Cupid's Kisses event to help chronically ill children

Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 9:14 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 9:23 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
Eric Schwarz (left) and his wife, Rachel (right), hold their son, Aidan, 3, who has Danon disease. The Lombard family hopes funds raised through the Cupid's Kisses event Feb. 8 will help pay for Aidan's future heart transplant.
Caption
(Photo provided)
Noah Naranjo, 5, of Bensenville holds his younger brother, Abel, 1, who was born with with osteogenesis imperfecta, which makes his bones fragile.

If you go

What: Cupid's Kisses

Where: Diplomat West Banquets, 681 W. North Ave., Elmhurst

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Feb. 8

Tickets: $40 at www.miraclesfrommia.org or $45 at the door

Event: appetizers, open bar, entertainment and a silent auction

 
   

When Georgi and Frank Clement’s daughter Mia died at 17 months old, the couple wanted to help other parents with chronically ill children.

Miracles From Mia was born in 2006.

“I feel like when I do it, it honors my daughter,” said Georgi Clements, a Villa Park resident.

Mia was born with bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney disease, which means neither of her kidneys functioned properly. Friends and family pooled their money to help pay for Mia’s necessary kidney transplant.

“We had really good insurance, but no insurance lasts forever,” she said.

The fund was originally called Miracles For Mia (note “for” instead of “from”), but Mia died before she received a kidney.

“Then we were left with money,” Georgi Clements said.

She said she didn’t feel right keeping it so she changed the name of the nonprofit, which has helped more than 20 children so far, she said.

The nonprofit’s biggest annual fundraiser is Cupid’s Kisses, conducted at the Diplomat West in Elmhurst where Clements said owner Tom Shubalis always makes an extra effort to help with the event. Each year, 200 to 300 people buy tickets for the benefit.

This year, the benefit will support two families in the area.

Aidan Schwarz, a 3-year-old from Lombard, weighed just 4 pounds, 4 ounces when he was born premature at 36 weeks. He had trouble eating safely because he would aspirate.

Aidan was diagnosed with Danon disease, a condition that causes weakness in the heart and skeletal muscles in addition to mental delays.

He now eats on his own and just started walking this year, but his parents expect Aidan will need a heart transplant in the future and possibly braces or even a wheelchair as his muscles get weaker.

“He’s a happy little boy,” his mother Rachel Schwarz said. “He likes to be social.”

Aidan started preschool this year at Community Presbyterian Church in Lombard where his father, Eric, is a youth director. Rachel Schwarz said Aidan loves it and his new friends.

Adriana Galan of Bensenville said the money raised at Cupid’s Kisses this year will help her and Armando Naranjo Jr. pay for a special surgery for their 15-month-old son Abel Naranjo, who was born with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), more commonly called brittle bones.

“He just smiles through the pain,” Galan said of her son, who at one point had fractures in three of his limbs at the same time.

Since OI causes fragile bones and muscle weakness, Abel won’t be able to wrestle with his older brother, Noah Naranjo, 5, but the two still find ways to play together.

Abel doesn’t suffer from any mental delays, but Galan said he will most likely need surgery to place rods in his legs and a special walker before he can walk. Beyond the financial help Galan hopes to find through Cupid’s Kisses, she wants to spread awareness that Abel isn’t so different from other children.

“We feel like we have normal kids, but they’re just more fragile,” she said of parents who have children with OI.

Clements said Miracles From Mia has helped children with cancer, physical handicaps and autism. In some instances, the nonprofit helps with utility bills or donating other goods. Clements remembers finding someone to donate a door to a family who needed a new one for their home.

Every family that’s been a Cupid’s Kisses recipient receives free tickets to the event each year because, Clements explained, the event is more than a fundraiser.

“What’s really neat is the families start talking to each other,” Clements said. “They learn something from each other.”

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