I learned about Cal's Angels Foundation after my guest column in The Napoleon Hill Foundation Newsletter. I wrote about Living Positively with Difficult Life Circumstances.
Tom Sutter emailed me to let me know my story had impacted him and he wanted to thank me for sharing my thoughts. As I learned more about Tom and his son, I wanted to help promote his Foundation in any way I could.
People often ask me if I believe in destiny and because of our son, Cal, I do. His young life has had a purpose beyond what we could have imagined.
He was born June 7, 1993 and was soon followed by his brother Ryan in 1995 and his sister Jessica in 1997. He was the oldest in what would soon become a blended family of 7 children. He was a great kid who would go way out of his way to help others even before he helped himself. His teachers often commented on this and during his battle with leukemia he would always ask about the other kids telling me he wasn’t worried about himself, he’ll be fine.
Cal loved baseball more than anything else. Growing up, I loved baseball too playing all the way through high school but I never made it to the all-stars or pros. I always looked around and noticed the kids making it to the all-stars or the pros had the cool names so I figured that’s where it was, I was missing the cool name to give me that extra edge. So when Cal was born it was just natural to give him a cool name.
By the time I was in high school there was a professional baseball player who was becoming pretty popular and by the time Cal was born, this pro had cemented his name in history as one of the best to ever play the sport – his name is Cal Ripken. I figured Cal Thomas Sutter is a natural winning name, I’m going to give him that extra leg up I never had and see what happens. Obviously, from what he turned out to be on the ball field, my theory was correct.
Cal was a multi-year all-star baseball player for South Elgin, IL. He was the one every coach wanted on his team. Though he was arguably one of the best pitchers and center fielders around, he never let it go to his head. The team always came first and that is who he played for – not Cal, for his team.
In June of 2005 our lives were changed forever changed when Cal was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. The battle with pediatric cancer is a nightmare no child or family should ever have to experience, but we were blessed to receive an outpouring of support from our community, church and, especially, my employer DS&P Insurance Services in Palatine, IL where I have been a commercial insurance broker since 2000. I can remember early on in Cal’s cancer treatment the president of the agency came to me and told me not to worry about anything relating to work, he will personally make sure it’s all under control. As time went on and they were basically doing my job for me so that I could spend time with Cal while he was hospitalized for 11 of the 14 ½ months of his battle, I realized Bob Schutz is a man of his word. When I told him how it made me feel awkward to work no more than part time but yet get paid for full time work he said that all he wants in return is for me to pay it forward to someone who needs it – a foreshadowing of events to come.
Early on we soon discovered that many families are not as fortunate. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with the dad of a fellow patient. He was going back and forth between two hospitals visiting his wife, who had breast cancer, and his son who had leukemia. This man was going to great lengths to avoid any expenses so that he would have enough money to eat because, as I learned, he had lost his job taking care of and spending time with his wife and only child. I told my wife, Stacey, “No matter what happens with Cal, we’ve got to do something to help other families affected by cancer.”
Throughout everything he went through, Cal never gave up hope and was always concerned about the well-being of the other children. He was caring and wise beyond his years earning him the nickname “Cal Man” given to him by his last coach because “he was a man in a kid’s body.” Our hearts were broken when Cal ultimately lost his battle with leukemia in August of 2006 at the age of 13.
As we mourned, Stacey and I talked about finding a way to carry on Cal’s courageous spirit, to use his short but meaningful life to help others. We founded Cal’s Angel Foundation – a registered 501c3 non-profit, tax exempt organization – the following spring and what started with an e-mail to 30 people has grown into a positive force beyond our imagination. During our fifth year we should hit the $1,000,000 mark in funds raised, had record crowds at our events including 435 guests at the dinner and auctions while 150 golfed during the day last June, over 600 participants and volunteers joined us at the 5k run-2 mile walk and kids’ events in September and just under 80 runners were on our full and half marathon team rosters all the while continuing to run at 95 cents of every dollar going directly to the cause.
In 2011 alone, all of this good fortune has blessed us with the ability to grant the wishes of or financially assist over 60 children and their families through our various programs including the Twelve Days of Christmas Program where we spoiled the heck out of 24 terminally ill children being treated at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and their 52 siblings each with $200-$250 in gifts, cookies, ginger bread houses and a full Christmas dinner for the family. We also became the first organization to commit $200,000 to the Heroes for Life Community Partners Program creating healing environments for patients and families at the new Children’s Memorial Hospital (the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago) allowing us to realize our dream of adding the 18th floor which is the outpatient hematology/oncology floor - in addition to the already sponsored inpatient floor (17th). Adding to the 17th and 18th floors themselves, we have also committed to keeping the playrooms on both floors up to date with games, electronics and other items not yet realized giving us 2 out of 23 floors at one of the most renowned medical care centers in the world that will forever carry the Cal's Angels name when it opens its doors to the public on Saturday, June 9th, 2012 - the day after our 6th Annual Dinner, Auction & Golf Event. When visiting our website (www.calsangels.org), be sure to check out the photo shows of our Hospital Hard Hat Tours in October of 2010 and a year later in 2011 to see the progress in the construction of this awesome medical facility and what our two floors look like during construction.
As for the Cal's Angel Foundation in general, we have assisted more than 150 children and their families with wishes, financial assistance and support since 2007 including….
• Providing family outings to Great America, the Wisconsin Dells, Sea World, Barnum & Bailey Circus and Chicago Cubs, Bears, Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks games, shopping sprees at Cabela’s, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s, Carson’s, JC Penney, Footlocker, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and online at Dell while assisting families with medical, mortgage, rent, car and utility bill payments and gift cards for groceries, prescriptions and clothing.
