Community rallies around Hughes
SUGAR GROVE—Everyone’s life ends at some point, but hearing a doctor say it is hard to handle, said Beverly Holmes Hughes, Sugar Grove’s former library director.
Hughes has been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme—an aggressive brain tumor with a dire prognosis. It’s especially hard for Hughes to handle because she is the sole support for seven people: her husband, Chuck, who has congestive heart failure; her sister, Janet, who has diabetes; and several special-needs children the three have adopted and co-parented—four of whom are still minors living at home.
That’s why several of Hughes’ friends—and after more than two decades of service to Sugar Grove, she has a lot of them—have banded together to host a fundraiser for her and her family, called “Beverly’s Battle Against Brain Cancer.”
“She is just a huge part of this community, and to have her be stricken with this terrible kind of cancer all of a sudden has really hit a lot of us very hard,” said Louise Coffman, Sugar Grove Library Board Treasurer. “She really has been the person in her family who has supported everybody all these years. She and her sister co-parented dozens of foster kids, and she supports her sister and her adopted special-needs kids. These people are giving back to society in manifold ways, and it just seems right that we would help her.”
Organizers have set up an account at Castle Bank at 36 E. Galena Blvd. in Sugar Grove, and they are asking area families to drop off checks made out to the Beverly Holmes Hughes Fund. Donations can also be dropped off at a number of locations throughout Sugar Grove.
“It’s an ongoing fundraiser, so donations don’t have to be one large amount at one time. If someone can do $10 a week, that would be wonderful,” said Pat Graceffa, a Sugar Grove Library trustee and longtime friend of Hughes.
“Beverly would always be the first one there to help them if they were in need,” she said. “She worked in our community for 19 years, and she was involved in everything—the library, the Corn Boil, the Chamber of Commerce, the Farmer’s Market. She did all of those things so that people would know that the library was the living room of the community—someplace where you could come (visit); someplace that would bring the community together.”
Hughes’ work in the community has been so extensive that she was named Sugar Grove’s Citizen of the Year in 2010, even though she lives in North Aurora.
Hughes discovered she had a brain tumor following a spring break trip last May, when she started having trouble with her right leg and fell.
When she wound up in the emergency room, doctors told her that her leg was not the problem and that she had a Stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive cancer that sends tentacles throughout the brain. Though she’s had brain surgery to remove the bulk of the tumor, it’s impossible to remove it all without removing parts of Hughes’ brain.
“With brain surgery, the margin of safety is that they have to leave a little of it,” Hughes said.
Chemotherapy and radiation can hold the cancer cells in check for awhile, but not forever. Glioblastoma patients have a median survival time of 14.6 months, a statistic that is difficult for Hughes to face.
“It’s stopped us in our tracks and made us think about a bitter reality that it’s not easy to think about,” Hughes said. “There are times I’ve said to the kids that everybody comes through it in a different way. And they say, ‘But you’re going to die.’ And I say, ‘Yes, but there’s so much we can do in the meantime.’”
It doesn’t surprise Hughes’ friends that she would try to stay positive even about cancer. Graceffa said that Hughes is truly selfless.
“Her whole life has never been about her,” Graceffa said. “She’s truly a remarkable person. I’ve just never met anyone like her in my whole life.”
Hughes and her sister, Janet Holmes, lived together when they were young and began taking in dozens of foster children in their home in North Aurora.
“They always took children who were the least adoptable,” Graceffa said. “Children born to moms addicted to cocaine, children who couldn’t hear—and so (Beverly and Janet) needed to learn sign language—and children who had physical or mental challenges.”
Some of those children eventually returned to their biological families, but Holmes adopted seven of the foster children, and “Aunt Beverly” lived with them and helped raise them. When Hughes married, her husband Chuck agreed to join the family and help raise those children, as well. Though three of the children are now grown and living independently, four teenagers remain at home.
Since Hughes is the only one in the family with a job that provides health insurance, she must continue working, even though the tumor is affecting her ability to walk and the chemo has sapped her strength, Coffman said. Hughes is working as the director of library services for DeVry University in Addison, Ill., and though the library has allowed her to do some of that work from home, she must still go in regularly.
“She’s working 30 hours a week now in order to maintain her health insurance and benefits, and I can’t imagine anything harder than basically having a terminal illness where you have to slog through a regular workweek and not have the luxury of being ill (and just resting and recovering),” Coffman said.
