Jim Pesoli is four-time survivor of cancer but is waging his greatest battle on behalf of someone else: children.
Pesoli, who is an Arlington Heights-based union electrician, is also president and founder of Kids Fight Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to easing the trials of children as they undergo treatment for diseases ranging from leukemia to brain cancer.
Begun in 1985, as Pesoli confronted his second bout with cancer, Kids Fight Cancer provides funding for an oncology activity center at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, where children are provided with "a safe haven before, during and after they undergo radiation and chemotherapy," Pesoli says. Therapists are on hand at the center, as are opportunities for children to immerse themselves in music, arts and crafts and the like.
Pesoli says Chicago Bears football great Walter Payton, who succumbed to cancer in 1999, was instrumental in launching Kids Fight Cancer. He and his wife hosted Kids Fight Cancer's first fundraiser at Studebakers, a restaurant the running back owned. The event raised $6,000 — sufficient to reopen the activity center after a financial squeeze forced Children's to close it.
Pesoli says it wasn't his diagnosis that prompted those initial efforts, but rather his two sons. "It was the hardest thing," he recalls, "looking at them and thinking I didn't want them to go through what I had."
Since then, Kids Fight Cancer has emerged as a major donor to Children's. Funds are not only allocated to the activity center, but a planned palliative care program to assist families in making decisions concerning terminally ill children.
Pesoli says union members of all stripes, from electricians to carpenters, have done much to support Kids Fight Cancer over the years, as have countless others.
In true fashion, Kids Fight Cancer also gives back, with donations the ticket to numerous events, including a Fall Gala, golf outings an annual wine-tasting event.
For those wishing to learn more about Kids Fight Cancer, visit http://kidsfightcancer.org.