Naperville charity fueling good through stories

Marion Ruthig's first career revolved around numbers, but in her second career leading the nonprofit I Support Community, she's learned never to underestimate the power of words, especially when arranged into stories.

Ruthig created I Support Community nearly three years ago as a portal providing video stories of charities and the good work they do. Naturally, the former accountant also is using stories to raise money for future video production work to highlight more charities than the 25 already on the I Support Community website.

The third annual Giving Hope Through Stories fundraiser will serve that purpose at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Cress Creek Country Club, 1215 Royal St. George Drive, Naperville.

For a $100 ticket ($120 at the door), donors can learn about the culture of giving in Naperville while enjoying dinner, an open bar and auctions. Ruthig said stories of the night will focus on I Support Community's Kids Crew, which introduces children to volunteering, and the new Teen Crew getting started with five girls at Naperville North High School.

After a year of monthly meetings on Saturdays, the Kids Crew began establishing itself in March at Elmwood Elementary in Naperville Unit District 203, where two of Ruthig's three kids attend. Kids gathered for an hour after school to learn about Blessings in a Backpack, a featured charity on I Support Community's website, which gives needy kids a backpack full of food for the weekend when they can't get school meals.

Elmwood kids first watched a video about the Kentucky-based organization, then guessed which foods might be included in a weekend meal backpack. A coloring activity helped the kids process what they learned, Ruthig said. She hopes to expand the Kids Crew from its start at Elmwood.

"We're going to try to grow that program to make it easy for families to have that charity education," Ruthig said.

Running I Support Community has been an education for Ruthig, too, as she's become fluent in the stories of each nonprofit her organization features. She said she always attends filming days, in which Hildebrand Creative shoots nonprofit leaders explaining their passion for their projects.

Recently, Ruthig has learned to speak the language of the Kyle Zuleg Foundation, which will benefit from a fundraising lock-in planned for May 1 by I Support Community's new Teen Crew of five girls from Naperville North High School.

Started by the family of 16-year-old Kyle Zuleg of Naperville, who died in a 2010 camping accident, the charity works to console the families of organ donors.

"The foundation gives to local hospitals beautiful blankets - they say, 'forever in our hearts' - to give to families whose loved one will donate organs," Ruthig said.

Fourteen-year-old Naperville North freshman Catherine Griffin, president of the I Support Community Teen Crew, said she and her friends were drawn to the Zuleg Foundation, so they're planning a lock-in to raise money to donate 40 blankets worth $20 each.

The group plans to charge $20 admission for each girl who attends the Friday night event at Community Christian Church's Yellow Box campus, 1635 Emerson Lane, Naperville.

Catherine said she's gaining valuable leadership and charity experience through her role as president, and she's also learned the story of another charity that touches her heart. She wants to be an interior designer, so she's been drawn to the mission of Special Spaces, which revamps hospital rooms for young patients.

"It's to decorate their room because the hospital cords and wires and beeping and all that kind of stuff gets old for them after a while and they probably get sick of it," Catherine said. "So it's just to redecorate their room into something fun."

Ruthig knows everyone will connect with a different story and she's eager to be able to tell more.

"We really are about connecting people to the stories," Ruthig said. "Then hopefully they take that story with them."

  Marion Ruthig, founder and executive director of I Support Community, explains the charity Blessings in a Backpack to students in the first meeting of the I Support Community Kids Crew at Elmwood Elementary School in Naperville. Ruthig is trying to get the Kids Crew established at schools after creating the group in 2014 to introduce children to nonprofits and volunteering. Bev Horne/
  First-grader Heidi Cofran decides whether a granola bar is a healthy choice to include in a backpack full of food for a needy child to take home over the weekend during a meeting of the I Support Community Kids Crew at Elmwood Elementary School in Naperville. Bev Horne/

If you go

What: Giving Hope Through Stories, a fundraiser for I Support Community

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11

Where: Cress Creek Country Club, 1215 Royal St. George Drive, Naperville

Cost: $100 in advance, $120 at the door

Info: (630) 352-9089 or

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