Lake Zurich transplant recipient's foundation helps families of critically ill patients

Lake Zurich transplant recipient's foundation helps families of critically ill patients

  • Keep Swimming founder and board President Bill Coon is shown with volunteer and friend Grace Filpi at the Sept. 13 gala. "The evening was truly magical," said Coon, who has also written a book titled "Swim: A Memoir of Survival."

    Keep Swimming founder and board President Bill Coon is shown with volunteer and friend Grace Filpi at the Sept. 13 gala. "The evening was truly magical," said Coon, who has also written a book titled "Swim: A Memoir of Survival." Courtesy of As They Are Photography

  • Logo for the Keep Swimming Foundation's gala, a charity that helps families of critically ill patients.

    Logo for the Keep Swimming Foundation's gala, a charity that helps families of critically ill patients.

  • Logo for the Keep Swimming Foundation, a charity that helps families of critically ill patients.

    Logo for the Keep Swimming Foundation, a charity that helps families of critically ill patients.

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted9/23/2019 5:58 AM

Lake Zurich native Bill Coon, holds a rare place among organ recipients: He was the eighth newborn heart transplant in the United States, and the fourth in the Midwest.

Yet, suddenly at the age of 20, Coon was diagnosed with end-stage heart and kidney failure. He ultimately received a second heart along with a kidney at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Those transplants took place in 2009, and both were successful. Coon went on to become an organ donation advocate and author, who began to speak publicly about his experiences in the hospital.

When a loved one is ill, nonmedical expenses such as bedside meals, hotel stays, parking and related costs can add up. Keep Swimming Foundation offers help in the form of financial grants for families of critically ill patients.
When a loved one is ill, nonmedical expenses such as bedside meals, hotel stays, parking and related costs can add up. Keep Swimming Foundation offers help in the form of financial grants for families of critically ill patients. - Courtesy of Keep Swimming Foundation

It was while traveling around the country for his speaking engagements, where Coon met thousands of families who were "drowning in credit card debt," he says, that they had accrued while traveling to specialty care hospitals or staying with loved ones in the hospital.

His personal health struggles -- and hearing the same story from so many other families -- inspired him to launch a nonprofit in 2017 called the Keep Swimming Foundation. Its mission is to provide financial relief to families of critically ill patients who require extended inpatient medical care.

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For families who are accepted, the foundation can cover the costs of hotel stays, bedside meals, parking, public transportation, gas and even rent or mortgage payments for those families close to losing their home because of the added financial burden.

The David family is among those who have received help from the Keep Swimming Foundation. From left are Keva David, Nash David (child) and Matt David.
The David family is among those who have received help from the Keep Swimming Foundation. From left are Keva David, Nash David (child) and Matt David. - Courtesy of Bill Coon

"All these expenses add up," Coon says. "The situation is already stressful, and usually dire. You have tremendous medical bills and now credit card bills, which insurance doesn't cover."

Once he put together a board of directors and became a recognized 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, donors "came out of the woodwork" to help. By 2018, Coon and his colleagues had raised enough money to open the application process, and slowly they have continued to grow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The first year, they were able to help 26 families with grants, but over the last year, Coon says the amounts of the grants -- and the number of applicants -- have grown.

"We now have hundreds of people applying and have a process in place to narrow that number down," Coon says. "We take that responsibility seriously."

Keep Swimming Foundation founder and board President Bill Coon and his immediate family celebrate a successful gala in front of a Model T. From left are Bill Coon Sr., Ann Coon, Gus Coon, Bill Coon (center in white suit), Carissa Hidder and Patrick Hidder.
Keep Swimming Foundation founder and board President Bill Coon and his immediate family celebrate a successful gala in front of a Model T. From left are Bill Coon Sr., Ann Coon, Gus Coon, Bill Coon (center in white suit), Carissa Hidder and Patrick Hidder. - Courtesy of Brigitta Fitzgerald

Keep Swimming now has social workers and other medical professionals referring families to them from across the country; consequently, the need for fundraising continues to grow.

To date, Coon and his board members have raised most of their funds at a gala held at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Centre in Hoffman Estates, but they also have been the beneficiary of local school fundraisers, including at Lake Zurich High School and Lake Zurich Middle School South.

It was a packed house and a roaring good time for 240 attendees at the Keep Swimming Foundation gala, supporting the mission of providing financial relief to families facing extended inpatient care in the hospital.
It was a packed house and a roaring good time for 240 attendees at the Keep Swimming Foundation gala, supporting the mission of providing financial relief to families facing extended inpatient care in the hospital. - Courtesy of Keep Swimming Foundation

Their latest gala took place Sept. 13 and drew nearly 250 people. Guests arrived to find a pair of Model T cars in the middle of the ballroom at the Stonegate -- the better to set the stage for the event's Roaring '20s theme.

Between the oral auction trips and packages and the many items in the silent auction, the organization raised nearly $35,000.

"The evening was truly magical," Coon says. "The success of our second annual gala will easily allow us to increase our giving substantially and impact many lives throughout 2019 and beyond."

Guests also enjoyed dinner and dancing, including the playing of what has become the organization's theme song, "Swim," by Jack's Mannequin. Coon drew inspiration from the 2008 song during his ordeal recovering from the second transplant, and he often listened to it during his journaling.

In 2010, Coon published his book and called it "Swim: A Memoir of Survival." Consequently, when searching for a name for his organization that reaches out to families drowning in debt and desperately trying to stay afloat, he decided that "Keep Swimming" was fitting.

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