Running for Families-in-Need this Thanksgiving

  • Robert Swiderski, Basket BrigadeRunning 100 Miles for Families-in-needBrian Walsh

    Robert Swiderski, Basket BrigadeRunning 100 Miles for Families-in-needBrian Walsh

Brian Walsh
Updated 9/30/2019 7:25 AM

We've all been down-on-our-luck, and endured hardships. It's what you do after the hardship that provides the greatest lessons and inspirations for others. Robert Swiderski's story is very close to the heart for many people, but the message of hope that he wants to deliver this Thanksgiving to 2,000 local area families in partnership with the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago is an inspiring yet simple one; "people care."

Robert serves on the Board for the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago, and is literally putting his body on the line by running a 100 mile Ultra Marathon to raise awareness and funds to deliver complete Thanksgiving Dinners to 2,000 families (10,000 people, as each basket feeds a family of five). His fundraiser is unique in that he wants EVERY MILE that he runs to have meaning, so that he can feed at least 1 family with every mile he runs.



Ten years ago, in 2009, during this time of the year, my life changed forever.

As you likely remember, the 2009 recession was a difficult year for many people. For me, I ended up losing everything; my job, my business, my marriage, my home. While I found myself homeless for 3 months and with little means to support myself, there were people in my life who loved me dearly and stepped up to offer support, giving me a warm bed when I finally overcame my pride and let them know that I had been sleeping in my car, as the Fall nights were turning towards Winter.

The lesson I learned during that trying time, is that people really do care, if they only have the opportunity to express themselves in a meaningful way for a person or cause they really believe in. In my case, that cause was me, but as I have navigated my way out of the darkness, it has led me to want to share that message that "people care" to as many people as I can, and there are so many right here in our own backyard; our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, families we know, and families we don't.

During my down time in 2009, I was the recipient of an anonymous delivery of food, which literally meant the world to me, and to this day, I have no idea who sent them, and I think that is even more of what drives me, is to instill that same sense of gratitude to other people in situations like I had found myself in.

This is what the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago does for local Families-in-need every Thanksgiving. We deliver a complete Thanksgiving dinner to local families who are nominated by friends, family, churches, nonprofits, social workers, daycare centers and more. Each basket is hand delivered on the Saturday before Thanksgiving creating a truly magical experience for both the recipient and the volunteer delivering the basket. People care.

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I believe that we are all here for a reason, and that reason involves showing kindness to others when there is a need. The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago is such an organization that believes in the same by delivering not only a Thanksgiving meal, but also delivering HOPE to families-in-need.

With the goal this year of delivering 2,000 baskets, that will feed 10,000 people, this can only possible through the kindness and support of friends and supporters in our communities.

Besides the work I do year-round on the board of this foundation, planning and organizing, I'll be using the talent and will God has given me to raise awareness and money for these families-in-need. On Saturday, October 5th, I'll be running in The Hennepin Hundred, a 100 mile race beginning in Sterling, Illinois. Within the 24 hours it will take me to finish, my goal is to feed at least 1 family for each mile that I run.

Together, we can and will make a difference in the lives of so many families because we will not only be delivering food, we will be delivering hope. I believe that I can make a difference and I believe in the kindness of others to stand with me so that together we can show others that there is hope and that people do care.


10 years ago this single act of kindness changed my life forever… let's do the same for other local families in need.


The secret to LIVING is GIVING. A simple principle that is the guiding force behind the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago. In its fifth year, the Basket Brigade is trying to deliver 2000 complete Thanksgiving dinners to local area families-in-need. Each Thanksgiving basket feeds a family of five, and includes a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, rolls, corn, marshmallows, cranberries, vegetables, mac and cheese, and even a pumpkin pie for dessert.

The Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago was founded by Brian and Cherish Walsh with the mission "to put the GIVING back into Thanksgiving." Founded in memory of Brian's mother, Lorraine M. Walsh, the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago combines aspects of fundraising and volunteerism along with personal growth.

Basket Brigade Assembly Day is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so that it arrives in plenty of time for the families receiving them to make their plans without the stress of trying to figure out how to pay for it all. This year, the Assembly day will be held at Tefft Middle School in Streamwood where several hundred volunteers will come together to make it happen.

Volunteers assist in packaging the meals and are then provided with the names of families-in-need who were nominated by a variety of sources including private nominations on the Basket Brigade's website as well as names provided by other local nonprofits, churches, daycares, schools and other social service organizations.

In its previous three years, the Basket Brigade of Suburban Chicago delivered complete Thanksgiving dinners to 195 families in 2015, 268 families in 2016, and 763 families in 2017, 1,335 families in 2018, delivering food, a message of hope, and changing lives along the way.

"The message that we hope to pass along to our volunteers, our children, and the community," concludes Brian Walsh, "is that the secret to LIVING is GIVING."

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