You don’t have to look far to find people who are making a difference. In Chicago, you’ll find many people doing amazing things for others — from a 7-year-old with alopecia spreading confidence to other kids, to a restaurant that provided thousands of meals to local families. Let’s not forget about the Naperville tailor who sewed 5,000 masks, or the dedicated music teacher who won 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year.
We at Sensational Smiles want to highlight six stories of people making a difference in Chicago. These remind us that we all can rise up and make a difference.
1. Rosie Quinn, Coming Up Rosies: Wearing Alopecia with Pride
For kids living with alopecia, facing every day with a smile can be hard. Rosie Quinn understands and is out to change that. Now 7 years old, Rosie has lived with alopecia since she was 2.5 years old. At first, her family focused on searching for a cure to alopecia — an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. They then realized that building up Rosie’s emotional health and self esteem was much more important.
Rosie’s family spent more time doing the activities that made her light up — like art. Out of the blue, Rosie’s mom, Paula, thought to print Rosie’s artwork on fabric for a headscarf. Then people might comment on the art and not her daughter’s baldness. Plus, wearing her own art would be a sunny reminder for Rosie of her own abilities, about what made her smile.
Rosie wanted to help other kids with alopecia feel confident and positive, too. Coming Up Rosies was born. This organization gives back in Illinois and beyond. To date, they’ve sent about 1,500 “Smile Kits” to kids through hospitals across the country. Smile Kits include a canvas, paint brushes, paints, and a custom printed head scarf or superhero cape. You can now also order adult- and child-sized masks designed with Rosie’s own artwork.
2. Danielle Fregia: A New Generation Giving Back in Chicago
Danielle Fregia is truly one of the people making a difference in Chicago for the long haul. As volunteer Co-Chair of Chicago Community Trust’s Young Leaders Fund, 25-year-old Danielle helps identify small Chicago start-ups and grassroots organizations, guiding them through the grant application process at the Chicago Community Trust.
Danielle has always believed that giving back in Chicago is important. She mentored and tutored Chicago public school students when she was in high school. In college, she volunteered to build up the social media of a small, cooperative grocery store. As a young professional today, Danielle continues to be one of the people making a difference in Chicago. She’s an inspiration to other young professionals, encouraging them to give back with their own time and skills.
3. The Love Fridge: Addressing Food Scarcity
In a recent study by NPR, Harvard, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1 in 6 Chicago households reported problems with food insecurity during this pandemic. The Love Fridge is a mutual aid group helping to address this, giving back in Chicago by providing stocked community fridges in public areas. The Love Fridge works in partnership with food donors to fill the fridges: individuals, companies, and grocery stores donate fresh, healthy food. Organizational volunteers, fridge hosts, and managers keep all the fridges stocked, safe, managed, and clean. Each fridge is painted by a local artist and some fridges have an accompanying dry goods and nonperishables pantry.
4. Mi Tocaya Antojería & The Power of 10
Speaking of food, we all know restaurants are one of the worst-hit businesses of COVID-19. But in Chicago, many of these restaurants have taken their circumstances from famine to feast. One such restaurant is Mi Tocaya Antojeria.
Supporting Their Staff and Their Community
To ensure that their staff had financial stability during the early days of the pandemic, Mi Tocaya Antojeria set up a GoFundMe® page and partnered with restaurant relief organization, The Power of 10. In turn, Mi Tocaya donated 2,000 meals to local families in need.
As of October 29, 2020, Mi Tocaya was closed to in-house dining but they’re open for pick up and delivery service.
5. Justin Johnson: 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year
Some people do their jobs just for the money. Or without much enthusiasm or initiative. Others, like music teacher Justin Johnson, go above and beyond, and are the kind of people making a difference everyday through their work. Justin is the band director at Niles West High School in Skokie and recently won Ilinois Teacher of the Year for 2021 by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Justin was nominated for his dedication, his high standards, and his honesty. He uses music to uphold values of inclusivity, equity, access, and goodwill. His students describe him as a teacher who doesn’t give up on them and encourages them to grow. Amongst his colleagues, Justin mentors new teachers and works to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching staff at his school. All this and he has a young family at home as well.
6. Monica Gawalek: Sewing Masks By the Thousands
By the end of May 2020, Naperville tailor Monica Gawalek had sewn about 5,000 masks. Her tailoring business, Tailoring By Monica, had paused because of the pandemic, so she decided to use her skills and newfound time to help her community. Monica is a great example of local people doing amazing things in times of hardship. With donations of fabric, elastic and money, Tailoring By Monica sewed and gave away all their masks to the community and frontline workers at Edward Hospital.
Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Others
Dr. Ibrahim and Dr. Gin at Sensational Smiles are so proud of all the people making a difference in Chicago. If our current times have taught us anything, it’s that helping each other out and being our best selves makes for a healthier community. And you know what they say — taking care of yourself allows you to take care of others. So if you want to take a step towards better self-care, consider your orthodontic wellness as part of your plan.
Ready to find out how Sensational Smiles can help you achieve your healthiest smile quickly, conveniently and affordably without cutting corners? We’re here to help. Book a complimentary virtual consultation with us today!