One morning only. That’s all it takes for the Tinley Wish Organization to see the impact of what happens when the community comes together to make wishes come true.
Police officers, firefighters and a number of community volunteers banded together at the Tinley Park Police Department Dec. 10 to embark on the first leg of the annual gift delivery.
Rich Kozik, co-founder and former board president for Tinley Wish, said the reason the Tinley Wish program continues to support the community into its 21st year is clear.
“Every year, there’s families with great needs that arise,” he said. “It’s just people within the community trying to reach out and help those other people in the community who are having a bad time.”
Noting that Tinley Wish is modeled after the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Kozik said the program came from the Tinley Park Police Department as a way to reach area children and families in need.
Dozens of do-gooders filled the Village’s emergency first responder vehicles and piled into police cruisers or fire trucks to travel through the town. Gifts were packed into the back of a van.
As the fleet rode through Tinley Park, engines roared and sirens blared. A number of pedestrians stood at the corners and waved, while others peered out of the windows of their homes.
The group made four stops around town, and each family had its own story. One family experienced a loss; their father had died last summer. Another family’s father was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
One family was waiting for a stair lift for a woman who was injured in a car accident, while another dealt with the hardship brought on by a mother losing her battle to cancer. Two other Tinley Wish recipients opted for silent parade processions when obtaining their gifts.
At every stop, paraders dismounted from the vehicles, took gifts and filed through the resident’s homes to drop them off.
Tamara Neilly, of Tinley Park, was one of this year’s Tinley Wish recipients; she was overwhelmed by the community’s support.
“I asked for what we needed, and it’s amazing that they supplied what we needed,” she said.
“For them to be able to have a Christmas that is this special is really, really cool,” Neilly continued.
She added that Christmas is a “big deal” in their family, and Tinley Wish had lifted their spirits.
“It is [a big deal], but it’s not always about the presents; it’s just about all of us being together,” she said. “That’s the most important part of it. As you can see, we’ve got both of our families here. I’m from a large family; I’m one of seven. My husband is one of four.”
And this year had been a trying time for them.
“It’s been rough because my mother-in-law has been fighting pancreatic cancer as well,” she said. “So to have all this sad stuff going on, to have some joy is amazing.”
Neilly said it’s important to see the work of organizations like Tinley Wish having an impact on the community.
“I had no idea that Tinley Wish even existed,” she said. “Now that I do, I’m like ‘oh, my god.’ Everything I do is volunteer anyway. Now, this makes me want to reach out, and I want to go ahead and giveback.”
Providing medical bill assistance or receiving a wide range of items like home fitness equipment, playsets or gift cards were just other ways Tinley officials helped.
Kozik noted the selection process for Tinley Wish takes a closer look at families who are nominated by their loved ones or neighbors.
The nonprofit organization then reviews these inquiries and works with the selected households to grant their wishes.
“We hope to let people know who are in crisis or turmoil in their lives that their neighbors care,” he said.
For more information on the Tinley Wish Organization, visit tinleywish.org.