Little Charlie Cavanagh lived only two weeks after he was born in April 2016, but during that time his parents, Sarah and Brendan, experienced an outpouring of love and support from friends and neighbors in Glen Ellyn.
So when they decided to organize an event to raise funds to give children like Charlie a better future and outcome, they also knew they wanted to say thanks to the community that had stood with them.
"Our family is very appreciative of all the love and support we got," said Charlie's father, Brendan Cavanagh, who moved to Glen Ellyn with his family three years ago.
He recalled how the Glen Ellyn Newcomers Club brought meals to the family, and the tennis club had a fundraiser shortly after Charlie passed away.
"We want to do an event that is fun and free to the community."
After the Cavanaghs took their desire to the Glen Ellyn Park District, park staff suggested the Glow in the Park Lantern Walk, which will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, in Lake Ellyn Park, 645 Lenox Road, Glen Ellyn.
In a walk around the lake, participants will carry creatively designed paper lanterns constructed from kits purchased for the event. Prior to the walk, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will be activities for kids, music from Dave Rudolf and food for sale.
Proceeds from the glow walk will be donated to the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, where Charlie fought for his life.
He had been born healthy on April 29, 2016, a birth date he shared with his big brother, Keegan, but within a couple of days became sick with the Herpes HSV 1 virus. Brendan Cavanagh said his son likely contracted the virus in the hospital, but the source is unknown.
"We'll never know," he said.
In his short life, Charlie inspired his parents with lessons of love, humility and courage. They started the Charlie's Corner Foundation to raise funds through the Lurie Children's Circle of Friends program.
The funds will go toward research and to helping families be together when they have a sick child. Brendan Cavanagh said they set a goal to raise $10,000, and are on target to meet it with the glow walk and an earlier golf outing.
The lantern kits for the walk will sell for $10 and cost $3, giving $7 from each sale to the fundraising. Based on the lantern kits sales so far, Cavanagh said the family is expecting a good turnout for the event.
"We're guessing between 800 and 1,000," he said. "Should be a fun night."
Jeannie Robinson, assistant superintendent of recreation services for the Glen Ellyn Park District, said the park district borrowed the idea for the glow walk from the town of Suwanee, Georgia, which had contacted the Glen Ellyn district for information about its Pumpkin Flotilla Fest.
Wanting to add a new fall event, Glen Ellyn park staff asked the Cavanaghs if they could use the glow walk as their fundraiser.
Park staff planned additional activities before the walk, Robinson said.
"We'll have bounce houses, an inflatable climbing wall, and live music from Dave Rudolf. Food will be available for purchase from The Stand," she said. "We have activities planned for all ages."
The walk is for residents of Glen Ellyn and surrounding communities. Participants are invited to purchase a lantern kit or bring their own creation. The park district sold the lantern kits at the Spring Avenue Recreation Center, 185 Spring Ave., and offered two workshops for those wanting guidance in creating their lanterns.
Bottle and Bottega in Glen Ellyn also hosted classes where attendees could paint lanterns for the walk and donated a portion of the class proceeds to the Lurie Children's Hospital.
The lanterns will be lit with battery-operated LEDs instead of candles for safety reasons. Prizes will be awarded for the most creative lanterns.
Those who cannot attend the walk still can support it by going to donatetoglowinthepark.org. All donations are tax-deductible, and will be acknowledged by the Lurie Children's Foundation, Robinson said.
"People are really excited about this new event," Robinson said. "It will be beautiful to see the lanterns moving around the lake. A great turnout will provide a lot of fun for participants, with the added benefit of hosting a successful fundraiser for Lurie Children's Hospital in Charlie's name."
Attendance is free, but donations are appreciated. Strollers are permitted, however, participants are asked to leave pets at home. For information, go to gepark.org.