While many people this holiday season are making their lists and checking them twice, one University of St. Francis (USF) student is doing so as well, but not in the expected way. Beric Wessely, a Master of Social Work student, is organizing a surprise day trip for a Chicago-area boy named Joshua and his family to have lunch at Macy’s Walnut Room. Joshua, 11, has leukemia and Downs Syndrome.
“It has been years since the family has celebrated a holiday together, and I wanted to give them that gift,” said Wessely. “I am working with the Make a Wish Foundation, a local limousine company, and Macy’s to make this a memorable day for the family.”
In addition to the trip to downtown Chicago, Wessely also organized a fundraising drive, “Jingles for Joshua”. He will present a check to the family on the day of the trip. Nearly $1,500 has been raised so far.
Wessely met Joshua and his family when he was volunteering at TLC Camp, which provides a week of activities for children with cancer and a sibling. Wessely felt a connection to the family, and they have always held a special place in his heart.
“I wanted to do this for them because they are a tight-knit family who deserves it,” said Wessely, who has been a volunteer at the camp for 11 years.
Wessely, of Mount Prospect, said it is his calling to be a social worker and an advocate for children.
“My mom died of a heroin overdose when I was five years old, and I spent time in foster homes before being placed in my aunt’s home so she could raise me,” said Wessely. “I want to be an advocate for kids because they often have no one else to turn to.”
With more than 44,000 alumni and 3,400 students nationwide, the University of St. Francis in Joliet offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit www.stfrancis.edu.
Julie Futterer, Director of Marketing Services
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