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Tillman takes kids shopping at Meijer
January 17th, 2014

It’s been a very difficult year for D.J. Hernandez, an 18-year-old who suffers from rare forms of a bone disease and rheumatoid arthritis. But for at least one night last month there was a smile on his face.

Hernandez was among those who participated in a holiday celebration coordinated by Charles Tillman’s Cornerstone Foundation at the Meijer store in Evergreen Park. Five sick kids and their families were served dinner and given a $500 gift card two weeks before Christmas.

“It was amazing,” said Jennifer Hernandez, D.J.’s mom. “He’s been having a horrible year. But just to see the expression on his face when Charles Tillman came up and shook his hand, there are no words to describe it. It was truly amazing.”

Tillman created the Cornerstone Foundation in 2005 to provide children with educational opportunities and resources to excel in the classroom. But after his three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was diagnosed with a rare heart disorder and received a life-saving heart transplant in 2008, he changed the foundation’s mission to improving the lives of critically and chronically ill children.

D.J. Hernandez used his gift card to purchase some movies and also allowed his three siblings to pick out what they wanted. His mom was concerned when a local TV news crew approached her son in the store, but she was relieved to see how Tillman dealt with the situation. 

“He was walking down an aisle with my son when Channel 7 put a camera up and he put his hand in front of the camera and said, ‘This is not your time,’” Jennifer said. “That was huge to me. He was sincere. He truly wanted to make a difference. That was very meaningful for me as a mom.”

Darnell Welch felt the same way after seeing his 11-year-old son, Quincy, participate in the Meijer holiday event. Quincy was diagnosed with leukemia last March.

“It was a wonderful blessing for my son and me to be a part of something like this,” Darnell said. “He was excited and had a nice time, and just to see a smile on his face, it was amazing. It was a blessing all the way around just to be a part of that. It was amazing that they chose Quincy and me to go to this event.”

Quincy used his gift card to buy a 24-inch TV, DVD movies and SpongeBob sheets for his bed.

“It was a wonderful experience for Quincy,” Darnell said. “We were very grateful. Charles Tillman was talking to him, telling him to get what he wanted. Quincy was laughing. He felt the love.”

The Meijer event was just what Quincy and his dad needed on an emotional level.

“Since [Quincy was diagnosed] last March it’s been touch and go for him,” Darnell said. “I’ve had my head down a lot, but these extraordinary people and foundations that are blessing Quincy and me … it’s just been an awesome experience for us.”

Tillman was happy he could bring so much joy to five families in conjunction with Meijer.

“Meijer is a huge supporter of the Cornerstone Foundation and a lot of the families we help is because of Meijer,” Tillman said. “No kid should be deprived of the right to have a great Christmas. The most rewarding part for me is seeing the kids smile. That’s why you do it. When you’re able to give a complete stranger something when they were in need of, it’s an amazing high.”