When Andrea Braovac-Bialk’s husband asked her what she wanted for Mother’s Day last year, she stopped to think. A middle school teacher with two kids living in suburban Chicago, Andrea gives a lot of herself in both her work and life. But instead of asking for a spa day or breakfast in bed, she was struck by how many mothers she knew who had recently spent weeks in the hospital by their children’s bedsides.
“We’ve had a lot of friends and relatives who have gone through terrible experiences—premature and sick babies. I’m so lucky, and my heart hurts so much for them,” says Andrea. “It’s Mother’s Day and I don’t want to be going to be brunch while all these amazing moms are at the hospital.”
The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift
Though she had no previous experience in nonprofit work, Andrea had an idea. For Mother’s Day, she would deliver “care bags” filled with comforting goodies to the moms and others waiting at her local children’s hospital, Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. After speaking with the hospital’s child life specialist, Andrea learned that while many generous volunteers come in often to do arts and crafts and read to the kids, not much is done to provide support or care for the mothers and other caregivers.
Andrea reached out to her support team of friends and family, who were eager to help fulfill her plan. She also found that local stores and restaurants were extremely generous in their donations as the care bags began to fill up with comforting items, such as warm, fuzzy blankets, cozy socks, gift cards to restaurants near the hospital and even Live Happy magazines.
On Mother’s Day 2017, Andrea and her team delivered 200 gift bags to moms and caregivers at Advocate and two other Chicago-area hospitals. “The moms were in awe,” says Andrea. Some were speechless, some started crying. One of the moms didn’t even know it was Mother’s Day!” Andrea firmly believes that we need to care for our moms in order to care for the children. “We have great doctors and nurses who are attentive to those children’s illnesses, but the moms are crucial. If the moms aren’t eating, if the moms are not caring for themselves, everyone loses.”
As Andrea organizes this year’s delivery in time for Mother’s Day, the bags’ contents have grown to include donations such as gourmet tea bags and cakes from Nothing Bundt Cake, as well as practical items like dental hygiene kits, Kleenex, hand lotion and lip balm. A grocery delivery service even donated memberships for the parents to use and will deliver to the hospital or home. Andrea hopes to double or triple her output and expand her reach—perhaps even take the Loving Without Limits care bag idea to a national level. What better way to celebrate heroic moms?
How to Contribute
If you are a Chicago-area retailer interested in donating goods or services, or a resident who would like to volunteer, go to Lovingwithoutlimits.org. Monetary donations can be made on the website via PayPal.