Gratitude beyond Words
How Owen Wills and Family are Giving Back to Loyola Medicine's Pediatric Program
On October 1, 2013, two-year-old Owen Wills was involved in an unfortunate accident with a riding lawnmower. He sustained significant injuries to the back of his left leg and his right foot was partially amputated.
"It is awful to see your child in such terrible pain" said Carrie Wills, Owen's mother.
Owen was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center's Level 1 trauma center where he underwent three major surgeries and four procedures over the course of 28 days. Two months later, Owen was fitted for his prosthesis and walked for the first time since the accident.
"To the people at Loyola, thank you isn’t enough,” said Kevin Wills, Owen’s father. “Carrie and I arrived not knowing what the outcome would be. Now we are certain that because of the care he received at Loyola, Owen has been able to live a life pretty much like any other eight-year-old."
Borne out of their overwhelming gratitude, the Wills family has since led and participated in fundraising events that have impacted thousands of children and families.
In 2014, they started Team Owen at the Loyola Medicine 5K Supporting Pediatric Care & Research, an annual walk/run event which has raised more than $850,000. Each year, Team Owen rallies the largest team at the 5K, and are a major reason for the event's success and money raised.
In addition, Carrie and Kevin Wills joined the Loyola Children's Committee and have served as co-chairs for the past four years. Under their leadership, the committee started a fundraising event at Topgolf - Naperville called Chipping In for Children. Now in its third year, this event has raised more than $60,000.
Funds raised through the Loyola Medicine 5K and Chipping In for Children events have enabled the upgrade of clinics and inpatient units, helping children and their families better understand and cope with their hospital experience.
In addition, the Loyola Children's Committee has contributed funding for additional child life staff. These specialists encourage play and self-expression, providing emotional support and guidance through what can be an overwhelming experience.
For the Wills family, October 1 is no longer marked with tragedy but has become a celebration of family, gratitude and giving back.
Each year, Owen and his older brother, Liam, recognize this day as "Brothers’ Day" - an opportunity to celebrate their relationship and a time for Carrie and Kevin to remember that with the support of many, anything is possible.