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Web Extras - Spring 2014

Rallying for Ronald McDonald

Molly (left) and Ali (right)

Molly Rourke ’08 and Ali Boyd ’07 share a passion
for helping others; much of that passion is rooted in their McAuley education.  Only a year apart in their studies, both now work together as nurses in the Pediatric Oncology Unit at Advocate Children’s Hospital.  The job is not without its heartache, but the reward is far greater.  The mission of Mercy and service that was instilled in Molly and Ali daily during their time at McAuley is the impetus for pushing them to go above and beyond in caring for the families they encounter.  Molly recently shared one such story with 

Diagnosed with infantile neurofibromyosarcoma, or malignant nerve sheath tumors, at just less than two years of age, Zach Plant lit up a room with his smile.  For treatment, Zach’s family traveled the long distance from their home in Indiana to Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.  It was during this time that Molly and Ali became close with Zach and his family.

“I have so many wonderful memories of Zach. He loved to take wagon rides around the floor,” says Molly.  “He always was smiling, and he loved his Woody doll from Toy Story.”

Zach spent six months in the hospital before succumbing to his cancer in July 2013. After he passed away, his family began collecting pop top tabs to have his name engraved on the wall at the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Christ Children’s Hospital. During Zach’s illness, the family spent a great deal of time at the House.

“The Ronald McDonald House Charities has such a great mission,” says Molly.  “They understand that although parents want to be with their children, they also need to take care of themselves and have a place to go for a meal or shower or a nap. The Plant family wanted to celebrate and honor that with a brick in Zach’s name,” she continued.

To secure a brick requires a donation of 750 lbs. of pop tops, which equals nearly one million tabs.  “It sounded daunting at first, but the family got right to work and so did we,” says Molly.  “We were so moved by the parents’ efforts and immediately wanted to assist, and we knew the McAuley family would come through.”

Zach’s family started a Facebook page and enlisted local media, like radio stations in their hometown, to raise awareness and support.  At the same time, Molly and Ali created a flyer for McAuley to hang throughout the school, and empty milk jugs to place in the dining hall.

“Being McAuley girls ourselves, we knew we could count on the current students to rally and lend support for such a great cause, and the beauty of this initiative was its simplicity,” says Rourke.  “We weren’t asking for money, or even time – two things which can be a challenge or barrier for many students.  Instead we asked them to just save the tabs from their aluminum cans and place them in one of the collection jars we had stationed in the McAuley Dining Hall.” 

Just a few months after Zach’s passing, his parents and two siblings returned to the hospital for a special memorial service and unveiling of the brick.  They had reached their goal. Molly and Ali were proud to be there the day Zach’s brick was unveiled.

“That simple gesture by McAuley students speaks volumes about their integrity. Even after we cross the threshold of the school as graduates, we understand the importance of continuing works of mercy – whether in our jobs or volunteer work. That’s much of the reason I pursued a career in nursing,” says Molly, who attended Marquette University and received her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing. Shortly after graduation, she began working at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

“Nursing is a calling, especially pediatric oncology – it’s a tough area,” says Molly. “Emotionally and spiritually you have to have a strong belief that this is what you're meant to do and are making a difference in the littlest of lives.” 

During her time at McAuley, Molly taught little school, and says that helped solidify that she wanted to work with children. “My McAuley education helped reinforced in me the importance of helping others, which is in part why I felt called to nursing.”

Molly sees the chance to make the Ronald McDonald House pop tab initiative a regular program at McAuley.  “I would love to arrange it so we could have monthly pickups,” says Molly, ever radiating that McAuley mission of service and hope.

Taking Time as Tribute to Bridget

Bob Thomas, Emerging Technologies Consultant for Verizon, spent much of the fall sport season volunteering at the concession stand during McAuley home volleyball games. 

“I popped a lot of popcorn,” he says, with a short laugh. 

In memory of his niece, Bridget Cullen, who passed away suddenly in January 2013, just months shy of her graduation, Bob reached out to McAuley to volunteer his time as part of the Verizon Volunteers program.   The company encourages employees who volunteer 50 hours or more with an eligible charitable organization or educational institution to apply for a $750 grant which is awarded to the nonprofit where the employee volunteers. 

“Bridget was so full of spirit. I felt that same spirit radiating through the halls of McAuley, a place that I know was very special to Bridget,” says Thomas.  “I was glad that I could volunteer at such a great place, with great people” he continued. “I was very impressed with McAuley, and my time volunteering did a lot for me.  I met wonderful people.”

In her name, her family established the Bridget Anne Cullen Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to one or more incoming freshman student from St. Cajetan, where Bridget attended grade school.

“By extension, I feel I’m now part of the McAuley family,” says Thomas. “

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