While the spotlight at the Kids’ Best Friend Award benefit shone brightly on the three award winners — Kids’ Best Friend Dawn Newman, Business Partner Molex Inc., and Making a Difference award-winner Kathryn Birkett — the evening also highlighted several scholarships that The Education Center offers, or will soon offer, to needy students.
Opening The Education Center’s annual fundraiser was Adelyn Muleya, a Naperville North High School grad and student at Ball State University. Adelyn is the recipient of the John Fitzgerald Scholarship, set up by Fitzgerald’s parents. A Naperville Central High School graduate, he died in 2010.
John’s mother, Sherri Fitzgerald, spoke eloquently about the importance of the scholarship to her family.
“When a young person dies before their time, they don’t have the future that you hoped for them. We had planned to provide an education for John, and it seemed to us that our loss could provide an opportunity for a student who couldn’t otherwise get a college education.”
She explained that, after John’s death, people asked what they could do for the family. Establishing a scholarship in John’s name quickly became a meaningful goal.
“Our children struggled in school,” she said. “The Education Center gave them the guidance and support they needed to succeed. To think we could provide some scholarship money to students who struggle and try so hard to get an education is comforting. It’s nice to offer a hand.”
Attendees were also moved when Norma Hnilo and her son John took the podium and announced the establishment of a scholarship in memory of Frank Hnilo, one of the co-founders of DiGiovine, Hnilo, Jordan and Johnson accounting firm.
“The Education Center as been a big help, if not a life-saving one, for many young people,” Norma Hnilo said. “Dr. Litow and his staff demonstrate a deep concern for those who are placed in their care..”
Later in the evening, Dr. Michael Litow, founder of The Education Center, told attendees about one of his students who had recently suffered a significant injury and announced a scholarship in his honor. The student, Chris Sahm, is a junior at Neuqua Valley High School
“He exemplifies what The Education Center is all about — empowering young people to take ownership and responsibility for their own lives. He is persistent, a battler, a very determined young man.” Litow explained, “He has a difficult journey ahead of him with physical and occupational therapy, but he does not give up. He is an inspiration to me and to others who meet him.”
Chris’s father, Bill Sahm, later explained that his son was a normal teenager who loved cross-country and video games until he awoke with a severe headache and massive brain hemorrhage on June 10.
“Chris is always positive, working with doctors and doing what they ask,” he said. “He is steadily recovering, and we are hopeful about his future.”
Part of the proceeds of The Education Center’s Kids’ Best Friend Benefit will help fund these three scholarships. The scholarships will be awarded to students who are enrolled at The Education Center and to former students who are attending college.
The Education Center, 113 E. Van Buren. Naperville, is a nationally recognized children’s organization that, for more than 30 years, has been helping kids succeed in school and in life.
Learn more by contacting Litow at 630-420-7807 or visit www.TheEducationCenter.org.