A belief in the power of philanthropy runs deep in the Stuart family - Dave and JoAnn and their four adult children. While they give to a variety of organizations and causes, one is particularly close to their hearts: Lurie Children's. That's where Dave and JoAnn's granddaughter, Laura, was successfully treated for orbital rhabdomyosarcoma when she was 5 years old.
Both Dave and his son, John, have made Lurie Children's a beneficiary of their estate plans.
"It was just a natural offshoot of our other support for the hospital," says Dave, a longtime insurance professional. "An estate gift is a great way to give to an institution that has been important in your life, and there are also tax advantages."
Laura underwent a year of chemotherapy at Lurie Children's previous facility, Children's Memorial Hospital, before she was declared cancer-free. Inspired by her experiences as a child, today Laura works as a child life specialist at a children's hospital in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Her parents, Deanna Stuart and Dave Sonefeld, spent a lot of time at the hospital during her clinic days, as did Laura's grandparents. They were all affected by the number of families they saw who struggled with the costs of transportation, meals and other expenses that are necessary for a family to be at the bedside of a child undergoing cancer treatment. Deanna and Dave began the Kids Fighting Cancer Fund, whose proceeds went to offset some of these expenses through the hospital's Family Services department.
After Deanna and Dave moved to Texas, Laura's grandparents continued their support through the Stuart-Sonefeld Support for Families Fund, with generous assistance from Dave Stuart's associates in the Naperville Rotary Club. Between them, the two funds have raised more than $472,000 to assist patient families at Lurie Children's.
"As they became adults, all four of our children contributed to the fund," says Dave. "John is our youngest, and at first I didn't even know he was contributing to the fund. He never mentioned it!"
As time went by, John took a larger role in administering the family fund. "There are so many patient families who are struggling financially," he says. "Supporting Lurie Children's is the least we can do, because it very well could be us in that situation."
Yet another generation of the Stuart family is raising funds for the hospital: John and wife Joyce's three daughters, who are now in their teens. Several years ago they decided to raise money through proceeds of a lemonade stand.
"Philanthropy is something our parents taught us - not by preaching but by example," says John, who is also an insurance professional. "And now we're passing it on to our families."