Family plans fundraiser for sister seriously injured in car crash
By Michele DuVair For The Beacon-News August 2, 2012 3:58PM
Sherry Millen, of North Aurora, shares a warm embrace with her brother, Jim Hopp, on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, at Provena McAuley Manor, in Aurora. Hopp and other family members are organizing a fundraiser for Millen after her near-fatal car crash in May. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media
What: Fundraiser for Sherry
Millen, who was seriously injured in a car accident
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday evening
Where: Luigi’s Pizza & Fun Center in Aurora
Tickets: $10 for adults and $5 for children, and are available from any of the 50 or so extended Millen family members. They also can be purchased at the door.
Donations: For those who cannot attend, donations can be sent via check, payable to, “Benefit for Sherilyn M. Millen,” Dana Hopp, Old Second Bank, 37 S. River St., Aurora, IL 60506. The names of those who contribute will be shared with Millen unless the donor requests otherwise, though the contribution amounts will be kept confidential.
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:14AM
At 68, Sherry Millen was too busy to get hurt. She was working, and taking care of her husband, who was ill with bone cancer. She also was volunteering. And she was taking the time to maintain close relationships with friends and family.
Millen jokingly was called a saint by loved ones for years. These days they really mean it. On May 24, Millen almost was killed in a bone-crushing car accident that has temporarily left her in a wheelchair. Her determination to make a full recovery, coupled with her grace and quiet suffering has inspired not just family and friends but everyone who meets her.
“She listened to me complain more than a few times, but I never heard her complain,” said John Watt, a fellow rehab patient at Provena McAuley Manor in Aurora. “She’s probably the happiest person I know.”
Millen is upbeat, despite her broken back and her broken ribs and her broken legs and her broken wrist. And despite the separation from her husband, Bill, during his time of need.
“He can’t help me, and now I can’t be there for him,” Millen says. “But you make the best of things. I’ve always believed that.”
Others, who believe in her goodness, feel it’s time for Millen to get a little back after giving all her life. This Tuesday evening, Millen’s siblings are hosting a pizza and pasta night fundraiser at Luigi’s Pizza & Fun Center in Aurora.
“It’s not easy to ask for money, but we see it as a different situation with the accident as a cause,” says Jim Hopp, Millen’s brother and co-organizer of the event. “We felt it’s OK to ask for help for her because she has given so much to others.”
Millen’s daughter Patty Feltes, of Batavia, says the siblings’ decision to host a fundraiser will help relieve her parents’ financial worries and help Millen emotionally on her road to recovery.
Indeed, payback for Millen’s kindness began the day of the accident. Family members started an around-the-clock, bedside vigil for her. She was never left alone, according to Hopp. Feltes and Peg Key, Millen’s other daughter, spent many a night curled up on hospital chairs, holding her hand, talking to her, making sure she was as comfortable as possible.
Millen’s sister Dianne Stuch took over the constant care that Bill Millen now needs in his fight with cancer. Millen’s niece organized a visitation schedule and set up a website through CaringBridge.com to enable loved ones to post comments and check her daily progress.
Beyond the family, Millen’s connections ran deep. In addition to work, Millen volunteered at Hesed House, gave blood platelets every two weeks, sang in the church choir and served on the school board.
“Hundreds of people were involved,” says Nancy Hopp, Millen’s sister-in-law. “It’s like this big spider web (of people) that just keeps going on and on.”
Many of these people not only visited her, they spent time on their knees.
“I’ve always had faith, and now that I know everyone was praying for me, I know that’s what’s gotten me through this,” says Millen, who has never liked being the center of attention. “It’s just beautiful to me.”
And that level of support is not likely to wane as long as it takes for Millen to recover. At first, she was not expected to survive the accident. With multiple broken bones to her back, ribs, legs and wrist as well as severe lung injuries, Millen spent the first three weeks in critical care on breathing and feeding tubes. She then spent another three weeks at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.
These days she is focusing on therapy at Provena McAuley Manor in Aurora. In a few weeks, she hopes to get the go-ahead to begin the arduous process of learning to walk again. Millen knows it won’t be easy but says the highlight of her day is visits with others. She also says she has learned a thing or two about life, even at her age.
“Things don’t mean much to me any more,” Millen says. “It’s the relationships that matter, with your family and friends. They are my treasures.”
The public is welcome to attend the Tuesday evening pizza party, which will include door prizes and countless stories about Millen, no doubt.