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How Jenny Turned Grieving Into Helping Others in Their Toughest Hours NLU staff member asking for cell phone chargers for hospice patients' families

When Jenny Fitzgerald volunteered to make blankets for Journeycare, a hospice, at National Louis University’s May Month of Service a couple of years ago, she had no idea it would lead to a journey involving her father and mother, her dog Cupcake and an admirable quest to gather phone chargers to help families of patients who were living out their final days.

After that day of volunteerism, Fitzgerald, assistant controller and assistant treasurer at National Louis University, witnessed the health of her father, Michael Shawn Fitzgerald, decline. She suggested to her mother that he enter JourneyCare. In 2017, he went into JourneyCare’s Marshak Hospice CareCenter in Glenview, Illinois. Fitzgerald remembers a lovely barbecue his team organized for their family in its healing garden.

You can donate phone chargers to help hospice patients’ families by emailing Jennifer.Fitzgerald@nl.edu

Jenny Fitzgerald’s dad, Michael Shawn Fitzgerald, was able to give Cupcake, her dog, one last walk.

Fitzgerald visited her dad frequently at JourneyCare, and occasionally her phone would run out of battery just as she was trying to call other family members to update them on her dad’s condition. The nurse’s station didn’t have any chargers and told Fitzgerald it was their number one request. It distracted her from her dad at a time when she wanted to focus on him and his condition; she wanted to spend as much quality time with him as possible.

“They were able to get my dad into a wheelchair and allowed him to give Cupcake one last walk,” she says. “Cupcake was my dad’s world. Once he was at the CareCenter, Cupcake would come every other day to give him love. Dad would also get visits from therapy dogs.”

Her dad passed away in June 2017, and Fitzgerald and her mother turned their energies to becoming volunteers at JourneyCare out of gratitude.

“After my dad passed away, I wanted to make sure that others had the same experience as my family,” Fitzgerald said. “I hope I can make one person, one patient, one staff member, one visitor smile and not worry so much or give them happy thoughts for five or 10 minutes.”

Jenny Fitzgerald and her mother became active volunteers at JourneyCare.

She registered Cupcake, a dalmatian-beagle mix, to become a certified therapy dog. Since January 2018, the two go almost every Saturday to visit patients at JourneyCare, letting Cupcake share the love she so generously gave to Fitzgerald’s father.

Fitzgerald also wanted to make sure no other patients’ families ran out of phone battery when they needed to make critical phone calls.

She put out a call to her Facebook friends asking for all types of phone chargers, and Amazon packages started arriving with brand new chargers. Her college sorority sisters donated a multiport charging station. She labeled more than 100 of them and began shipping them off to the different JourneyCare centers in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Woodstock, etc.

NLU employee Kevin Carey made this wooden stand to store and organize phone chargers for JourneyCare hospice.

Kevin Carey, who works in Facilities at National Louis’ Wheeling campus, made a wooden cell charging stand for the multi-port station. This allows for up to six phones to be charged in the family room at the Glenview center.

“I would like to be able to purchase a multi-port charging station for each care center, along with a wooden stand,” Fitzgerald said.

She will also need to continue to collect chargers as phone models get updated.

Fitzgerald explained her volunteerism by saying everyone grieves in their own way.

“It’s important to give back to a place that gave me so much during my family’s time of need and that the smallest thing, a kiss from a dog or a phone charger, can make someone else’s day,” she said.