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Hospice, palliative care patients head to Wrigley Field

JourneyCare works with other groups to grant Cubs fans’ wishes

For two avid Chicago Cubs fans – 48-year-old Tony Roberson of Chicago and 13-year-old Librado “Lee” Rivera of Berwyn, Ill. – both suffering from degenerative, muscular disorders, Aug. 23 should prove extra-special.

That’s because Glenview, Ill.-based JourneyCare and its JourneyCare Foundation’s Comfort and Joy fund, in concert with Elite Ambulance and Cubs Charities, has arranged to send both wheelchair-bound patients and members of their families to a Cubs night game at Wrigley Field.

Tony, a hospice patient who struggles with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), which affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and causes wasting of muscles, is particularly excited. He has never attended a Cubs game and, in fact, never attended a “live” baseball game, but has religiously followed the Cubs and recalls memorable games – and players – from 10, 20, 30 years ago.

Lee, a patient in JourneyCare’s palliative care program, was invited to Wrigley Field several years ago. There, he threw out the first pitch to start a Cubs game. However, his progressing Duchenne muscular dystrophy has robbed him of the chance to do so again. His mother, Margarita Rivera, says Lee is just happy to be returning to see his favorite players – and, perhaps, get his Cubs poster autographed.

Of course, Lee’s dad, Jaime, and his brother, Salvador, are just as pleased about the trip even though they are admitted White Sox fans, Margarita laughs.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is the most common inherited form of the disorder, affecting about 30 of every 100,000 male children. The disease not only causes ongoing muscle weakness, but heart-related problems like pericarditis, which Lee suffers.

JourneyCare is the largest nonprofit provider of hospice and palliative care in Illinois, serving 10 counties in the Chicago region. The organization, which has gained national recognition for its innovative programs, community partnerships and best practices, cares for patients at all stages of serious illness with additional services like Chronic Care Management and JourneyCare House Calls.

Supporting Tony’s and Lee’s trip to Wrigley Field is only one example of how JourneyCare works to enhance and enrich quality of life for patients struggling with difficult diseases, says the JourneyCare Foundation’s Karen Long. And it is thanks to donors who contribute to the Comfort and Joy fund, which helps patients with special wishes or needs beyond their medical care, that Tony and Lee’s trips are possible.

Lee, by the way, is no stranger to the gifts of others. Lee and his brother were adopted by the Rivera family when they were only a few years old. Recently, volunteers from local union chapters affiliated with the Chicago Federation of Labor came together to construct an accessible bedroom and bathroom for Lee at the Rivera home.

That union support prompted the Rivera family to “pay it forward.” Their own foundation, For the Love of Lee, established in 2014, now has raised thousands of dollars to help other area families who struggle with finances and other complications due to illness or trauma.

As part of Tony’s and Lee’s special evening, Cubs Charities is arranging to put their names in lights – across the team’s electronic scoreboard – during the game.

Now, the two patients must await one more gift – a Chicago Cubs win!

About JourneyCare

With 40 years of healthcare leadership and expertise, JourneyCare has achieved national recognition for growth, innovation, community partnerships and best practices in caring for adults and children with serious illness. JourneyCare serves 10 counties in the Chicago region and is the largest nonprofit provider of hospice and palliative care in Illinois. The agency also provides services that include JourneyCare House Calls, Chronic Care Management and JourneyCare Choices – serving patients at all stages of serious illness. JourneyCare is dedicated to enriching lives through expert, compassionate care and empowering patients and families to live with dignity, on their own terms. For more information, visit journeycare.org.