DSCC Partners with Fowler Bonan Foundation to Offer Back-to-School Shopping Spree for Family in Need

September 16th, 2022

DSCC participant Renesmae poses together with her two little brothers and mom and dad outside Walmart

Fowler Bonan Foundation, a southern Illinois nonprofit, worked with DSCC’s Marion Regional Office to provide shoes and clothing for participant Renesmae and her two younger siblings

Renesmae is an outgoing 5-year-old who loves unicorns. She recently started kindergarten with extra sass and confidence thanks to new unicorn outfits and orthotic shoes for the school year.

Renesmae smiling and sitting in a shopping cart.
Renesmae smiles as she sits in a shopping cart.

Renesmae and her two younger siblings received a free back-to-school shopping spree for these much-needed items and more from the Fowler Bonan Foundation.

Renesmae’s care coordination team from the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) partnered with the foundation to make the special shopping trip possible,

“There’s a lot going on. With the kids starting school, we just didn’t know what we were going to do,” her mother, Misty, said during the shopping trip.

“Everyone at DSCC is really nice. They help with rides to the doctors and other things, but we never expected this. I can’t believe we’re shopping! It’s just above and beyond.”

A family in need

Renesmae has been a DSCC participant for most of her life.

“She had viral meningitis and severe seizures when she was 2 months old,” Misty said. “She has partial paralysis on her right side, can’t open her right hand on command or raise that arm very high, and limps or drags her foot when she walks. Thankfully, she hasn’t had any seizures in a while.”

Renesmae also has hypertonia, which makes her muscles stiff and difficult to move, and homonymous hemianopsia, a condition that causes her to see only one side of the visual field of each eye.

Renesmae and her brother, Aries, are standing in the shopping cart next to the check out counter
Aries, left, and Renesmae are excited about school and their new clothes!

Misty describes Renesmae as “outgoing and not one bit shy.”

“She’s my absolute handful and, like the country song says, can be ‘t-r-o-u-b-l-e,’” she said. “She’s also a great big sister and is always doing stuff for her little brothers. She’s such a mother hen to Liam and Aries.”

Liam is an infant, and Aries is 3. Aries is now starting Head Start, a program that promotes school readiness.

Renesmae’s DSCC care coordination team includes Care Coordinator Cheryl Golliher and Program Coordinator Assistant Renee Woodson. They partner with Renesmae’s family to find treatment options, transportation to appointments and other services to help Renesmae thrive.

“The family let me know they needed help getting her orthotic shoes,” Cheryl said. “Renesmae wants to be like every other kid. The shoes look like any other pair of shoes but are different sizes and fit her brace. The shoes are an important part of keeping her focused on positive things, not other distractions.”

As Cheryl and Renee looked for options for Renesmae’s footwear, they learned all three siblings needed new clothes and shoes for the school year.

A local nonprofit ready to help

Our DSCC care coordination teams can help our participant families find community funding opportunities and resources to meet these important needs.

Renesmae's mom helps her try on pink sandels
Renesmae tries on shoes with her mom’s help.

Amy Jones, DSCC Regional Manager for our Olney and Marion offices, and her team contacted the Fowler Bonan Foundation to see if they could help Renesmae’s family. The foundation provides clothing and shoes to low-income children through their Clothes for Southern Illinois Kids initiative.

“They agreed to help buy clothes and shoes for all of the children and asked that we join their volunteers to help the family shop,” Amy said. “We contacted the family and worked with the foundation and our team to get everything set.”

Bobbie Fox is a Fowler Bonan board member who began volunteering with the organization nearly two decades ago.

“My family was new to the area, and I worked as a store manager. Back then I did all the shopping for our families on my lunch break,” Bobbie explained. “Now, more people know about us and that we offer help in 17 counties throughout southern Illinois. We work with local organizations, community businesses, teachers and others to fundraise and make sure that every bit goes out locally to reach our families and help kids.”

 Time to shop

A shot of the group outside the store
From left to right: Jerry with Liam, Misty, Renesmae, Aries, Jimmy, Bobbie and Saylor.

Everyone met at Walmart in Anna on July 20 for the shopping trip. The group included Renesmae’s family – her parents, Misty and Jerry, and little brothers, Liam and Aries – and Bobbie from the foundation and her daughter, Saylor.

Cheryl and Renee were unable to attend. Their teammate Jimmy Baldi, a DSCC Program Coordinator Assistant from the Marion office, volunteered to join the group and help shop.

The first stop was the shoe department. Mom and dad located the right sizes, but the kids had a tough time deciding with so many options to choose from. Renesmae selected Minnie Mouse sandals. Aries went with the Batman sneakers.

“We want to be sure that the kids have shoes and other essentials, such as socks and underwear, in addition to everyday clothes,” Bobbie explained. “The foundation typically provides $100 to $150 for each child to cover these needs.”

A team effort and “win-win for all”

Jimmy Baldi of DSCC helps Renesmae and her family pick out school clothing.

Everyone did their part to help Misty and Jerry feel comfortable and find items the kids needed.

The group took turns hunting for unicorns and superheroes (Aries’ favorite), suggesting styles and finding the right sizes.

Everyone’s efforts were worth it. At the checkout, the kids were happy campers and Misty couldn’t believe they each had five new outfits for school along with plenty of underwear and socks.

Jimmy even snuck in some baby time with Liam.

“I’m really amazed and just so thankful to the foundation and everyone,” Misty said. “These will be hidden away until school starts so that they don’t get messed up.”

As the shopping trip ended, Bobbie exchanged high fives with Renesmae and got a big hug from Aries.

PCA Jimmy Baldi holds baby Liam during the shopping trip
Jimmy holds Renesmae’s little brother, Liam.

“It’s such a joy to be able to do this,” Bobbie said. “The focus on the kids, partnering with other organizations and individuals. It’s a team effort and a win-win for all.”

The Fowler Bonan Foundation also ordered Renesmae’s orthotic shoes.  Jimmy later traveled to the foundation’s headquarters in Harrisburg to pick them up. Cheryl delivered the shoes to the family.

What started as a team effort, ended as a team effort.

“The Foundation is a great resource and so quick to respond to the needs of our families,” said Cheryl. “The shopping trip helped relieve so much stress and worry for the family. It was a great team effort in every sense of the word. I hated to miss the shopping trip, but Jimmy volunteered to go and really loved going.”

We’re thrilled our Marion Regional Office team and the Fowler Bonan Foundation came together to support Renesmae’s family. A big thank you to Fowler Bonan for providing the generous shopping spree!

If you would like to volunteer to help the foundation or know of a family or child in need, please contact them at FowlerBonanFoundation@gmail.com.

You can see more photos from the shopping trip on our Facebook page.

Bobbie Fox of the Fowler Bonan Foundation gives Renesmae a high five after her family’s shopping spree.