by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Judi O’Donnell lay awake many nights wondering what she could do to help her sister-in-law, Tina O’Donnell, whose husband was killed in a house fire that destroyed their residence in Blackberry Creek subdivision on Jan. 1. She decided to call friends and neighbors to hold a fundraiser that could help pay for the damage to the house not covered by insurance. In the process of helping, she has found healing for herself by connecting to the family, friends and neighbors of Tina.
“My heart aches for her. She lost everything. I want to help. We want more than anything to have her back in her home,” Judi said. “I asked myself, ‘What can I do?’ I’m not a millionaire, but I have a voice. I need to do this. I want to do this. This fundraiser has been a healing process.”
On the night of the fire, friends and neighbors gathered in the home of Pam Sorensen and forged a bond that has helped them get through the aftermath. After the memorial service, they shared stories and memories at a gathering of over 100 people.
“They are a close-knit neighborhood. They have supported me every inch of the way. It’s not the way I wanted to meet her friends and neighbors, but I’ve made such a connection to these wonderful, wonderful people,” Judi said.
For the past month, Judi, who lives in Schaumburg, has been gathering donations from businesses in Schaumberg, Elk Grove Village, Roselle, Barrington, St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia. Friends of Tina have contacted local Elburn businesses. So far, they have collected over 100 gift baskets with unique items such as hand-made gift cards and crocheted blankets. Thanks to a Facebook page, they have collected many cash donations.
“I’ve been shocked by the outpouring. In the mail, I’ve been getting check after check after check, even from people from across the country,” she said.
Although the house is still standing, it will need to be gutted. Supporters are hoping to raise the $125,000 they estimate it will take to repair the damages from the fire. Some local churches have stepped up, but more people are needed.
“We need manpower. We’re looking for local contractors to donate their time to help clean up and to rebuild,” Judi said.
The fundraiser will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Cadillac Ranch in Bartlett, and will feature entertainment by Nick Cox and Tammy Mooshey from Seventh Heaven, music by He Said, She Said, and DJ, lights and sound by Brian Peterson. There will be a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction and pizza. The cost is $12 for adults and $5 for children.
“We’re hoping for a successful day and that everybody will come out to support us. If people can’t make it, I hope they will send a donation. We’ll see how we do. Then looking forward, if we need to do more, we will,” Judi said.
A second fundraiser is scheduled at the Village Tavern and Grill in Schaumburg on Sunday, March 4. Twenty percent of each bill will go toward Tina’s fund. Fliers to present at the fundraiser will be available at the Cadillac Ranch event.