MINOOKA – It has been five years since Angels of Hope gave out its first grant to help couples battling infertility to conceive, and they now have five Angels of Hope babies.
In 2008, four babies were born to three families through the assistance of Angels of Hope. This year, in June, a fifth child was born because of a grant from the group.
“Do you know how special you are? I have a secret for you, you guys are all miracles,” said Jamie Sikora, president of Angels of Hope, to Spencer Kwasigroch about him and the other Angels of Hope children who gathered at the Minooka branch of the Three Rivers Library Wednesday for a celebration.
Angels of Hope is a Coal City-based organization that helps anyone dealing with the emotional or physical absence of a child.
It was established in 2005, and helps in many ways, including the Creating Miracles grant to assist couples with fertility procedures, and an Everlasting Footprints grant, to help those who have lost a child with burial and headstone fees.
Ray and Lisa Brackett of Coal City were the first couple to receive the Creating Miracles grant and they had the first Angels of Hope baby, Rhylan Brackett, who was born March 18, 2008. The Bracketts were unable to join the celebration Wednesday.
Twins Spencer and Nicholas were the second and third babies. They were born to Dusty and Laurie Kwasigroch of Minooka on June 26, 2008.
Mady Allison was the fourth child, born Aug. 23, 2008, to John and Lisa Allison of Joliet.
The most-recent addition to the Angels of Hope family is Sean Zeng, who was just born June 25 to Jennifer and Kevin Zeng of Minooka.
“Today, seeing these four babies, is everything we hoped and prayed for,” Sikora said. “This is our dream come true. When I look at these little faces, it reminds me the world is good and people are good.
“These babies wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the generosity of everyone else, as well as the grace of God. When you see these babies, you have to believe in miracles.”
As fresh as yesterday
It’s been five years since most of these families delivered their miracle babies, but the memories of finally getting to hold their child are still fresh.
“I probably think about it every night when we put them to bed and then before I go to bed and say goodnight to them while they are sleeping,” Lisa Allison said.
Laurie Kwasigroch still recalls the years of trying for a baby before they had twins through in vitro fertilization.
“When they make me angry, I remember how much it took to get them here and, at the same token, when they do something amazing, I think about what it took to get them here,” she said.
As Mady, Spencer, Nicholas and Mady’s older sister, Jillian, who was also conceived through infertility treatment, played with Duplo building blocks together, the parents and Angels of Hope board members all watched in appreciation.
The families enjoyed each other’s children and shared stories that only those who have been through what they have can understand.
“The smiles on everyones faces and emotion in everyones faces says it all,” Kevin Zeng said, as the Angels of Hope members doted over his infant son.
In five years, Angels of Hope has given out 19 grants, totaling almost $95,000, to applicants from Will and Grundy counties.
The grant panel will be meeting next week to give out the fall 2013 grants, said Russelle Holsinger, vice president. Grants are given twice a year – in the spring and fall. Sometimes the panel gives out multiple grants at one time.
The organization receives inquiries from all over the United States and from other countries, but gives the grants out to only those from the area, since the money is raised by supporters from Will and Grundy counties.
“We always, obviously, hoped it would turn out to work as it has,” Holsinger said. “We had a lull from 2008 to 2013 with no babies, but that reflects the difficulties of infertility.”
The birth of Sean Zeng this past June renewed the Angels of Hope spirit, she said.
Angels of Hope is accepting applications for the spring 2014 grants and is preparing for their annual candlelight vigil, which is every Dec. 6, at the Angel of Hope statue in Coal City.
Last year, Rhylan Brackett attended her first vigil, where she and her parents remembered her twin siblings, Reese and Raygan, who came before her and passed away within an hour of birth.
“She definitely understands about her brother and sister,” Lisa Brackett said. “We talk about Reese and Raygan all the time. She knows she is special because she has a brother and sister in heaven.”
For information on Angels of Hope or to apply for the spring Creating Miracles grant, visit angelsofhopeinc.org.