JVS Chicago and Lurie Children’s Hospital: A Powerful Partnership for Kids

JVS Chicago touches the lives of thousands of people in the Chicago area every year, placing them in employment or training programs, offering career counseling, coaching and job placement assistance…and not just for adults. Through powerful partnerships with businesses and organizations in the community, JVS Chicago and its employees are helping children, adolescents and teens.veroxybd.com

72Steppers 2015Once a year, you can find Michele Ackerman, Assistant Director of Adult and Youth Employment at JVS Chicago, making her way to the top of the Aon Building–via 80 floors and 1,643 steps, mind you, not the elevator. While hiking up the third tallest building in Chicago is a fabulous workout, she’s not doing it for herself; she’s climbing to raise money for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago’s Step Up for Kids fundraising event. Each year she organizes a team of stair climbers, Rebecca’s Steppers, named after her daughter who was successfully treated for a rare disease at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“In the 10 years we have climbed, we have raised $40,000,” said Ackerman. “This year we had 17 people on our team, including Leslie Glazer and me from JVS Chicago. We all made it to the top.”

This year Ackerman’s daughter was named Patient Champion as a result of Rebecca’s work on Step Up for Kids. Rebecca made a speech, kicked off the event and was interviewed by several reporters – “it was like the paparazzi were out up on the top floor,” reported Michele. Proceeds from the Step Up event help provide toys and hospital staff support to kids and families before procedures and during hospital stays.

“When Rebecca was little, employees from the department appeared like angels at some of the scariest times for her and made her laugh and smile with stories, toys, and bubbles,” said Ackerman. “They also brought carts around for parents with items needed for spending the night…they would show up with exactly what I needed.”

Working in SAILS

JVS Chicago and Ackerman’s connection to Lurie Children’s Hospital team goes beyond the annual Step Up event. Together the organizations established a paid hospital internship, Supporting Adolescents with Independent Life Skills (SAILS). JVS Chicago and Lurie created this work experience program to help teens with chronic medical conditions transition from Lurie Children’s hospital to adult care. JVS Chicago helped the hospital to develop the program and does follow-up work with the interns.

“We make sure the interns are comfortable in their positions, said Jamie Sandberg, JVS Youth Employment Coordinator, “and are gaining valuable work experience to help them down the road.”
Doing meaningful work at the hospital, said Sandberg, has done wonders for the morale and self-esteem of the chronically ill interns.

“I have seen first-hand that the work experiences help youth gain valuable work and life skills, and it boosts their confidence and self-esteem,” said Sandberg. “Of the 24 interns we’ve worked with, 13 of them have entered college, and 7 have entered competitive employment. The others are either just finishing up their internships or are currently working with JVS on finding a permanent job.”

JVS Chicago does more than wave good-bye when an intern moves on. Interns are placed into follow-up services after exiting the program–an additional 12 months of support. For more information about SAILS program, contact Jamie Sandberg at 847.412.4313.

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