UNSUNG HERO: The Elle Project gives hope to sick kids - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: The Elle Project gives hope to sick kids

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MARION -- In this week's Unsung Hero, one Williamson County mother pays it forward by turning her pain into her passion. 

Gymnastic Coach Christi Kearns is collecting items for her "Hope Bags" to give out sick children in the hospital before Christmas.

Nothing beats a good book for four-year-old Blakely Kinser. Even though Blakely isn't old enough to read yet she helps deliver books to kids in the hospital through the Elle Project.

"I hope the new books make you feel all better," said Blakely. 

The books are only a portion of what the Elle Project does. It also supplies "Hope Bags" to children in the hospital before Christmas

"We got that bag and it was just the sweetest thing. Her having toys to be able to play with, things to keep her occupied," said Heather Schuessler.   

Heather's four-year-old daughter Ella Reese Schuessler has severe asthma and has had multiple hospital stays. Heather said this is the first and only time Ella Reese has gotten a bag like this.

"Just knowing that someone thought enough to think parents are going through a hard time at this point, kids are going through a hard time and we want to make that a little bit easier for them," said Heather. 
Elle Project founder, Christi Kearns, does know what it's like. On November 2, 2016, Christi delivered her fourth child named, Elle.

"We went in for an Ultrasound, she wasn't moving and they discovered there wasn't a heartbeat, so when we went into the hospital we knew we were going to be delivering a stillborn," said Christi.
Before Christi left the hospital she was given a bag with items in memory of her precious baby girl.

"It was able to give me hope that somebody else made it through it and survived. And I thought, what can we do with this? And this project become our what can we give our daughter?" 

That same year, Christi began collecting books and other items hoping to deliver ten bags to the Carbondale hospital. She ended up getting enough donations for 20-bags. Last year she delivered 140 bags.

"The fact that you can give back and give hope to more people and be able to just do something for your child has been amazing," said Christi.

This year Christi hopes to get enough donations to deliver 300 bags to five different hospitals. She now delivers the books all year around and specially decorated rocks are given or hidden so someone can find them.

"The main purpose is really to reach out and spread hope because that's so needed right now; hope and kindness."

If you want to contribute to the Elle Project you can drop off NEW books, toys, or stuffed animals at Extreme Kids in Marion. You can also click here for details. Christi hopes to deliver her "Hope Bags" around mid-December.

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