Thousands turn out for Misericordia’s annual Family Fest

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Thousands turn out for Misericordia’s annual Family Fest

Thousands of people enjoyed a day of food, entertainment and games at the Misericordia Family Fest at the main campus, 6300 N. Ridge Ave., on Sept. 10, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Erin and John Thunholm assist customers in the tent for the famous Misericordia Hearts & Flour Bakery at Family Fest on Sept. 10, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Isaro Ndakebuka takes a run down the inflatable slide. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Meli Castro takes a run down the inflatable slide. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Miracle Mensah, a volunteer escorting Misericordia resident Riley, trades a ticket for a balloon from clowns greeting people on the grounds during the festival. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Alani Flores tackles some blue cotton candy. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Oliver Riley jumps rope in a game in the kids section of Family Fest while his brother, Sam, watches. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jack O'Malley shares his ice cream with Katy Murphy during a break. Both volunteered at the fest. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Over 10,000 people turned out for Misericordia Heart of Mercy’s annual Family Fest on Sept. 10 on its campus at 6300 N. Ridge Ave. The event is the agency’s biggest fundraiser and organizers expected to bring in $1 million.

Guests patronized food booths and indulged in carnival fare like popcorn, cotton candy and ice cream while watching performances by groups such as the Jesse White Tumblers and Shannon Rovers Bagpiping Band. Special areas offered games for kids, and there was roaming entertainment from clowns, therapy dogs and characters from Star Wars.

Several booths displayed art and crafts made by Misericordia residents that attendees could purchase. The sustainable greenhouse on campus was open for people to see what the residents and staff are growing. Attendees could also purchase baked goods and coffee from Misericordia’s popular Hearts and Flour Bakery. And there were raffles and bingo.

Complimentary water kept attendees hydrated and people could watch the Bears game on large televisions.

Family Fest started in 1980 as a small picnic for the families of Misericordia’s residents. Misericordia provides residential care and programs for people with developmental disabilities.

“It’s really just grown from there,” said Julie O’Sullivan, director of creative arts and marketing manager for Misericordia. “We really monopolize the space that we have on our beautiful 37-acre campus. It’s just a great way to really introduce the community to Misericordia, to the residents and the families who are walking around.”

Family Fest has grown a lot over the years, she said, adding that Misericordia is starting to run out of grass space on its campus because of the construction of more homes.

“We are building 16 new homes to alleviate some of our wait list,” she said. “We’re always looking for good staff so we can open those homes when they are ready.”

Family Fest is all about the fun, O’Sullivan said.

“We just want make sure that everyone’s having a good time and walks away thinking how great Misericordia is and will continue to support us,” she said.

Rachel Riley attends every year with her husband and three children. Her sister is a resident of Misericordia and she and her family also participate in activities with the agency’s group for siblings.

“We come to support every year,” she said. “Misericordia is life-changing. We didn’t think that my sister would ever be able to have the quality of life that she does as an adult. We’re very grateful and very blessed.”

Emily and Matt Prochaska have a friend who works at Misericordia, and they attended Family Fest for the first time with their child.

“We love it. It’s pretty impressive how big [Misericordia] is and everything that they have to offer,” Matt Prochaska said. “Hopefully they receive more funding to expand even further.”

Beth O’Donnell’s sister was a resident of Misericordia who died in 2008.

“My family has been to every Family Fest,” she said. “When I was in college, I was pulled home to work it. You do that because your family means everything to you and Misericordia helps keep your family whole.”


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