CHICAGO | The cross country teams at Andrean High School in Merrillville wanted to do a community service project and, partnering with a local charitable organization, Children's Hope International, chose to host a Thanksgiving dinner for a group of adults with mental and physical challenges who live in an apartment building in Chicago.
Boys and girls team members and a number of parents gathered at the home of Isabella Pradhan to sort and pack baskets with donated food and personal care items for each guest. By the time the day was over there were more than 30 laundry baskets full of donations and another 25 or so wicker baskets wrapped in cellophane as additional gifts. There were also several shopping bags full of colorfully wrapped presents marked for men and women.
On the day of the Thanksgiving feast, 45 students and adults loaded all the baskets and themselves into two 15-passenger vans, two pick-up trucks, and several SUV's. Also included was enough fried chicken, ham, green bean casserole, corn, cornbread, and desserts to feed all of the guests as well as the hosts.
The group traveled in a convoy to the John Hancock Center on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. One of the residents of the Hancock, a supporter and friend of the team, rented a party room on the 44th floor for the party. While the gifts and the food were being unloaded and prepared, some team members and parents went to deliver the gifts and chauffeur the residents to the party.
Following the shared meal, presents were distributed and opened, while music led to dancing. Finally, a number of guests stood and offered their thanks to the team members and chaperones. "The team was told repeatedly that this was the best day these people had ever had," said Ken Rundle DDS, who operates Children's Hope International with his wife, Mercedes. Afterwards, the guests were transported back to their homes to enjoy their gifts.
"The team hopes to do another mission outreach soon," added Rundle, of Munster. "Many of the members said that this was the best time they had ever had and that they couldn't wait to do something like it again."