New fundraising efforts help South Elgin cancer charity expand aid
Other customers at Best Buy probably didn't give a second thought about the excited 13-year-old getting a new iPad.
Sure, it had been Logan Williams' birthday earlier that July -- but what teenager wouldn't be excited?
But Logan wanted it for a different reason than most teenagers -- he wanted it for the long hours of chemotherapy he regularly had to treat his leukemia, said his mother, Karen Williams of Bartlett.
The family who took him purchased the birthday present because they heard about Logan through Cal's All-Star Angel Foundation, a nonprofit based in South Elgin that grants wishes for children with blood cancers and provides financial assistance to their families.
The charity grants wishes, through family sponsors or through donations from fundraisers, to children being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, formerly Children's Memorial Hospital.
The charity, founded in April 2007, was the brainchild of Tom Sutter of South Elgin, whose son Cal bravely fought leukemia before he died in August 2006.
Because of Cal's love for Little League, the foundation also sponsors scholarships for college-bound baseball players and helps fund equipment and registration costs for local Little League players.
The board of directors, including Tom Sutter, hosts annual fundraisers for the cause and creates new partnerships to aid in its mission.
Through Sutter's interest in traveling baseball and softball teams, he connected with the Comets Traveling Organization, a softball league out of St. Charles consisting of 12 teams and about 140 girls, to create a new sponsorship program, he said.
The foundation connects each team with a family or families to give the pediatric patients an outlet, Sutter said.
He said he hopes the patients have the chance to escape from their sickness by connecting with their new friends via social media.
But it's not only for the patients, Sutter said.
He wants the players to know that softball and baseball are important, but, "There's a lot of people out there who go through things, who can't play baseball or softball … we want the players to know that there's something more out there," he said.
It's all about helping out the children and their families, he said. But funding these opportunities is costly, so the organization holds fundraisers that are a little different every year "to keep things exciting," he said, including when Steve McMichael of the 1985 Chicago Bears auctioned off two footballs he signed at the golf outing.
In the past, a dinner and auction has followed the annual golf outing, but this year the organization split up the two events -- and with great success, said Sutter.
The dinner/auction in February raised more than $150,000 -- what the golf outing and dinner/auction raised last year -- and the June golf outing raised $60,000. The organization has raised more than $1.1 million to date. This is no small feat for the nonprofit that gives 95 cents of every dollar to the cause.
Sutter said his hope is to ultimately handle all cases -- not just blood cancer cases -- at Lurie Children's Hospital, the new site for the hospital where his son was treated.
And he is well on his way.
Donations and fundraising helped the foundation grant 89 wishes to 89 kids in 2012 -- kids just like 9-year-old Jacob Kowalik of Downers Grove, who had his wish fulfilled when he attended a Blackhawks game with his family about a year after his diagnosis.
Jacob's excitement has remained since he got to meet players and get their autographs, said his father Mike Kowalik. And although his bedtime is before the end of the games, Kowalik said his son gets up in the middle of the night to check scores.
Although Jacob is still on dialysis twice a week, Kowalik said he's happy to see his son show more character, his silly side.
Kowalik said he's grateful to the charity.
"It's wonderful the amount of support (Cal's All-Star Angels) receive from the community and what they've been able to give back in the name of their son. I think all their efforts speak for themselves," he said.
As for Logan Williams, with a lower dosage of chemotherapy, he has been able to get back to being a normal kid, said Karen Williams. His hair has grown back, he helps out at the foundation's fundraisers, and he has been able to get back into two of his favorite sports: bowling and volleyball, she said.
"It's great to see pieces of his whole self coming back … now he's back to school and back to being a typical boy," she said.
For a complete list of upcoming events, or to volunteer with or donate to Cal's All-Star Angel Foundation, visit www.calsangels.org
How you can helpWhat: Cal's All-Star Angel Foundation, a charity granting wishes and providing financial assistance to kids fighting cancer and their families
Founded: April 2007, by the Sutter family of South Elgin
• Aug. 10: Bags tournament at the Carpentersville Rotary Club
• Aug. 24: Annual White Sox outing
• Sept. 14: Sixth annual 5K run
Get in touch: To donate or volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (847) 960-5317. For details, visit www.calsangels.org.