Michelle Kessler is a 41-year-old mother of two healthy children who owns and operates her own business.
Two of her closest friends have kids that are very ill.
Kessler decided she wanted to help out. So, one day, she dreamed up the idea for Blankets and Bears for a Cure, a volunteer organization based out of Shorewood.
The organization's goal is simple: Touch the lives of chronically ill children through gifts of blankets and Teddy bears.
"It could be any type of illness—heart, lung, nervous system," Kessler said. "It's not just for kids with cancer. We're reaching out to help everybody."
Kessler said Blankets and Bears for a Cure has plans in the works to distribute its goodies at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Laurie Children's Hosptial in Chicago and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She has teamed with Chris Baltz, a mother of three who also volunteers for several other charities, and a handful of other local women since launching the organization in December of 2012.
And they're looking to expand their reach.
"We're looking for more people to help make blankets or donate bears, looking for individuals and business sponsors," Kessler said. "Some groups donate toys, but that's only at Christmas time. We're trying to do this every month—trying to drop off our stuff and keep this going year-round.
"We have 75 blankets in stock right now and, maybe, 35 bears. Everything has to be new. It can't be old or recycled because the children are sick. You can't expose them to an old blanket with dust mites or allergic hair from a cat or dog stuck on a Teddy bear."
To help, Kessler encourages everyone to visit her website: blanketsandbearsforacure.org. She said the site offers instructions on how to make blankets and lists people who have donated to the cause.
She said a number of groups already have stepped up to the plate, the list including the Joliet Women's Group, Lombard Women's Group, Manhattan Junior High boosters and local girl scouts.