I was trolling through our online archives when I came across the first-person, Straight from the Source essay by Jean Wescher of Carol Stream. She's the 34-year-old wife and mother of two young children who decided, oh, maybe I should climb the tallest mountain in Japan.
Actually, her decision was not as casual as I just made it sound. Jean's motivation could not have been more focused. She was part of an expedition to climb 2,338-foot-tall Mount Fuji to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, which battles the disease that claimed her father.
Jean wrote the essay before she left for the climb, of course, but I was stunned to see that it had occurred July 16-21, and I was remiss in following up with her to see how everything went.
Turns out, everything went just fine. She and all but one member of the 23-member team reached the summit, including six myeloma patients. And they raised $146,092.
"It was definitely an amazing experience and I was happy to have been able to do it!" said Jean, who works at Calvary Community Church in Schaumburg.
On Jean's 20th birthday, her father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood that develops in the bone marrow. He was told he likely had three to five years to live. He tripled those expectations, and, as Jean put it in her original essay, "Despite being told he had only three to five years to live, my father was determined to fight this disease, and he did so with dignity and courage. He never complained about his treatment -- two stem cell transplants, too many chemo sessions to count, monthly blood work and yearly MRIs.
"At his funeral, people couldn't believe he had been sick for nearly 12 years. That's just the type of man he was, he took this disease in stride and never complained; he just kept fighting."
The extra time allowed Jean's dad to witness her wedding and the birth of her children, Jean was motivated to make the Mount Fuji climb because the money raised could provide more families more time with their loved ones.
As dramatic as Jean's fundraising was, heroic efforts seem to be the norm in the suburbs For instance:
• Aditya Balsekar, 17, of Naperville convinced 120 teens to spend two days volunteering at Aurora's Hesed House, one of the largest homeless shelters in Illinois. Also, he organized a youth kickball tournament Saturday that will raise money for three Aurora charities.
• Weather canceled plans recently by 13-year-old Lucy Westlake, also of Naperville, to scale Mount Denali in Alaska. But her efforts raised more than $20,000 for charity.
• Next Sunday, Elmhurst College students Lili Herrera and Katie Mantych, who created a charity, will hold a campus fundraiser to assist a Schaumburg family and their 8-year-old son with multiple disabilities.
This past week, our paper has teemed with stories, such as Saturday's piece on two pilots helping with aerial photography, of suburbanites assisting with recovery efforts in Houston.