When Lisa Wolf was in the hospital for a spinal fusion procedure 30 years ago, she was bored out of her mind. “I just laid there for days because there was nothing to do,” said the Glenview resident. “All we had was our room and a bed and sometimes people visited, but that was about it.”
Thanks to Charles Tillman, Wolf’s 14-year-old daughter, Jessica, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, won’t have the same issues during her stay at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge.
The Bears cornerback donated a “Charles’ Locker” filled with iPads, notebook computers, DVD players, portable game systems and electronic handheld games. Tillman and his wife Jackie visited the hospital's teen lounge June 13 to unveil the locker on behalf of their Cornerstone Foundation.
"Hopefully it helps them forget that they're even in the hospital," Tillman said. "If they're having a bad day they can come use the locker and just kind of forget that they're here. Nobody wants to think of a hospital as a second home, but if it is your second home, our mission is to try to make you feel as comfortable as possible and make you feel like you're home."
Tillman has now delivered eight lockers to hospitals through his Cornerstone Foundation since launching the program in 2009 - six at children's facilities and two at military centers.
The lockers are designed to help patients pass the time during recovery and treatment. Tillman came up with the idea after enduring a medical nightmare involving his own family in 2008. He and Jackie were informed that their three-month-old daughter, Tiana, was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy and needed a heart transplant to survive.
Tiana eventually received a new heart and returned home with her family, but not before her parents had spent three months around the clock at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“I know how these kids feel as far as being in the hospital and being bored,” Tillman said June 13. “I got to know a kid in the hospital and I kind of feel that he was robbed of his childhood, not being outside playing with his friends. So the best thing that we could provide for him was some video games, some things to make him forget about his stay while he was in the hospital.”
The lockers that Tillman donates are sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.
“At Fifth Third Bank we really believe that by building a stronger community we’re able to build a better bank, and working with Charles and Jackie and the Cornerstone Foundation really epitomizes what that is all about,” said Fifth Third Bank senior vice president Tim Hannahs.
“The thing I’m most impressed with about Charles is that they came up with this idea, and taking it from an idea to an execution stage is always really challenging to do. The second thing is the time. For him to come out and spend the time not only unveiling the locker but meeting with the kids and their parents and really making them feel special for a day is something that is a real differentiator for him as a human being.”
The locker at Advocate Children’s Hospital is expected to touch the lives of 20,000 patients and family members each year.
“We just launched a family advisory council and at our last meeting one of the ideas was that we needed to update the teen room, so the timing for this is perfect,” said Minni Marwaha, the hospital’s director of specialty services. “Unfortunately, the hospital is not always able to invest in high-end equipment and Xboxes and things like that. So we’re very grateful that the Cornerstone Foundation provided this for us because the families and the teens are going to love it.”