Gretchen Kruse is remembered as an active, vivacious and fun 30-year-old wife and mother who died unexpectedly a year ago.
Now, her family in East Moline has united to raise $5,000 in her memory and will donate the money to Make-A-Wish Illinois.
A ceremony to officially present the check is Saturday at the home of Gretchen's parents, Randy and Lin DeVrieze. The money is from a golf outing held in June that was organized by the extended DeVrieze family, which includes Gretchen's siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.
"To know that Gretchen's family was inspired by the Make-A-Wish mission means a lot to us," said Janet Bantz Glavin from the organization's headquarters in Peoria. "Their generosity is truly heartfelt and turns tragedy into the opportunity for a child to experience a wish at a time when they need it most."
Shaun Hessler of Moline came up with the golf tournament idea while trying to rebound from the shock of Gretchen's death.
She was great fun to be around, he said of his cousin.
"She was always cracking jokes and she made people laugh. She wasn't afraid of anyone," he said.
But Gretchen had asthma and died of a severe asthma attack April 15, 2012. The week after her death was one of the most difficult Hessler can remember.
"She did everything by the book. She was very disciplined and a hard worker. She was solid. That was what really hurt," he said.
Gretchen's family — her parents and brothers Scott and Ray — decided on the Make-A-Wish donation.
The family's gift is the kind of thing seen by Make-A-Wish throughout the year, Glavin said. There are more than 1,400 volunteers and 40 staff members attached to the organization in Illinois.
The money will grant wishes for children battling life-threatening illnesses. Glavin identified these possible uses:
- I Wish to Be ... a ballerina, a rock star, a reporter. A wish to "be" offers endless possibilities in the minds of the children, she said.
- I Wish to Go ... Each year, about 70 percent of all wishes granted by Make-A-Wish Illinois involve travel.
- I Wish to Have ... This includes wishes for computers, treehouses, pets and more.
- I Wish to Meet ... a favorite singer, cartoon character, sports star or celebrity.
The $5,000 check will be presented to Make-A-Wish representatives at Gretchen's family home, in front of a tree that has been planted in her memory.
Hessler will be at the event. He has five children and his youngest daughter is named Gretchen.