It was a small ceremony, held a few years ago at Fenton High School in Bensenville. But it had a big impact on Fenton alumnus Bill Schey and his wife, Connie.
The ceremony was a plaque dedication to honor 10 Fenton alumni who died in the Vietnam War. Bill Schey, a Marine Corps veteran who narrowly avoided going to Vietnam, helped track down information on one of the soldiers.
"It just brought it back. The sacrifice they make," Bill Schey said. "You just think about it -- 18 years old and they're gone. And you think of all we've had in our lives in the meantime. Their families had to carry on without them."
The experience inspired the Scheys to do more to help military families. Last year, the Barrington Hills couple bought a property in Johnsburg from a bankrupt builder and are now building a 2,450-square-foot house. When the house is done this spring, they will sell it -- they're hoping to get at least $350,000 -- and donate all of the money to the military charity Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships to spouses and children of members of the Armed Forces who were killed or wounded.
The Scheys first considered giving the house to one soldier's family. Then they decided that by selling it and donating the full $350,000, they could help dozens of families.
Bill Schey, owner of Insignia Kitchen & Bath Design Group and Professional Plumbing Co. in Barrington, said he's been blown away by the generosity of people who want to help. Dozens of friends and local businesses chipped in, donating thousands of dollars worth of goods, services and cash.
"This isn't just me -- I couldn't have done this without them," Schey said. "The checks just kept coming and coming. I can't get over it. It really is amazing."
The project has consumed Schey's life for the last few months as he coordinates inspections, donations and construction of the four-bedroom house. Its features include a luxury master bath, a concrete driveway and a walkout basement.
"It's gonna be a beautiful house," Schey said. "Usually, when you help out a charity, you just write a check and you're done with it ... but this has been incredible."
The Scheys chose Folds of Honor after researching military charities. They liked how little Folds of Honor spent on administration and how it helped families of fallen soldiers with college scholarships for spouses and children -- something that could help turn people's lives around.
Schey didn't realize it at the time, but the board members include Inverness residents Steve Haworth and Mike Arbour, who volunteer their time for the cause.
Haworth, chairman of the charity's board, said the Scheys' project will allow Folds of Honor to give out 60 additional $5,000 college scholarships. Haworth is among the local donors.
"This would take care of the educational dreams of 60 people who are so worthy. We're gonna positively affect 60 people's lives because of (Schey)," Haworth said. "We're so fortunate to have him."
Connie Schey, who grew up in Ireland, started out helping Folds by raising money through charity runs. Her first was a 10-mile run on a Memorial Day at Soldier Field, where she and friend Angela Llerna raised $12,000. At last year's run, they raised more than $72,000.
At the charity's fundraising dinner last year in Chicago, they met families who had benefitted, including a mother of five whose husband was killed in Iraq. The charity had helped her get a college scholarship so she could earn a degree and get a job that would support her family. Stories like these motivated the Scheys.
They are still looking for donations of carpet, shelving, mirrors, granite and cash. All donations are tax-deductible. Anyone interested in donating can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.