Northfield-based nonprofit brings ‘light’ to caregivers on Mother's Day
Suffering no less than four miscarriages before giving birth to two healthy children, Andrea Bialk was surely a mom to be celebrated on Mother’s Day. Still, when her husband asked her what she would like as a gift for her special day, her answer hardly surprised him.
“I told him I would rather to do something for other mothers who were going through hardship,” recalled Bialk of Glenview, founder of Loving Without Limits. She had chosen the name of her Foundation as a symbol of what mothers, parents and caregivers do:
“They love without limits. There is nothing that will stand in their way of showing their hospitalized child their love. There are no boundaries when it comes to a parent’s love. Day in and day out, a parent loves with no limits,” said Bialk who was moved to do something when she recognized that parents and caregivers are seldom acknowledged for the amount of work they do.
“It just blows my mind because they are the ones that have to remain positive and strong for these children,” Bialk said.
The 501(c)3 non-profit’s board is made up of Bialk, two registered nurses and a family therapist. The team first identified children’s hospitals around Chicago they would want to service.
Since 2017, LWL volunteers have given out 525 gift bags full of everyday essentials and special treats to caregivers in Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Loyola Children’s Hospital in Maywood, RUSH and UIC Comer Children’s Hospitals in Chicago, Northshore Evanston Hospital, Alexian Brothers Children’s Hospital in Hoffman Estates and Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.
They spread the love every Mother’s Day and, in 2019, are on track to visit another 300 mothers and caregivers.
“I would love for this to spread during the week of Mother’s Day to all children’s hospitals, nationwide,” Bialk said.
Once they identified the hospitals, the team began reaching out to sponsors and donors for care items to include. From the bags themselves donated by SHIPT, to individual-sized pizzas donated by Lou Malnati's, each bag is chock full of goodies.
The owners of the independently-owned and franchised, Nothing Bundt Cakes, are donating individually-wrapped bundlet tower cakes for each bag.
“We enjoyed partnering on the cause,” Caryn Simons owner Nothing Bundt Cakes in Skokie said. “We like to give back to the community (and) especially to honor the mothers and caregivers that have kids in the hospital during the holidays.”
Some of the family members and parents are brought to tears, according to Bialk, and most are thoroughly surprised to receive the gift.
“It was just the kindest gesture,” said Carol Luetkehans of Wheaton, who received a LWL gift bag on Mother's Day in 2017. Leutkehans was at Lutheran General Hospital caring for her son during in-patient chemotherapy.
“My son has a very rare and aggressive cancer and it was a very trying time as we were just trying to figure out how to do life, and do it with a smile,” Leutkehans recalled. “As a giver, I was just blown away that somebody else just came along and was giving to me.” More than a simple gift, the gesture served as a kind of turning point.
“I realized really what I was going through and I was so appreciative of what they had done,” Leutkehans said. “They don’t know me and I don’t know them. It was just that simple gesture to…encourage you and bring a little color and light to your day.”