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Home / Articles / Features / Feature Articles /  Depend on Us
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Tuesday, March 6,2012

Depend on Us

By Samantha Mellman  



Christmas is a special time of year when only few things come to our minds. Friends, family, presents, food, but the moral of this holiday is to spread good will and peace on Earth.

Jerry Wilcox and Shawn Ryan started the "Depend on Us Foundation "12 years ago to give holiday cheer to families, who had children being treated at Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital with life threatening illnesses. It would have been easier to merely donate financially to an already established charity. Instead, Jerry and Shawn’s commitment started when they wanted to be more hands on with bringing happiness to children. Their jobs included visiting Joe DiMaggio’s hospital each year on Christmas day.

“On Christmas day I spend time with my own family until 1 p.m., then with a few volunteers and myself we head to the hospital and spend 4 to 5 hours going from bed to bed,” said Jerry, “I dress up like Santa and my helpers as elves as we pass out presents to each child.”

In 2003, Jerry and Shawn met a very special boy named Stephen La Bruyere who was only 5-years-old at the time. When Jerry met him at the hospital, Stephen said it was his dream to ride in a blue Lamborghini. Unbelievably, it just so happened Shawn owned that car.

On Christmas day they showed up to Stephen’s house and to his amazement he was able to get a personal ride in his ultimate fantasy car. They also surprised him with another gift he was longing to have; a Serpent Cyclone Hot Wheels racing track; it was almost impossible to find.

Jerry and Shawn were able to bring a moment to Stephen that will forever last in his family’s hearts. Sadly, a few months later in June of 2004 Stephen lost his battle with cancer just short of his 6th birthday.

His mother Dana called me and she could not stop thanking us for what we did for her son,” said Jerry, “She couldn’t believe that two strangers would go out of their way during the holidays to make one day special for her child.”

After they met Stephen, Jerry and Shawn took their charity to the next level with officially establishing the Depend on Us Foundation. In Stephen’s memory, they named their annual charity golf tournament in his honor. Dana also became a wonderful member of foundation and she takes part in organizing events.

Nicholas Gaglio another young man 16-years-old was fighting for his life back in 2006. When Jerry and Shawn met his family they devised a plan to give Nick the presidential treatment for a day.

“We took Nick completely by surprise when we showed up at his front lawn with a limousine, 3 Hummers, and body guards dressed in camouflage,” said Jerry, “We brought him to Circuit City where he was greeted by a group of hot girls, then he picked out a 46 inch flat screen T.V., it’s any 16-year-old boy’s wish.”

Since that fun day in May of 2006, Nick has made a complete recovery from cancer and can now pursue any dream he desires. It is Jerry's and Shawn’s kindness that helps these families and their children get through some of the hardest and most painful moments in their lives.

The "Depend on Us Foundation" is still growing today. From every family they meet, more help is gained in giving children the support they need during their desperate times.

Every year the "Depend on Us Foundation" holds a holiday party at the Deerfield Fire Department. It’s open to anyone who has been involved with the foundation or who wants to join. Brittany Thompson a 21-year-old college student recollects her time at the event.

“Volunteering for this foundation has been such a rewarding experience. It makes you thankful for the blessings you have and pushes you to want to do more to help everyone else.”


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