Stadalsky: HUGS has new leadership but same mission
BY KRIS STADALSKY Correspondent October 11, 2013 2:42PM
Sue Coyle, a founding member of HUGS, hands a check Will County Forest Preserve Master Patrol Officer and dog handler Dean Klier for the care of Jullo, the forest preserve district's search-and-rescue dog. | Supplied photo
Updated: November 15, 2013 6:12AM
Since its inception five years ago, Shorewood HUGS (Helping You Get Started) has reached out to all kinds of people and organizations to help the community. In the last three years, the local group has granted 163 wishes, with the 75th one of 2013 being granted just last week.
The group was started by five women who wanted to fill a niche for people who were in need of something but who fell through the cracks of other agencies’ criteria.
Sometimes the wishes that are fulfilled are small, and sometimes large, but they are always meant to make someone’s life easier.
Minooka High School science teacher Sam Pavelka’s wish was a swing set and jungle gym for his little daughter, who was having a hard time dealing with her father’s cancer and a new sibling all at once.
This summer, the group donated a sundial to the high school’s memory garden, which honors all high school students and faculty who have died, on behalf of the National Honor Society.
But they also branch out to other needs in the community and surrounding areas. Their spring doggie Easter Egg Hunt, which started as the first event for HUGS, raises funds to help feed and train the Will County Forest Preserve District’s search-and-rescue dog.
The newest dog is Jullo, and it takes nearly $4,000 a year for his needs. HUGS was able to donate nearly half of the cost from its fundraiser.
It raised funds during its annual Relay for Life and donated money to the village of Shorewood for the Veteran’s Memorial park for a memorial bench.
In the past five years, the organization has given back more than $100,000 to the community, newly elected president Molly Babyak said.
Babyak was recently handed the gavel and the helm of HUGS from charter member and president Heidi Serena. The founding members agreed that once the organization was up and running smoothly, within five years, new board members would be elected.
The first five members who began the organization and served as the board are Serena, Sue Coyle, Rita Gunther, Lorraine Wright and Laura Charland.
Now the organization has a new board with Babyak as president, Peggy Ridgway as vice president, Charland as secretary and Wright as treasurer.
The other founding members will serve on the permanent advisory board, Babyak said.
“This is their baby,” Babyak said. “They will always be around to lead us in the right direction.”
While it’s a new era for HUGS, the organization is gearing up for the holiday season with its annual events, including supporting families at Lamb’s Fold. Last year, the group provided 13 families with Christmas dinner, hats and gloves.
They collect food for MorningStar Mission and spend two nights wrapping presents for the 1,000 children served by the shelter.
They will also make their yearly donation to Shorewood’s Shop with a Cop program for area children in need of going Christmas shopping.
It’s going to be an exciting new year for HUGS and the many wish recipients. Babyak is excited and grateful to be at the helm.
“I am really thrilled to be able to continue the legacy,” Babyak said. “They certainly started a wonderful program and it’s an honor to be the next president.”
Mark your calendars for the upcoming Chocolate Ball, the organization’s biggest fundraiser. The event will be Feb. 1 at the Joliet Holiday Inn.
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.