The goal of the fundraiser, Coffman said, is to take some of the burden off of Hughes. Though raising money to help pay Hughes’ mounting medical bills and household bills is the main goal, organizers are also seeking other kinds of donations, including gas cards to help pay for frequent trips to the hospital and to visit Ed, the family’s 14-year-old son who lives at a school for the deaf on weekdays, and Lydia, an older daughter who lives independently.
Grocery cards and easy meals would also be helpful, Coffman said, since it is a large family, and back-to-school supplies and clothes for the four children—twins Hannah and Elizabeth, age 13; Ed; and George, age 17—would be welcome. Since Hughes’ immune system has been compromised by the chemotherapy, donations of paper towels, liquid soap, Lysol wipes, trash bags and hand sanitizer are also being accepted.
Hughes’ tumor is affecting her ability to walk and drive, and so volunteers willing to transport her to and from her job in Addison are also needed. Chuck had heart surgery earlier this week and is currently not well enough to drive her.
Gifts of fun family activities are also welcome, as Hughes is trying to spend quality time with the children while she can.
“We want the kids to have as normal and carefree a childhood as possible,” Hughes said.”
Sugar Grove trustee Mari Johnson, who is also sponsoring the fundraiser, is hoping that the citizens of Sugar Grove—all the families who brought their children into library storytime over the years; all the students who needed research assistance; all the adults who just wanted a good book—will donate to help Hughes in her hour of need.
The two met when Johnson brought her son, who was then 2 years old, into the library for storytime. Her son is now 26, and Hughes and Johnson have been friends for more than two decades.
“When I think of how many families brought their children for storytime over those 20 years, if each one of those families donated just a small amount, it could make such a difference in her life,” Johnson said. “I think it’s just really important that people are aware. Some of the reasons that we’re here and we do these sorts of things is that we’re still a small town, and people care about each other. One way to show that you care is to donate, even if it’s just as little as $1.”
There won’t be any fancy fundraising events for Hughes, either. Instead of holding a $40 dinner where $30 of that goes to pay for the food, venue and entertainment, the community is instead planning a simpler fundraiser where every single dollar donated goes straight to help Hughes.
Coffman, who helps plan the Corn Boil and a number of other community events, said they thought something simple might be best.
“It was a matter of, ‘Is the community kind of tapped out in terms of partying?’ Okay, you don’t have to stand in a buffet line or buy raffle tickets. Every dollar you give goes straight to that family,” Coffman said.
Though they’ve been publicizing the fundraiser with flyers, organizers haven’t had the response they hope for yet.
“We’ve had some response so far, but not as much as I would have hoped,” Coffman said. “We’d like to get more. We have a Facebook page with 400 followers. If 400 people actually sent in $10, that would be awesome and that would really, really help. That kind of bulk contribution—you can’t really have 400 people at a banquet hall and get that kind of money to go to the person in need.”
Coffman said that she understands times are tough for many families, but that most people can afford to send something.
“We’re asking for a little bit of help from a lot of people,” she said. “I know that Beverly is loved by this community from the outpouring of support she got from the library. I know we can do this. If a lot of us gave even a little, that would be the best outcome.”
The effort has to be ongoing, Coffman emphasized.
“The problem with this kind of cancer, and I am not sure that people are really aware of it, but this is not a curable disease. Beverly will be receiving chemo treatments for the rest of her life, until the chemo doesn’t work anymore. This has to be an ongoing effort, because she’s going to need our help. Someone needs to make sure people understand this,” Coffman said.
Monetary donations can be made to
the Beverly Holmes Hughes Fund
at any Castle Bank, or mailed to the Sugar Grove location,
36 E. Galena Blvd.,
Sugar Grove, IL 60554.
Donations of money, gas cards, grocery cards, disinfecting supplies, clothes, school supplies and other items can be dropped off at the following locations:
Downtown Sugar Grove
• 201 Calkins Dr., Sugar Grove
• Sugar Grove Chamber of
Commerce Office, Sugar Grove
Community House on Main
Street, Tuesdays and Thursdays,
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Advanced Realty Consultants,
91 Sugar Lane, Unit 2, weekdays,
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Windsor Point subdivision
• 287 E. Park Ave., Sugar Grove
Dugan Woods subdivision
• 1916 Annettes Circle,
Lakes of Bliss Woods subdivision
• 923 Spruce St., Sugar Grove
Walnut Woods subdivision
• Debbie DeBoer,
865 Boyce Road, Sugar Grove
Hannaford Farm subdivision
• Rachel Rockwell,
1731 Hannaford Drive,