d just been and a renewed gratitude for living in Illinois.

A significant portion of my personality is that my imagination has an outsized impact on my decision making. After nearly a year working on developing several online swag stores (Pharmapseudocal.com, JesusChr.ist, TheSwag.Store, etc.), I recently spent a week away from the internet. During that time, almost as if by serendipity, the notion of BILD-HI began to take shape. Why is no one showcasing the fun, complex, interesting, unique, and lovable Illinois that I see?

The purpose of my Illinois effort is to establish a version of the Illinois-colored glasses through which I see the state for others to look through. Since my week without web, I’ve been bursting with ideas for ways to do it. If I’m able to see this through to where I’d like it to be, BILD-HI will be a legal nonprofit and I can get some help executing the ideas.

I don’t want to disrupt my closing, so I’ll ask for the money right now. BILD-HI has a rather unique fundraiser going on right now that doesn’t rely on individuals digging into their wallets as much as it relies on incentivizing businesses and organizations to contribute. Here’s the link to that fundraiser, but if you feel compelled to help I welcome you to hit the shop at OhBoyIllinois.com.

Until BILD-HI is a full-fledged nonprofit (and certainly for long after!), I’m going to initiate some events that serve that purpose. As of this writing I’ve introduced the first showcase Illinois event, High Trade Friday. I’m also starting BILD-HI social media accounts including a YouTube channel to put the Illinois-colored glasses on others.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking down a path that will not leave me wondering if I should be on a different one: ardent advocacy of all things Illinois! I’m going to need a lot of help to do it in what I consider to be the right way, and as I’m just getting out of the gate, first I simply need some support. I need to know there are others who see aspects of this state the way I do. I need to hear from anyone interested in seeing the state the way I do.

Most importantly, I need to hear from any Illinois un-enthusiasts, detractors, or deniers. I will bring you around!

Thank you for your time.


Robert Gryder