• Supplying countless laptops and desktop computers to keep up with homework and stay in touch with friends and family during their battles with cancer while supporting the hospitals and Ronald McDonald House with over a thousand Wii, PS2, PS3, XBOX 360 games and consoles, DVD movies, arts, crafts, games and supplies.
Plus, through our other community programs and services, we have been able to:
• Provide a $10,000 scholarship to each of 8 young, college-bound baseball players who are all good students and great citizens with a passion for helping others through our Scholarship Program.
• Assist the local Little League with programs and services beyond their budget.
Our events and activities are the real key to our fundraising efforts.
Annual Dinner, Auction & Golf Event
The event is held the second Friday of every June. 2011 marked our 5th Annual Event drawing 150 golfers, 435 dinner/auction attendees and 33 Corporate and Hole Sponsors raising $125,000 after expenses! This event gets bigger every year and includes a live DJ and dancing at the dinner along with cool auction items from autographed sports memorabilia and travel packages to tickets to sporting events and electronics. This year’s event is on Friday, June 8th at the Hilton Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, IL. Excellent sponsorship opportunities to promote your business are available and let us know if you have any great ideas for auction items especially event tickets, autographed sports memorabilia or something we have never thought of - new guests are always welcome!
NEW This Year – Chicago Cubs Rooftop Event
Yes, you heard that right – we finally secured a Cubs event and it will be held on Sunday, August 12th at Beyond the Ivy Rooftops. Game time is 1:10pm vs. the Cincinnati Reds – complete details and registration will be available soon.
August Chicago White Sox Outing
Always a great outing as a group of us heads on down to Cellular Field to tailgate, watch a game and have a lot of fun just hanging out in the bleachers and on the patio area – we even have quite a few Cubs fans join us because hey, it’s for a good cause even if their preferred cause is seeing the Sox lose. Make plans for this year’s outing on Saturday, August 25th. Game time is 6:10pm vs. the Seattle Mariners and it’s a fireworks night!
5k Run, 2 Mile Walk and Kids’ Fun Events
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month which is why we hold our annual 5k event on a Saturday morning in the month of September every year at the Sports Core in the Thornwood subdivision of South Elgin, IL. Make plans to join us for the 5k Run, 2 Mile Walk and various kids’ events including the 26.2 yard dash for those 3 years and under plus various runs for older kids through junior high. This year we will have the same face painters, jumpies, great food, raffle prizes and the Verizon Will Power Indy Race Car. This year’s event is set for Saturday, September 15th!
Full and Half-Marathon Teams
Looking to make a difference in your life while making an even bigger difference in the life of a child fighting cancer? Then join the 2012 Cal’s All-Star Angel Running Team – lead by the always inspirational Dave Maraccini, Director of Charity Athletics. Our team members are there to help you with:
• Information regarding post-close registration for the closed out Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the Batavia Peapod Half Madness Half Marathon. All Cal’s Angels runners receive $10 off registration for the Batavia Peapod Half Madness Half Marathon – send us an e-mail to find out how
• Pace group sign-up • Training information: New runner training options and questions • Charity information and fundraising
Power Bar will provide free samples and discounts to Cal’s runners, UR Energy Drinks will donate 15% of all sales to Cal’s and Muscle Milk is also joining on as a supporter. If you have any questions or if you need additional information on registering for the closed out Bank of America Chicago Marathon contact Theresa Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 847-960-5317.
Last year’s team raised over $56,000 for the cause so even if you’re already registered please join our 2012 team, enjoy all of the benefits of running and demonstrate your own commitment to helping us help these kids and their families!
Our annual Toy Drive to help brighten the dreary days of winter of the oncology patients at Children’s Memorial Hospital has become quite the event in and of itself. Because the hospital is given so many toys at Christmas, we used to personally make trips during January, February and March to hand out the many toys donated for sick children but it will now be stretched into June or later due to the overwhelming response. We thought last year’s episode of The Hoarders show at our house was crazy but this year it’s even worse with well over 5,000 items donated! Some of the best results come from family and neighborhood Christmas parties where guests are encouraged to bring a gift. Other great ideas include office parties and retail locations.
Various Cal's Angel Foundation Events Throughout the Year
Generous supporters seem to have an endless supply of ideas to help raise funds and awareness for Cal’s Angels Foundation. Whether it be a jewelry party or CAbi show, a Spaghetti Dinner, a lemonade stand run by kids in the neighborhood, a Christmas door decorating contest, any sort of raffle, a business giving back a portion of all proceeds when folks mention Cal’s Angels Foundation during the buying process or some sort of event collecting donations for Cal’s, every idea is a great idea and we are grateful for every one of them because until a cure is found and children no longer have to suffer, we are going to continue - granting wishes and providing financial assistance to kids fighting cancer and their families.
Visit www.calsangels.org for more information, to become a volunteer or to sign up for our e-mail newsletter – we’d love to have you join us for any and all of our events this year.
Tom Sutter and his wife Stacey are the founders of Cal’s Angel Foundation (calsangels.org). They live in South Elgin, Illinois with their six children: Jessie, Ryan, Jason, Kiley, Ellie and Lexie.
Tom has also assumed the sales leadership role of recruiting and training/coaching insurance producers at DS&P Insurance Services, Inc. in Palatine, IL (www.dspins.com) while maintaining and growing his own book of commercial insurance and employee benefit clients
Cal's All Star Angels Foundation