Caring for children came naturally to Theresa Burns, according to a former co-worker of the 57-year-old Des Plaines woman killed Monday in a hit-and-run crash in Aurora.
Burns, who worked at an Aurora residence and school for students with psychiatric challenges, was struck by a vehicle while trying to rescue a student who had run into the street, authorities said.
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Police said an 18-year-old female student ran from Northern Illinois Academy's facility at 988 Corporate Blvd. and sat in a southbound lane of Church Road. Burns and another staff member, a 25-year-old Plainfield man, were trying get the student off the street when they were struck by a car whose driver then ran away.
Burns was pronounced dead at the scene. The Plainfield man was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries and released from an Aurora hospital. The student was not injured.
"It's just tragic what has happened," said Nina Aliprandi, director of residential services for Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, where Burns worked from 1995 through 2010.
Burns began her career with Maryville as a family educator working with adolescent girls at the Des Plaines campus. She then transferred to Maryville's Haymarket residential program, caring for children of women with substance abuse issues while they underwent treatment.
When the Haymarket program ended in 2004, Burns joined Maryville's Scott Nolan Center in Des Plaines as a psychiatric technician working with teens in residential treatment. In 2006, she joined Maryville's Crisis Nursery Center in Chicago, caring for newborns through 6-year-olds whose families were experiencing some form of crisis, such as joblessness, homelessness and domestic violence.
"She had such a big heart for the families we worked with and for the young children," Aliprandi said. "She would love to do arts and crafts with the kids, read to them. She was just a very nurturing person and very caring. She always had a smile on her face for the children."
Burns quit Maryville in 2010 and later went to work for Northern Illinois Academy, a therapeutic day school previously located at Maryville's Des Plaines campus. The school recently moved to Aurora.
Funeral services for Burns are pending.
An Aurora police spokesman said Wednesday authorities have not been able to locate the driver of the 1997 Chevrolet GEO Metro that struck Burns. The driver abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot after the crash.
"He has still not turned himself in," spokesman Dan Ferrelli said. "What we would do is talk to the guy, find out his side of the story, complete the investigation, and then present the case to the Kane County state's attorney."
Police are asking anyone with information about the crash to call traffic investigators at (630) 256-5330.