CHICAGO — Many of you know WGN's Patrick Elwood for his work on our news team, but what you may not know is all the charity work he does when he is not on the air. Elwood will soon be honored with a prestigious humanitarian award.
As Little Company of Mary Hospital celebrates its 90th year of serving residents in and around Evergreen Park, it is also celebrating one of its most notable baby alums. He was born at that hospital on April 25.
Elwood's 1967 arrival is documented in the hospital’s books of baby alums. Perhaps fittingly, the youngest of nine children for Marge and Tom Elwood followed some major local news. When his mom and dad were taking him home, there was a tornado in Oak Lawn just days before — so a lot of neighborhood was demolished.
After growing up in the neighborhood, graduating from Brother Rice and then the University of Texas, Elwood's TV career eventually brought him home. He is extremely proud of his family — wife Katie and children Marty, Alexis, Kallista and Grady have all helped him to help others.
With a big assist from his wife, Elwood’s St. Baldrick’s school challenge raised about $15 million dollars for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
A few years ago, pediatric cancer hit home for Elwood — his daughter Kallista was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“The doctor said I actually learned, have been working on the technique of removing this tumor from a grant that I received from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation,” Katie said.
After another tumor scare last year, Kallista is still battling Cushing's disease.
“I was angry. This little girl had to go through it again. Came back. She’s a strong girl. We’re still fighting it,” Elwood said.
The Elwoods took on another fight in 2015 when 28-year-old nephew Ryan committed suicide. He was a decorated Hometown firefighter with a bright future.
“He was the prototypical happiest guy in the room. Never expected it for a minute. Never. Always had a smile on his face. Always. We just didn’t want his death to go in vain,” Elwood said.
So the family established RE;ACT, the Ryan Elwood Awareness, Counseling and Training Fund. There is screening and support services for first responders dealing with PTSD.
Elwood has quietly helped others under the radar for years. He was reluctant to accept this year’s Mary Potter Humanitarian Award.
“He was absolutely floored that the community wanted to honor him because he feels that he’s been giving back for all these years and never wanting accolade,” Brian Lepacek, Little Company of Mary Hospital Foundation, said.
Elwood credits Katie for fueling his philanthropy. They are forging on to help even more first responders and kids with cancer.
“We’re still going. A lot of work, research to be done, kids in need so we’ll continue,” Katie said.
“Every year more of them, police officers, firefighters, kill themselves than actually die on the job. Just a terrible statistic,” Elwood said.
Elwood is already gearing up to go bald again in march for St. Baldrick’s.
Elwood will receive the Venerable Mary Potter Humanitarian Award at the Little Company of Mary Crystal Heart Ball this Saturday at the Field Museum.